As a member of the top all-girl band Eternal, Kelle Bryan enjoyed fame and fortune. But now it’s her Christian faith that’s the driving force in her life, as she explains to James Hastings
Kelle Bryan's career slammed to a sudden halt at an age when most people are just starting out.
At 21, the former singer with girl group Eternal had it all. She’d sold over nine million albums, done four world tours, enjoyed a string of solo Top 20 hits and had become a millionairess.
But even her worldwide success had not managed to fill an emptiness deep inside.
“It was a difficult time and I felt particularly empty,” she says. “It was only when I found God that something clicked.”
Kelle, now 31, had started her showbiz career aged just two when she won a Miss Junior World competition. But her big break happened one night when she when she and best friend, Louise Nurding, went clubbing - even though at 16 they were both under-age. They bumped into record producer Denis Ingoldsby who was looking to form an all-girl band and invited them to audition.
In the 1990s boy bands were all the rage until Eternal - Kelle, Louise and sisters Esther and Vernie Bennett - took the pop world by storm. Their hits included Stay, Power of a Woman and One Step From Heaven. Music critics say Eternal led the way for other girl bands, most notably the Spice Girls, to break through.
For Kelle, who rarely attended church as a child, heaven meant wealth and fame.
“Religion was never really a major part of my life when I was growing up,” she said. “My nan and grandad were Christians, but … my mum decided not to go to church so I didn’t either. I went to a Catholic church as part of school. But I didn’t have my own relationship with God.”
As the band came to an end, so too did the marriage of Kelle’s parents. It was a low time for her, despite floods of TV and music offers.
“Then an odd thing happened,” she explains. “A friend said she was visiting her church and asked if I wanted to go along. I went, never thinking this sort of thing would happen to me, and something just clicked inside.
“Life didn’t change instantly, but with everything I’d been through to that point, it felt right, and I’ve been involved as a Christian ever since.”
After splitting from Eternal, Kelle signed to Mercury Records and released the solo single Higher Than Heaven. Her second solo single, I Wanna Know, and debut album Breakfast in Bed were set for release when illness struck. Kelle suffers from lupus - an autoimmune inflammatory skin disease.
She became a celebrity patron of the Saint Thomas Lupus Trust. For a while she hosted the BAFTA-nominated music programme The N List for Nickelodeon, but in the main, concentrated on recovering from her health problems.
TV roles followed in EastEnders and The Bill and a celebrity appearance on The Weakest Link. There was also pantomime. But against all this, she says her Christian beliefs have helped structure her life and give it purpose. Her only regret is that she didn’t become a Christian sooner.
“Had I been a Christian before Eternal, everything would have been different,” she says.
“Some Christians were upset when Kelle agreed to appear on the reality show, Celebrity Love Island in Fiji. “I didn’t want to do it. I thought it was the most un-God-like thing I could do. I spoke to my bishop about it, and he pointed out that reality TV shows are supposed to depict every walk of life. So why shouldn’t there be a Christian in there?
“So I said, ‘why not?’ And I’m very glad I did - and glad I did it for the right reasons. There were other people in there who needed God a lot more than me. God spoke to me very clearly and said this was not about me. And I got a lot of positive public feedback afterwards.”
Her Christian faith has given Kelle a true understanding of fame and wealth. But she is still uncomfortable being a role model.
“There are always people looking at what you do, what you say and how you carry yourself. You therefore have to be responsible in what you say and do,” she says.
Kelle is currently working with The Light House Agency, touring the UK to help spread the Christian message among young people.
“I’m really pleased to be on tour meeting young people who haven’t met God yet. People need to develop their own personal relationship with God,” she says.
“The Bible is very relevant to modern society. When I read it a few years back, I realised it was a remedy to everything.”
The one-time pop star has discovered an eternal truth.
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