|Birth name||Claire Richards|
|Born||Hillingdon, London, England|
|Labels||AVEX, Jive, WEA, Sony, Steps Recordings, Warner Music|
|Associated acts||TSD, Steps, H & Claire|
Claire Richards is an English singer-songwriter and dancer best known for being the lead singer in the pop group Steps from 1997 until Richards left the band resulting in the band splitting shortly after in 2001. The group reformed in 2011 and went on a comeback tour and released a greatest hits collection followed by their fourth studio album Light Up The World in November 2012.
Richards was a contestant on the second series of Popstar to Operastar before being voted off in the Semi Finals. Richards possesses the vocal range of a soprano. On 3 January 2013, Richards entered the Celebrity Big Brother house. She came fourth place as the show ended on 25 January 2013.
Richards began her career in the pop trio TSD with Cossie and Bonnie. They had little success and were dropped by their record label AVEX after the release of their second single "Baby I Love You". Richards went on to work as a receptionist for seven months, winning the temporary worker of the month award for May 1997.
Richards auditioned for the lineup that would become Steps. She was offered a place in the group on the condition that she lost weight. Steps were formed by Steve Crosby & Barry Upton (writers of "5, 6, 7, 8") alongside Manager Tim Byrne after auditioning hopefuls who answered an ad in The Stage newspaper. She joined the group in 1997 along with Ian "H" Watkins, Lisa Scott-Lee, Faye Tozer and Lee Latchford-Evans, and the band enjoyed considerable popularity across the world over the next five years.
In 2001, following their Boxing Day split, the group were heavily criticised by their own fans. After the group spent much of 2001 strongly dismissing claims of a split, fans were furious and accused the group of capitalizing off the success of a host of merchandise released in the lucrative pre-Christmas market. However, it has since come to light that both H and Claire left the group on the last night of the Steps "Gold: Greatest Hits" tour because of their ongoing unhappiness within the band, although Steps' official statement stated that the split was caused by their belief that they should end on a high, while they were at their best and could be remembered for being the best of their kind.
Ever since the band's break-up, rumours had been circulating that they would reunite in one form or another. In early 2011, rumours began circulating that Steps would reunite for a TV series and a one-off concert to mark the tenth anniversary of their 2001 split. Despite the claims being reported by various news stations and newspapers, the reunion was denied by bands members, including Claire Richards on her Twitter page. Richards also announced on 9 July 2011, that a Steps reunion would be "silly", but she would "never say never". However, contrary to these claims, just 12 days later, it was announced that Steps would be reuniting for a four-part Sky Living documentary, depicting their split and the interim years. A new Greatest Hits album reached #1 on the UK album chart in late 2011, and the band toured the UK through 2012.
After she and her fellow group mate Ian "H" Watkins resigned during the last leg of their final tour, the two continued singing as the duo H & Claire. The pair experienced success with their debut single "DJ", which reached No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart, and their next two singles, which both charted in the Top 10. While the duo had initial success, their album Another You, Another Me, which was released in 2002, did not chart high. Richards also co hosted alongside Brian Dowling and Cat Deeley on SMTV Live in 2002. She took a break from singing to plan her wedding to Steps dancer Mark Webb. H & Claire disbanded in 2003. Richards married Webb on 2 August 2003 and the couple split in 2005. After leaving her music career Richards wanted to take a break from music and concentrate on other projects, she was set to release a debut solo album but due to falling pregnant Richards decided to not pursue music any further. In 2013, Richards announced on Twitter that there was a possibility of her producing a solo album to the success of Steps.
It was announced in May 2011 that Claire would be taking part in Popstar to Opera Star 2011 making it her first major high profile appearance in nearly ten years. The series started on ITV1 on 5 June. Richards appeared on OK! TV on 6 June to promote the show. Despite a much-praised performance of the Queen of the Night aria from Mozart's Magic Flute in the semi-final, she lost out on a place in the final to Cheryl Baker. I
- Step One Tour (1999)
- Next Step Tour (1999)
- Steptacular Tour (2000)
- Steps Into Christmas Tour (2000)
- Gold Tour (2001)
- The Ultimate Tour (2012)
- Christmas With Steps (2012)
In 2000, both Richards and Lee Latchford-Evans were criticised by the Anti Fascist Action organisation for making allegedly xenophobic remarks against asylum seekers. Latchford-Evans said "there should be more jobs for English people". Richards said, "Why are we paying for all these people to come into the country anyway?" All accusations were denied by both Latchford-Evans and Richards.
Richards' first child, Charlie, was born on 8 May 2007. In January 2008, Richards and long-time partner Reece Hill announced their engagement and were married 1 November 2008. Richards announced in 30 June 2009 edition of Woman magazine that she is expecting her second child with her husband, and gave birth to a girl named Daisy on 29 December 2009.
After her Steps career she gained more than 4 stone (25 kg) in weight. Richards went from a size 20 to a 16 and when she planned to slim down to a 12 in time for her winter wedding in November 2008. She exceeded her goal by fitting into a size 10 dress. On 13 September 2008, she performed "Tragedy" on the show Everybody Dance Now without the other members of Steps. Richards appeared on Celebrity MasterChef on 25 June 2009 as part of the programme's "comeback" week. Claire Richards: My Big Fat Wedding, a programme following Claire on her journey to lose weight before her wedding, was shown on BBC Three in May 2009. The programme featured her wedding and a reunion of all Steps members and drew an audience of over 763,000. Richards released a fitness DVD Five Step Fat Attack on 26 December 2008.
- "Richards: Opera's right Step for me". Yahoo News. 10 October 2001. Retrieved 22 November 2011.[dead link]
- "Claire Richards Biography". 6 July 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2013.
- Holmwood, Leigh (11 February 2011). "Steps are reforming for TV show". The Sun. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- RTE (9 July 2011). "No Steps reunion on the cards for Richards". RTE. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- Eames, Tom (21 July 2011). "Steps to reunited for Sky Living documentary series". Digital Spy. Retrieved 21 July 2011.
- Sheridan, Emily (4 July 2011) Popstar To Operastar: It's Joe McElderry and Cheryl Baker fighting for this year's title as Claire Richards and Joseph Washbourn crash out of the semi-final. Dailymail.co.uk. Retrieved on 30 November 2013.
- "Steps upset by 'racist' claims". BBC News. 25 July 2000. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
- Loose Women (12 September 2008)
- Dan French (6 May 2009). "763,000 watch Steps star's 'Fat Wedding'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 12 May 2009.