The Masked Singer winner Joss Stone says it was 'great not being judged' while dressed as Sausage

SHE once claimed “England doesn’t like me any more” – but that could be about to change for Joss Stone after winning hit show The Masked Singer.

The 33-year-old, who was unveiled as the Sausage on Saturday night’s final, has had plenty of flak since rising to fame as a 16-year-old soul-singing sensation.

But she was the pick of the ITV show’s studio audience — albeit while disguised in a mask — in front of ten million viewers at home.

After her triumph, a shocked Joss said: “Isn’t it amazing? I don’t think it’s the voice. I learned that at the beginning. It’s got to be about the laughs.

“It’s really just being able to have fun and not be judged as well.

“I know you’re getting judged for your performance but not really, not in the same way. We all have our preconceptions of somebody. All of that was out the window. It’s just music, it’s just a laugh.

“And that’s what it came down to. It wasn’t anything too serious. That was the best bit about it.”

With her cheeky sausage walk and Cockney accent, fans were convinced the secret sausage identity belonged to actress Sheridan Smith or Loose Women presenter Stacey Solomon.

Joss added: “Alright, chips and sausage, innit. I just go like a Cockney lad and it stuck and everyone thought it was funny.

“Honestly, if you can give joy, it doesn’t have to be perfection or anything particularly beautiful.

“But if you can give joy then people are happy. That’s my theory anyway, and it seems to have worked out all right.”

Joss, who gave birth to first baby Violet just over two weeks ago, also told how she decided to compete in the show — which was recorded in September last year — when she found out she was expecting.

She said: “I had just found out that I was pregnant. And then I got the request to do the show and I thought, ‘That’d be so cool for my little baby to watch’.

“I could be like, well guess what? It’s mummy in the sausage. Let’s dress up as a sausage and make kids laugh. Why not?”

‘PEOPLE WILL CALL ME A SILLY HIPPIE’

With her floaty, hippie wardrobe and barefoot look, the singer was known as Joss Stick back at school.

And the knocks have continued throughout her career.

Critics in America questioned whether a privileged white girl from Devon could understand the origins of her Aretha Franklin-style music.

She was accused of behaving like a diva as she went through four managers before turning 20.

And she was mocked for suddenly speaking in a strange American accent during a cringe-worthy Brit Awards performance in 2007.

After that show, Joss said: “At the end of the day, I don’t give a f*** if people have a problem with my accent.

“That’s all I can say about it. The words I say do not change. If the way that it sounds is skew-whiff and you don’t like it, don’t listen.

“And I can’t help it. I’ve been in America working since I was 14. All I’m doing is working. I do my job, and I go home.”

The two-time Brit award-winner added: “England doesn’t like me any more.”

That Brits appearance also saw her unveil purple hair and crack an unfunny joke about host Russell Brand, implying he was heading for rehab before breaking into the Amy Winehouse hit Rehab.

She also sent “big, big love” to Robbie Williams, who had been a target of comedian Brand’s earlier jokes after he had just gone into rehab for drugs.

Discussing the reaction to that car crash night, she said: “I don’t get it. Still, I suppose if you wanna change your hair colour and do different things with your life, people get upset.”

Joss rose to fame with hit single You Had Me aged just 16.

Before 20 she had already sold seven million copies of her first two albums and was the youngest female solo artist to top the charts.

Born Joscelyn Eve Stoker in Kent, she spent her teenage years in Ashill, a small village in Devon. Her father Richard Stoker imports and exports fruit and nuts, while her mother Wendy worked as her manager until October 2004.

The third of four children, Joss had a strict upbringing — and her parents had no idea she smoked cannabis with her pals.

She once said: “It’s an injustice that we don’t talk about marijuana properly in Britain. I know people will read this and call me a silly hippie, but that plant can do so much good. It’s sad, but my parents still hate me smoking it today.”

Dyslexic Joss struggled with education and left school at 16 with three GCSEs.

“It wasn’t that I was stupid,” she later said. “I’m just a little bit dyslexic and I wasn’t very academic. I’m more artistic.” Joss won TV talent show Star For A Night aged 13 in 2001, inspired by her love of Sixties, Seventies and soul music.

She went on to be signed by a major US-based producer and recorded her first album, The Soul Sessions, in 2003.

Around this time she started dating Beau Dozier, son of Motown writer and producer Lamont Dozier. The pair split two years later.

“I’ve had kinda bad luck with the blokes,” she later said.

“So I’m probably just gonna let it be for a minute. I’m not in the right space to do that, they just don’t tend to be too kind.”

At 20, Joss had been through four managers and said she “hates them all”.

People close to her were concerned her “diva-ish behaviour” could end her music career.

In 2009 she spent a reported £2million to end her contract with record label EMI, dissatisfied with how she fitted within their plans.

Then, in 2011, she was at the centre of a kidnap and murder plot when two men travelled to her home in Devon with a samurai sword and plans to behead her.

Kevin Liverpool and Junior Bradshaw aimed to find her home, rob her of £1million they believed she had in a safe, kidnap her, kill her and dump her body in a river.

They were rumbled after neighbours saw them acting suspiciously. Both received lengthy jail terms.

Joss said in 2015: “I have no idea what that was about. But I would prefer it if they stayed inside. I’d feel less nervous about being chopped up. That’s not something I want on a Monday morning.”

The long-time vegetarian, who has taken part in various campaigns for animal rights group Peta, gave birth to daughter Violet Melissa with partner Cody DaLuz last month.

She had spoken about her desire to start a family, saying she always wanted a total of seven kids.

But until meeting American musician Cody, 31, she struggled to find the right man.

In 2013 she split up with builder Danny ­Radford, 31, who she had been with on and off since 2008.

Her career went up a notch in 2011 when she performed at Kate and Wills’ wedding.

And in 2014 she released a charity single in support of the Poppy Appeal to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War.

'SO MUCH HAPPIER'

In 2015 she released her third studio album, Water For Your Soul, on her own Stone’d label — but her planned comeback turned out to be a flop.

And while it may seem like Joss then disappeared into the showbiz wilderness, she carried on performing on The Total World Tour from 2014 until 2019, visiting 204 countries.

It included a stop in Iran, where she was deported because of a ban on women performing.

“I have travelled to every country in the world,” she said last year, “and I have had more experiences than I thought I would ever have.”

This time away from the limelight left her feeling more content with life, too. In a 2017 interview, she said she was “so much happier” than she was in her early 20s.

This new-found contentedness is something Joss is keen to share on her podcast A Cuppa Happy.

But she sparked a backlash when promoting it on Good Morning Britain last year by speaking from her home in the Bahamas during the pandemic.

She defended her actions, saying: “It’s a nice place to be. A lot of people are under the impression that they can’t go anywhere, and that’s very stifling for people. They feel stuck.

“But actually it’s not true, it’s a conception. Look online where you can go, what the rules are, what you need to do in quarantine, and then you can free yourself.

“You just have to work within each country’s parameters.”

While that defence may raise eyebrows, the country may just about be ready to fall back in love with Joss again.

Biggest hit…after BoJo

THE Masked Singer has now become the second-most watched programme of this year, with ten million tuning in for Saturday’s final.

Only a Covid-19 announcement by PM Boris Johnson last month was watched by more – with 22.4million people listening to the latest update.

The singing show has eclipsed news programmes and sporting events, which usually dominate the ratings.

Last month, the FA Cup 4th round match between Manchester United and Liverpool had 8.9million viewers, while the highest- rated news programme was a broadcast of BBC1’s News At Six, which had 7.5million viewers.

Ratings for this second series of The Masked Singer, which began on Boxing Day, have soared from a peak of 4.4million for the debut show to 7.5million for last week’s semi-final.

Last year’s final of The Masked Singer was watched by 7.9million, when Girls Aloud star Nicola Roberts, 35, won and was revealed as Queen Bee.

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