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The Sun interview with Gordon Smart
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Cheryl Cole and Gordon Smart

Cheryl Cole has revealed that the last year has been the worst of her life.

In an exclusive interview with The Sun, the X Factor judge confessed that the experience of her divorce from love-rat ex Ashley has battered her confidence – leaving her with no tears left to cry.

And her battle with killer disease malaria left her so ill she ended up wishing her life would end.

In an emotional chat, the tearful singer, 27, said: “You know what I want more than anything? Those last ten seconds on New Year’s Eve. ’10, 9, 8… 2011! I’m going to scream them.

“I’m going to shout them out. I’m going to call everybody I love and just welcome the New Year and the new start.”

Reflecting on the devastating break-up of her marriage, Cheryl went on: “I never will understand why this has happened. Never. I just don’t get it.

“We still talk – general stuff.

“Anybody that’s been through a divorce, and I hope it’s something people never have to experience, it’s the worse thing in the world.

“When your heart is breaking… it doesn’t make a difference what car you drive, what house you have, all of that. It’s a minor detail, it’s nothing.

“Right now it’s still fresh, it hasn’t been long you know? It’s still raw. It does make you feel numb. I don’t recognise myself sometimes. It has been non-stop tears. Just too much.”

Cheryl, who will also talk about her troubles with Piers Morgan on ITV1 show Life Stories after X Factor tonight, added: “When I talked to Piers and when this interview is done, once that’s been out and gone, I can maybe just breathe and get on with it again.

“I’m getting there.

“It has been the worst year, the worst in my life ever.”

Nothing brought Cheryl’s life into perspective more than this summer when a trip to Tanzania left her fighting for her life in intensive care battling malaria.

She said: “I remember the exact bites. I had three – two on my foot, and one on my face.

“It was just meant to be a good relaxing break.

“It was horrendous. It was 12 weeks of pain, and I was really sick. Being told that I had 24 hours to live, or that my mum got told that. When it’s you, when you feel that ill, you don’t take it on board.

“But for your mother and the people that care about you to be told that is hard. I thought, if it’s going to happen just hurry up. I was just too tired. I was too sick. You haven’t got enough strength to feel fear, if that makes any sense. You’re too weak, you’re too physically drained. I could speak but I was just so tired.

“I have flashbacks, I have moments of the morbid stuff, asking ‘was I dying?’ and all of that.”

But Cheryl, who split from Chelsea defender Ashley, 29, last year after he was caught sending explicit picture messages on his mobile phone to other girls, is beginning to get her life back.

She dyed her hair red and was spotted this week with a new tattoo creeping down her left thigh.

And the Girls Aloud star, who is aiming to mentor her third hopeful to victory on X Factor tonight, believes it is all part of starting fresh. She said: “The tattoo is part of that. It marks a new chapter in my life. It’s flowers, it’s a real piece of art. I don’t know how to answer questions about this without it being awkward – but it’s in a nice part of my body, it’s a gorgeous tattoo.

“I got it done out in LA about two months ago. It was a proper artist. We sat down together and designed it properly.

“It’s a new chapter. It’s got to be. I do think maybe subconsciously as a woman you do change your hair and things like that. It’s not something I thought, ‘I’m going to change my hair for this’, but I think that’s one of the first things you do.

“I haven’t done anything else yet, to mark a fresh start but I’m going to do everything new.

“Everything is new. The album is called Messy Little Rain Drops and that symbolises that feeling when it rains and it pours and then everything is fresh and smells new.

“It is like everything has been cleaned. It’s like I’ve got a new appreciation for everything I suppose as well, because sometimes everything’s a bit clouded.

“So, this is a big step for me, this interview. You kind of get to a point where everything becomes so scary, so you start to become closed off. You kind of have to just push through the fear. I tried to disappear a bit. I definitely couldn’t face it.”

Cheryl has been single since her divorce, but has struck up a close relationship with dancer pal Derek Hough, 25.

She refused to confirm they were more than friends, but revealed she hasn’t had much attention from the opposite sex at all. She explained: “I don’t get chatted up. Never. As far as I can remember?

“I do not see myself as this beautiful women you talk about in the slightest. Just really normal. Average, like anybody else.

“To give myself a bit of sanity I’m not going to say anything about my personal life.

“If I don’t have the separation, I’m going to go insane. I’ve learnt a lot this year, more than ever in my life. And one thing I’ve definitely learned is that my relationships have to be separate. I’m not prepared to sit here and say we’re friends, we’re not friends, we’re boyfriend and girlfriend, we’re not boyfriend and girlfriend.

“It’s like either way I’m confirming or denying it, I don’t want to do that.

“It’s going to happen with every single person that comes into my life, why should I have to justify that? I’m an ordinary girl living in an extraordinary world, if you like. I do just miss being Cheryl Tweedy.”

The one thing keeping Cheryl sane is her music career. Her new album is out next week and is widely tipped to be her second consecutive No1.

She added: “The music, that’s where my heart is, anything to do with music.

“Being able to mentor people on the X Factor even – that’s music. I’m choosing their songs and I’m nurturing somebody else. That’s when I’m happy.

“Then there’s the performing, being on the tour was the best time and recording. I love it, it’s the best feeling.

“I suppose that’s fair to say it’s my escape.

“Just being surrounded by people that love that as well. That brings out your passion, I feel alive. I’m not miserable moping around, I’m like, I’m excited and I’m inspired.”

Despite all the attention on her private life, Cheryl has no intention to escape to LA full-time or live permanently abroad.

And she also cooled speculation that she was a nailed-on choice for a place on the judging panel when Simon Cowell takes X Factor to America next year.

She said: “I’m ambitious, don’t get us wrong. I love achieving, pushing myself.

“But I don’t set my sights on cracking America.

“I don’t have that mentality. I think if it comes I give things 110 per cent, and I’d work my arse off to do it the best I can do it. If it comes, of course it’s an opportunity that would be amazing, but it’s not something I’m thinking I must do.

“I kind of believe in fate, what’s meant for you won’t pass you by.

“I’d never thought of living abroad before, but the power of suggestion is making me think about it.

“Maybe that’s the way forward, maybe I’ll go to Europe or I’ll go somewhere – just for a while.

“Or maybe I’ll go to Newcastle and just go back to my roots.

“I don’t know. I’m in a constant pull, because I love England but I almost haven’t got that choice at the minute.”

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