Girls Aloud star says now she cares about Britain’s war heroes instead of shoes
Singer speaks about new role as an ambassador for Coming Home, a charity set up to help wounded soldiers on their return from battle
AS one fifth of chart-topping girlband Girls Aloud, Sarah Harding spent 10 years worrying about what she looked like.
Whether it was singing in front of her thousands of fans, appearing on television or spending an evening in London’s most exclusive nightclubs, Sarah would pull out all the stops to look her best.
But since her time in the band came to an end in March, Sarah has began channelling her immense energy into helping other people.
She has just taken on the role as an ambassador for Coming Home, a charity set up to help wounded army heroes when they return from war zones.
Getting involved with such a worthy cause has changed Sarah’s outlook on life so dramatically that she can barely believe it herself.
She told the Sunday People: “I used to worry about my hair, my make-up, which of us in Girls Aloud were given the best shoes to wear.
“I would say, ‘I want those ones not these ones,’ it was how it was.
“But then I met these men who are so selfless. It was amazing to watch people be so positive despite having their lives ripped apart.
“In the past I would be in this place where you worry about the most stupid things.
“I would think oh no, look I’ve got a spot.
“I remember when I was in the band, I would compare myself to the girls, you get the envy – the costume envy or the shoe envy. Nothing was ever right, it was so fickle.
“For me this is the other side. I want to use my high profile for something positive rather than get worried about silly things. Meeting these brave soldiers was upsetting but it has put things into perspective.”
Last month Sarah, 31, announced that she was joining the charity, which focuses on helping wounded heroes who have been injured in wars.
On Thursday she was invited to the Houses of Parliament to publicise the charity with MPs.
Coming Home adapts houses to ensure those who have lost limbs, or suffered other injuries, can live as happy and practical lives as possible.
Sarah has been inspired by the numerous soldiers she has met.
She said: “For every one person that dies, eight people are left without limbs.
“You hear so much about the people who die, the stories are horrendous but they also have some really fond memories.
“They talk about going out with the lads, the laughs they had. They don’t feel sorry for themselves, they’re soldiers, they pick themselves up and carry on with their lives. We’re here to help them, we’re here to adapt their houses, widening their doorways.
“The soldiers that are coming home now won’t get help for four years, that’s how long it takes to do the turnaround.
Their injuries are so bad, it takes that long to deal with them so there is a backlog, it will take years before they get the help.
You see and hear some really horrible things, if it wasn’t for people like us helping them then you don’t know what would happen.
“I got so upset when I met these people but what makes you so proud is that these soldiers have taken it all on the chin.
“They put their own worries aside and help other injured people get on with their lives. It is an incredible thing to watch, they may have one leg but they help others.”
Sarah is not a complete stranger to a regimented life having spent a year at military school when she was 12.
When her mum went to study full time, Sarah was sent away to Gordon’s boarding school in Woking, Surrey.
Sarah learned to use guns, would wear the army uniform and faced the strictest discipline she has ever experienced. But, despite being forced to buckle down to a tough life, it made her respect the military.
The school has given her an added impetus to get really involved with Coming Home.
She said: “I went to military school for a year, it was called Gordon’s when I was 12, it was mixed and a boarding school. I had no choice but to go there, I went to a few boarding schools as my mum went into further education.
“I did consider joining the army, or the TA. I learned to use guns, I would be lying down shooting 2:2s, obviously I was supervised.
We fired at targets and did the discipline stuff where we guarded things, we did big marches in our army gear.
We would salute at people, I learned how to do the moves, how to walk properly.
“I loved putting the combat gear on, I loved it as I’m a bit of a tomboy.
“But quite often I’d be in trouble so you would be disciplined. You would have to report to the sergeant at 6am where he would make you polish your shoes until they were so shiny you could see your face in them.
“I couldn’t handle it, the discipline was too much, I’m a bit of a free spirit, I was a right tearaway back then.
I think they were hoping that I would behave better.” But her experiences have not put off Sarah from wanting to give our troops a boost.
She is currently setting up a trip which, if it comes off, would see her visit Camp Bastion in Afghanistan to entertain the soldiers and put a smile on their faces.
Two years ago her Girls Aloud bandmate Cheryl Cole, 29, went to the war zone and Sarah is keen to go herself. “I’d love to get back into that uniform and meet the lads, I used to love wearing uniform so I can’t wait to get back into it again,” said Sarah.
“I moan and I think oh my God, Sarah. You realise how lucky you are, I really want to get it out there, I am going to Camp Bastion, I want to see what it’s like.
“I would love to sing for the soldiers, give them that boost. I want to get them all cheering, Cheryl went over there and Katie Price – I bet the soldiers loved that.
“If I can put a smile on their faces and make them forget what they have to go through every single day then I will. I want to use my profile to do something really positive.
“It is something I am so proud to be involved in.
“I want people to see a different side of me, I want them to see Sarah. I want to be myself.
“People would see me as the loud one, I would be the one who was pictured looking moody but now I want to use my fame to help others.”