ITV News reporter Mark McQuillan explores Sarah Harding's rise to fame - and the struggles she faced while at the top
Girls Aloud star Sarah Harding has been remembered as an "electric girl" and a "star from the get go" following her death at the age of 39.
Ex-bandmates and other famous names from the worlds of music and television shared their condolences after Harding's mother announced on Sunday that she had died from breast cancer. The singer went public in August last year about her diagnosis, revealing the cancer had spread to other parts of her body.
Harding's mother, Marie, wrote on Instagram: "It's with deep heartbreak that today I'm sharing the news that my beautiful daughter Sarah has sadly passed away.
"Many of you will know of Sarah’s battle with cancer and that she fought so strongly from her diagnosis until her last day. She slipped away peacefully this morning."
The post continued: "I’d like to thank everyone for their kind support over the past year. It meant the world to Sarah and it gave her great strength and comfort to know she was loved.
"I know she won’t want to be remembered for her fight against this terrible disease – she was a bright shining star and I hope that’s how she can be remembered instead. – Marie x".
In an extract of her memoir, titled Hear Me Out, which was published in The Times, Harding wrote: "In December, my doctor told me that the upcoming Christmas would probably be my last.
"I don’t want an exact prognosis. I don’t know why anyone would want that. Comfort and being as pain-free as possible is what’s important to me now."
Harding wrote that she was "trying to live and enjoy every second of my life, however long it might be".
Harding said publicly revealing her diagnosis was "scary" but was also "the right thing to do".
She said the support she has received has been "incredible", adding: "I’ve been inundated with lovely messages from my fans. I’m grateful beyond words for that."
Harding and the rest of Girls Aloud rose to fame on ITV's Popstars - The Rivals in 2002.
Alongside Cheryl Cole, Nadine Coyle, Nicola Roberts and Kimberley Walsh, the group achieved a string of 20 consecutive top 10 singles in the UK, including four number ones.
They also achieved seven certified albums, of which two reached number one.
Bandmate Coyle said she is “absolutely devastated” by the death of Harding.
She wrote on Instagram: “I am absolutely devastated!! I can’t think of words that could possibly express how I feel about this girl & what she means to me!! I know so many of you will be feeling this way. For now I’m sending so much love to you!!!”
Roberts also reacted to the news on Instagram, calling Harding's death "utterly cruel" and "unthinkable".
She wrote: “There are so many things to say and at first it felt to personal to put them here and then I remembered that there are so many other people grieving her too. A part of me or us isn’t here anymore and it’s unthinkable and painful and utterly cruel. She would have loved your messages today. “Electric girl, you made us. You gave it everything and still with a smile. A white butterfly flew past my window this morning before I knew, it must have been you.”
After the group disbanded for good in 2013, Harding went into acting - starring in a number of films as well as ITV's Coronation Street.
In 2017, the singer - who was born in Berkshire but grew up in Manchester - won Celebrity Big Brother.
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Other tributes flooded in for the star on Sunday afternoon.
Louis Walsh, who was a judge on ITV’s Popstars: The Rivals in 2002 when Girls Aloud was formed, said he will remember Harding with “great fondness”.
In a statement, he said:“Anytime she came to Dublin in the early days we went out to the pod nightclub and would be the last to leave.
“It’s just so unfair, I was hoping she was getting better. She was fun and loved music, dancing and life. I will remember her with great fondness.”
Former Big Brother host McCall described Harding as a “star from the get go” and “hugely fun and outgoing yet also somehow fragile”.
Spice Girls star Horner paid tribute on Twitter, writing: “Rest in peace, Sarah Harding. You’ll be remembered for the light and joy you brought to the world.”
Singer and talent show judge Alesha Dixon described Harding as a "shining star". She wrote on Twitter: "A sad day! Such a shining star! Rest in peace beautiful Sarah."
JLS star Oritse Williams tweeted: "Heartbreaking to hear that Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud has just passed away after a long battle with cancer.
"The times we met she was always so bubbly, such a big beautiful personality. My sincerest sympathies and heart goes out to Sarah’s friends, family & band members."
Katie Price paid tribute to Sarah Harding on Instagram, sharing a photo of them appearing together on a panel show. She wrote: “I’m devastated to hear my friend, @sarahnicoleharding has passed. You were always such a genuine and honest person, I will remember all the laughs we used to have back in the day…I always valued Sarah’s friendship and my thoughts go out to her family and friends.”