Entertainment & Arts

Sam Bailey: 'I'm thick skinned' says X Factor winner

Sam Bailey
Sam Bailey will support Beyonce in Birmingham next year

Sam Bailey was crowned the winner of this year's X Factor, beating 17-year-old Nicholas McDonald.

The 36-year-old had been working as a prison officer before scooping the £1m recording contract prize and the opportunity to support Beyonce in Birmingham on her upcoming European tour.

Her first single, a cover of Demi Lovato's Skyscraper, is already tipped to be this year's Christmas number one.

Congratulations on winning! Have you had much sleep yet or a chance to see your family?

I saw the kids last night after the show but they've gone home because they've got school today. I had about three and a half hours kip but I'm not doing too bad, actually. I'm not flagging just yet!

When you were singing your encore you did well to keep going while the other contestants mobbed you.

I got clothes-lined by one of the contestants! I don't know who it was, they came running up behind me and nearly took me out. I watch people singing that last song every year and I was like, "I've got to carry on singing".

I think when I got bundled at the end I lost it, but I tried so hard to hold it together. It was a rollercoaster of emotion.

The singer from Leicestershire tried out for the talent show in 2007, but failed to get through the first round

Why do you think people connected with you during the competition?

I think because I'm just me and don't try to be anything else. I don't worry about what I look like and stuff like that...

But when Dermot O'Leary handed you your CD the first thing you said was "I look thin..."

I don't really tend to look in the mirror a lot - I try not to if I can help it - but when I lose weight I lose it in my face, so it's showing.

You've been outspoken and critical about X Factor and its use of sob stories, which is an unusual thing for a contestant to do during the show. Did you feel it was important to speak out?

To be honest, it was all taken out of context. We were all having a bit of a laugh and a joke about it [at the time]. People know when you're watching a programme like that you need to be able to connect with somebody.

I think people connected with me because of what I do: I'm a working mum - that's a sob story in itself - I'm a prison officer, blah, blah, blah. But when I auditioned years ago I didn't make the first audition in front of the producers and my dad was terminally ill and didn't have long to live. I wasn't comfortable with [saying] that - that's my private life and it didn't feel right.

It was a bit of a twist of my words but I was pretty gutted it came out in the papers the day before [the final]. That was a bit unfair because I was genuinely worried people wouldn't vote for me over saying something that was taken out of context. But as luck would have it, people probably respected what I said.

Sam had been working as a prison officer before she won X Factor

How are you coping with media attention - do you think because you are a bit older than past winners you're better equipped to deal with it?

I think once you've lived a little bit and had life experiences you can deal with pretty much anything. I think I'm relatively street wise and I've been in a job where you need to be really thick skinned - in the prison service you need to be - so it's helped me a lot. This is exactly the same, so I've enjoyed every second of it and I've been really confident throughout in that sense.

There was a lot of talk during the show about whether there was a place in the market for you - and you're the first winner from the over-25 category since Steve Brookstein. Are you hopeful?

I think the voting says it all, really. I'm very confident there's people out there that want to listen to me and want to hear my music and I just have to work really hard now. It's not just sit back and cruise - I have to work my butt off, so that's what I intend to do to make sure I have a good enough album and give the public what they've asked for.

Your single is tipped to be Christmas number one - what will you do if you get it?

I will be so excited. I listen to the charts every year for the Christmas number one and to think my single is going to be in the running for that is just incomprehensible. The fact it's even in the charts - I feel really lucky.

As part of your prize you'll get to support Beyonce. How much do you know about that?

I don't know anything about it! I think they're trying to not give me too much information at once because it's quite hard to take - I've still not got over the fact I've won it yet, so to have all that information given to me I'll probably be freaking out a little bit. I'm really excited about doing it.

Profits from this year's X Factor winner's single will be given to charity

Your previous job was as a prison officer. How long were you doing that for?

I was doing it for three years and it was 41 hours a week. There were some times when I didn't finish until really late at night and it was tough, but this is just as tough.

So you'll probably be handing your notice in soon...

I think it's inevitable. I don't want to do it over the phone, I want to go in and speak to the governor and thank him personally because they were the ones who gave me the time off on my first audition. If it wasn't for that governor I wouldn't be stood here right now, so I want to thank everyone for their support.

How do you think you're going juggle your career and touring with your family life?

I live in the Midlands and the arena tour stops at Nottingham, Sheffield and Birmingham so there should be ways for me to get to see my kids and I'm not too worried about that. With regards to the tour - that's what I signed up to do and I have to do it. You have to sacrifice something and the kids are going to be fine.

They know why I'm doing it and it's all been put into perspective. I want that big house, and big bedroom for my boy and I'm not going to get that doing a nine-to-five job so these are the things I have to do to make sure I get that for my kids.

What are your plans for Christmas and where do you hope to be this time next year?

For Christmas I plan to lock my front door, shut my curtains and sit with my kids, watch them play with their presents and be designated driver on the day.

Where do I want to see myself in a year's time? Still doing what I love, still making music and giving people hope and inspiration that you can fulfil your dreams. Hopefully that will happen.

Sam Bailey's single Skyscraper is out now.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites