With her feline eyes, alabaster skin and angular features, Sophie Ellis-Bextor has no difficulty standing out from the vast ranks of identical female pop singers. If her different looks once caused her problems with school bullies, the singer positively embraces them now. 'If you're a pop star it's better to have more of a look than not," she says.
It's not just her striking face that Sophie has built her identity on. Her love of correct grammar she once admonished her record company over the 'ain't' in the line If this ain't love
from her hit single Groovejet
combined with her double-barrelled surname, aloof stage presence and middle-class background have led her to be known as the real 'Posh Spice'.
The queen of 'sophisticated pop' was born in West London to mum Janet Ellis, a former Blue Peter
presenter, and filmmaker Robin Bextor, on April 10, 1979. Although her parents divorced when she was four and had re-married other people by the time she was nine, she enjoyed a happy childhood. As a teen, Sophie who attended St Stephen's school in Twickenham followed by Godolphin and Latymer in Hammersmith - became passionate about Britpop. "My schoolbooks were covered with montages of Blur and Pulp," she says.
She began singing with indie rock band Theaudience and secured a record deal while still studying for her A-levels. The group split after one album, however, and Sophie took a year out to try her hand at modelling. Her big break came when she met Italian DJ Spiller. She added lyrics and vocals to his instrumental track Groovejet
, which he had been playing for two years, and it became an instant hit, particularly on the club scene.
Suddenly she was beating Victoria Beckham
, who'd just released Out Of Your Mind
, to the top of the charts. Signed to the Polydor label she brought out her debut album Read My Lips
which sold two-million copies. The first single to be released from the disc, Take Me Home
, was a hit in the summer of 2001 while her follow-up track Murder On The Dancefloor
reached number two.
It was a shock to everyone when at the height of her career, after the release of her 2003 album Shoot From The Hip
, Sophie disappeared from the music scene for three years. She had just split from her partner Andy Boyd also her manager - whom she'd dated since the age of 17. Not long after she began dating bassist Richard Jones, who had toured with Sophie in her band. Two months into the relationship she discovered she was pregnant and their son Sonny was born in April 2004.
After Sonny's birth the singer devoted herself to being a full-time mum, marrying Richard - by then famous in his own right with his band The Feeling at a ceremony in Italy in 2005. She had a tattoo inked especially for the wedding with the word 'Family' printed in a giant sailor's heart because, she says, "It's something I believe in". The singer - who has three sisters and two brothers, one of whom, Jackson Ellis-Leach, is her permanent drummer - often speaks of her closeness to her family.
By August 2006 Sophie was taking her first steps back into the spotlight, with a high profile modelling gig for clothing line Monsoon. Her musical comeback followed in 2007 when she seamlessly re-emerged onto the scene with her disco-pop hit Catch You
and album Trip The Light Fantastic
which earned rave reviews from critics. She rounded off a successful year by joining Take That on tour.
Combining family life with a high-profile music career doesn't seem to pose any problems for the proud mum, who takes her son touring with her. "Sonny is having a really exciting childhood," she says. "He's pretty into music and I'd be surprised if he doesn't follow us into the industry in some way. But I'm not phoning up record companies just yet."