Lauren Murray

You can hear X Factor favourite long before you see her. As the 25-year-old brunette arrives at the location of our LFT! photoshoot she’s overwhelmed by the imposing country mansion. Oh my God, does someone actually live here?she says excitedly while hugging the entire LFT! team. That’s the frst thing I’d love to do if I win buy my mum a nice house.

Maybe not quite as big as this, though!Lauren mentions her mum, Debbie, continuously and it is clear that the pair, along with Lauren’s sister, Ashleigh, 24, are close. I’m doing this for my mum, she says. I do not have lots of friends because I have always just wanted to be with my mum and sister.

But their closeness belies the struggles that Lauren who wowed the X Factor judges from the start with her amazing voice and infectious personality experienced growing up. Her mum has sufered from borderline schizophreniaever since Lauren can remember, her estranged dad, Haider, died when she was just 11, and subsequently Lauren herself had a breakdown, spending time in a psychiatric unit between the ages of 13 and 16. But Lauren refuses to let adversity beat her. I do not want to be the show’s sob story, she says. I want to inspire people that no matter what happens in your life you can succeed if you work hard. That there is light at the end of the tunnel, she says with a trademark grin.

Here, over breakfast of croissants, Lauren talks candidly about her ongoing battle with depression, moving out of the X Factor house and why boys are a waste of time

Who’s been supporting you at the live shows, Lauren?

Ashleigh has been there every week we’re so close as she’s only a year younger than me. She was screaming and crying when I got through, she’s so happy for me. Also my best friend Faye.

How about your mum?

She came to the Six Chair Challenge but she’s struggled with mental health problems all her life so it was hard for her. That’s why I shouted: Yeah, Mum!when I got through I’m doing this for her. I wanted to prove to everyone but especially her that no matter what happens in your life you can achieve things if you work hard. That there is light at the end of the tunnel. If I get through to the fnal I hope Mum will be able to come.

When did you frst become aware of your mum’s mental health issues?

Since before I can remember. Some days she wouldn’t arrive to pick us up from school because she’d been taken into hospital, so my nan would be there. But that was just normal. Mum was in and out of hospital with borderline schizophrenia so Nan came to live with us.

That must have been very difcult?

Yes, I struggled with the lack of stability.

I think that’s where my anxiety and self-consciousness comes from. I have never felt angry towards Mum, though,

I know she can’tt control it.. Andd because

counsellIng sInce I was eIghtt’

I’ve al o st ugglledd witth ment l health problems I understand.

How about your dad?

He and Mum split when I was two so I do not remember him being around.

We’d see him now and again. Then he went to prison for fve years when I was eight for dealing drugs. We visited a few times but it was traumatic so Mum decided not to put us through it.

Did you see him when he came out? He tried to rebuild the relationship but very soon after he died from a heart attack. That’s when things started to unravel. I couldn’t even go out of the house, kept having panic attacks and became very angry.

What did your mum do?

I’ve had counselling since I was eight but Mum felt things were getting more serious so took me to the doctor who admitted me to hospital when I was 13. I stayed there for six weeks before being moved to a youth psychiatric unit.

Do you remember much about that? No, it is all a blur, I have blocked it out. I remember screaming at the doctors when they admitted me and feeling angry at Mum as I didn’t think she should let them take me away.

Describe life at the unit

We had school lessons alongside daily counselling and therapy groups. I was the youngest there so the other patients took care of me and I’m still friends with lots of them. I grew up a lot and learnt how to deal with things better.

Did you feel you needed to be there? Looking back, defnitely. I do not think there was another option. At the same time, my mum was in and out of the residential adult psychiatric unit opposite we were going through the same things. When she wasn’t in hospital she’d come and visit and we went home for the day every Saturday. For my 14th birthday my mum planned a visit to Thorpe Park but I wasn’t allowed home that weekend; I was devastated.

Did you miss anything else?

A proper school experience. But then some people aren’t as close to their mums I can tell my mum anything.

How was your sister at that time? She was angry as both me and my mum left so soon after my dad died. In a way it afected her the most but she never talks about it.

Below: Lauren says people are surprised she’s on antidepressants because she’s so bubbly. Facing page: Lauren with Kiera Weathers, Rita Ora, Louisa Johnson and Monica Michael on The X Factor

Do you get recognised in public?

All the time. It’s strange when people recognise me, though. I’m just Lauren in my tracksuit!

How is working with Rita?

We love Rita. She’s so down to earth, so genuine. She and I are on the same page, too. In movie week we both came up with the same song for me to sing [Licence To Kill from James Bond].

And Simon seems to love you

I know! Right from the start Simon’s been lovely to me, he’s such a nice geezer. I still pinch myself that Simon and Cheryl even know who I am.

Lauren wears jumpsuit by miss seLfridge

Can you win?

It’s too early to say. Obviously it would be amazing but standards are so high.

Why were you in the unit for so long?

With everything I’d been through my mum in and out of hospital, her attempting suicide then my dad dying I was in a bad state and had to get over the trauma. Also, my home life was unstable so the hospital felt I was better of there.

How did you come to leave the centre? Three years is a long time, so at 16 I was a diferent person, less angry, more settled and ready to go home. Soon after, I started singing lessons with Elysha West. Elysha was my guardian angel; she became my friend as well as.

You’re now one of the favourites to win

I’m a bit like Marmite, you either love me or you hate me so I’m amazed the reactions have been so positive, and [last year’s winner] Ben Haenow tipped me to win, which must mean something!

Have the eliminations upset you?

Yeah, losing Kiera [Weathers] hit me hard. We were like sisters. She was the mum of the house even though she was only 18. In this crazy world, you get very close. I was shocked to see Seann [Miley Moore] go, too, I thought he’d be there until the end. It just goes to show no one is safe.

Do you watch back your performances?

Yes, I hate it, it is the cringiest thing. I’m quite self- conscious of my fgure but I think all girls are.

You’ve said you wanted to go on a diet

I’ve always said I wouldn’t let the competition change me, though. I do not think what size jeans I’m wearing matters. I came in as myself and I want to leave as myself. The only thing I have changed is my hair I wanted it to look like Katie Price’s!

Who would you love to sing with if you made it to the fnal?

It would have been Whitney Houston as she’s my idol but obviously that’s not going to happen! Beyonc©, Drake, Ed Sheeran, Emeli Sand©

Have you had any negative feedback?

Only on the Internet Kiera even had death threats. I have had people tweet me suicide notes and cut my name into their arms, crazy stuf. I wasn’t on Twitter before The X Factor but now I have got nearly 50,000 followers. I re-tweet allmy teacher and got me gigging and performing. the positive comments as I want fans to know.

And then you applied for The X Factor

I’ve read them. But I avoid Googling myself. If you feel self-conscious, the worst thing you can

Yes, I felt ready. I’d put in the hard graft and done the s**t gigs and it was my time. My past struggles held me back from auditioning before, but I wouldn’t have been able to cope with it a few years ago. I’m ready now, I want this.

Have you got a boyfriend?

I hate boys they are a waste of time. I have been in a few long-term relationships but now I’m focussed on my music. I have worked too hard for too long to give it all up for some boy. I have never

Every day. I’m still on antidepressants. People been one of those girls who plans her wedding are shocked as I’m bubbly but it is something I will have to deal with my whole life.

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