With a dad like hell-raiser Keith Allen, Lily was never going to be a conventional pop star. During her teens the privately educated self-styled 'chav' was expelled from several schools for drinking, smoking and “doing things with boys that I shouldn’t have”. But she channelled her rebellion into shaking up the British music scene… and she did so with aplomb.
When, aged 14, Lily Allen ran away to the Glastonbury Festival, it was clear she was a girl with a passion for music – and a rebellious streak.
She quit school not long after to work on a demo, and when her MySpace page began attracting tens of thousands of listeners, the industry sat up and took note. She signed to a record label and produced debut album Alright, Still
, which spawned first single Smile
– an upbeat, kooky summer classic that took the UK by storm in July 2006.
“The first song I ever wrote was Smile
,” said the young star. “We just went through about seven or eight sample lyrics, found a beat, put it all in... it’s not terribly clever!”
"There is no one behind Lily Allen. It's all her," praised Mark Ronson, who produced her album, as Lily notched up a string of hits – LDN, Knock 'Em Out
. However, looking back on her first release now, she says she is embarrassed as she sounds like "a sort of over-excited teenager who desperately wanted attention".
But it was attention she wanted and attention she got – and it wasn't just her music making waves. Lily's penchant for ball gowns teamed with trainers made her an unlikely style icon, and her hard-partying antics ensured her place in the tabloids.
"I've always been a firm believer that your role models should be your parents or your sister – not someone like me... It's something that always got me in trouble," she's said, of controversies ranging from substance abuse, celebrity spats and feuds – most famously with Cheryl Cole and Katy Perry.
Lily, who was given her own talk show on BBC3, had her own fashion line and a “special relationship” with fashion house Chanel.
However, by the end of 2007, the fun-loving brunette dialled down her partying ways and announced she and Chemical Brothers star boyfriend Ed Simons were expecting a baby together.
Sadly, during a romantic holiday in the Maldives, Lily miscarried. The couple split just weeks later, and Lily set about rebuilding her life and recording her new album.
The first single – The Fear
– from second album It’s Not Me, It’s You
hit the airwaves in December 2008, shot to number one and earned the pop star two Ivor Novello gongs.
She was in the press for personal reasons, too, after being spotted on board a yacht off St Barts with multimillionaire art dealer Jay Joplin, who was 45 at the time.
“I think I like much older men,” she said. “I hang out with much older people, I go for dinners at posh places and talk about art. I’m meeting more interesting people who tax my brain.”
However, their short fling wasn’t to last, and her well-documented love life became more low-key when she began happily dating property developer Sam Cooper.
“It's disgusting some of the things I do, like not batting an eyelid over spending two grand on a new pair of shoes…” she said. “Being with Sam has really helped me with that because he's like, ‘Stop! What are you doing? This money is your future!’”
It seemed Lily was adopting a back-to-basics approach to life to go hand-in-hand with her low-profile relationship. As well as announcing she was set to take a break from the recording industry, she tired of the internet and announced her departure from Twitter with the words: “I am a neo-Luddite, goodbye”.
She later explained: “I don't own a BlackBerry. Or a computer. I don't even read emails. I was using the internet in a really destructive way. In the same way as I guess alcoholics and drug addicts have to stop taking drugs or alcohol to see how negatively it affects them.”
However, it wasn't long before she was back conversing with her fans - though her hiatus from music seemed set to continue for the forseeable future.
In 2010 she jetted out to Brazil to help raise awareness about saving the rainforest – something she wanted to do sooner, but couldn’t due to her hectic schedule. “It's such a massive issue and I just wanted to help as much as I possibly could but I found it really difficult and challenging,” she said.
“The main aim of the project was to re-educate local communities in a bid to stop the deforestation ravaging the area.”
It certainly looked as though the quiet life was calling. “All this… won’t last forever,” she’s said. “I want to enjoy it and try and gain some stability out of it. A house. So I can relax a bit in my late 20s and have a house in the country, quad bikes, bit of land, arrange flowers, keep pigs, a family. I’ve had enough noise and chaos.”
When she and Sam splashed out on a £3 million country home in the Cotswolds and announced they were expecting their first child, that all seemed set to become a reality. Hinting that marriage was on the cards - "I think I've been quite clear [to Sam] about what I want," she's said - Lily was delighted at the prospect of being a mum. "I can't wait," she revealed.
She kept herself busy with launching a vintage clothes shop in Covent Garden, Lucy In Disguise, with her half sister Sarah Owen.
"When I got pregnant I decided to wind down a bit... originally it was going to be a fancy dress shop, but because of our passion for vintage clothing we thought this would work better," she said. "It got to the stage where I didn't even know how much clothing I had. Opening up a shop seemed the best way to get rid of some of it!"
Sadly, in November 2010, her spokesperson released a statement confirming that devastated Lily had lost her baby boy, six months into her pregnancy.
But the following year brought happier news when Lily and Sam fulfilled their dream of becoming parents after the birth of their daughter in November 2011.