‘Sarah Harding never realised just how incredible she was to so many people’
Many didn't get to see the real Sarah Harding, the warm northern lass who was always smiling regardless of what was happening.
I grew up as a fan of Girls Aloud and vividly remember buying their second single, No Good Advice, which came with a DVD of the music video of the girls dressed in what was essentially tinfoil.
Just a couple of months after the group decided to disband in March 2013, Sarah was working in Manchester on her debut solo album that sadly never materialised.
Not having a clue about social media, she posted what hotel she was staying in, so a group of friends and I went to meet her.
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Despite being completely in awe of her, I soon realised she was far from this superstar figure and in fact, the warmest person I have ever met.
She instantly came and hugged us, took us into her hotel and bought me and my friend's food and drinks (I tried to get a vodka but she knew I was 18 a few weeks later).
We laughed, took pictures and just acted as though we had been friends for years, she even agreed to come to my 18th party, took all the details but ended up having to work, which she apologised for.
A few months went by of randomly seeing "SarahNHarding liked your tweet" pop up every now and then, I was 18, posting drunken tweets and selfies which she clearly found hilarious.
While working in Los Angeles, I had a surprise Skype call from Sarah, congratulating me on getting into university, she was probably more excited than I was to be honest.
Along came the "trials and tribulations of being at uni and a legal drinker," as she said when I was too hungover to properly reply to a DM from her.
She would always ask me about my dogs, in fact, one of my first autographs from her reads: "2 Ginge, bring the dogs next time," because she had seen them on Twitter and Instagram.
To Sarah, I was "Ginge", "Nutter", "lovely", "cheeki" and mainly "trouble", to me, she was Hardcore Harding, a pal, somebody I looked up to, somebody I loved to annoy over her replying skills back in the day.
She wasn't this super glamorous person everybody imagined, Sarah was the most genuine, caring, loving and warmest person I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Whenever I wound her up over her success, she laughed and told me to stop, instantly becoming embarrassed and I imagine she will be right now.
There were 21 top ten hits, a BRIT Award, four number 1 singles, a number 1 album, performed at Wembley Stadium, all as a member of Girls Aloud.
Alone, she had an incredible EP, lived her dream of appearing in Coronation Street, won Celebrity Big Brother and had a string of acting credits that some could only dream of.
OK Sarah, I'll stop… but this was the real her, somebody who never let her fame or success change who she really was – she embraced everybody and wouldn't be happy until everybody was smiling.
My world was rocked when she revealed she had been diagnosed with cancer, I felt sick in places I didn't know existed.
Reading Hear Me Out, her autobiography, I knew it was going to be tough but I was sure she would fight this cruel, horrific disease.
Hearing that her tumours had shrunk gave me some hope but at the same time, I knew more than hope was needed.
Nothing could have prepared me for that God awful day, reading her mum's heartbreaking post about her passing peacefully at home, surrounded by her nearest and dearest.
She had opened my Snapchat just a week before, I couldn't believe that she had gone, it still hasn't sunk in to be quite honest and I don't think it ever will.
Today, Hardcore Harding would have turned 40 and I'm sure she would have been celebrating with a French Martini, her beloved Frenchies and her cats.
I hope that she's celebrating in heaven, like the true Queen she is – it will never be "was" because she will be living on.
Hardcore, Sarah, Sozzle, this French Martini is for you.
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