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Richards performing at Newcastle in 2012
|Birth name||Claire Anne Richards|
17 August 1977|
Hillingdon, Middlesex, England
|Labels||AVEX, Jive, WEA, Sony, Steps Recordings, Warner Music|
|Associated acts||TSD, Steps, H & Claire|
Claire Richards (born 17 August 1977) is an English singer-songwriter and dancer best known for being a singer in the pop group Steps from 1997 until she left the band resulting in their split 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 Celebrity Big Brother and came in fourth place. From April to June 2014, Richards was a regular panellist on Loose Women.
Richards began her career in the pop trio TSD. 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 band's 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 on 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 Tess Daly 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. 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.
Claire released her first solo material, a cover of the Steps track One for Sorrow on 30 July via her official soundcloud. The acoustic version of the track was recorded for an event honouring Steps' producer Pete Waterman. The track was arranged and produced by Steve Anderson with whom Claire was now working on a full album. In September 2015, after much fan demand Claire released a stripped back version of Deeper Shade of Blue. The track, which was recorded in one take was released on Amazon, iTunes and streaming services on 4 September.
It was announced on 3 August 2018 that Richards will release her debut solo album, My Wildest Dreams on 2 November 2018. It will be preceded by the lead single, "On My Own", which was released on 6 August.
It was announced in May 2011 that Claire would be taking part in the second series of Popstar to Operastar making it her first major high-profile appearance in nearly ten years. The series started on ITV 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.
On 1 and 7 April 2014, Claire was a guest panellist on the ITV lunchtime chat show Loose Women. Following this, she became a permanent panellist on the show, making her debut as a permanent panellist on 10 April 2014.
On 8 August 2017, Claire made a cameo appearance as herself on the BBC Scotland soap opera River City.
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.
Richard married her first husband Mark Webb, a backing dancer with Steps, in 2003. However the couple divorced in 2005 when Richards rekindled her romance with Reece Hill. Richards' first child, Charlie, was born on 8 May 2007. In January 2008, Richards and Hill announced their engagement and were married 1 November 2008. Richards announced in the 30 June 2009 edition of Woman magazine that she was 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 16 to a 20, 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.