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Hayley's Comet
Not long ago she was doing karaoke in the pub. Now Pop Idol's Hayley is a rising star, singing to stadiums full of adoring fans
The first thing that strikes you on meeting Hayley Evetts is her size. As she holds us her new Burberry trousers and Maharishi shirt from a whirlwind spree in the Leeds Harvey Nichols store, even her press officer comments on her tiny size-eight frame.
But, as Hayley points out, theres something about ''little girls with big voices''. And this particular big voice - which belted out live songs every Saturday night for weeks on ITV's Pop Idol - makes 26-year-old Hayley seem a lot larger than the miniscule five-and-a-bit feet she is. In recent weeks the voice has been wowing audiences all over the UK as Hayley and her fellow finalists have made a sell-out 22-date tour, culminating in tonight's show at London's Docklands Arena.
Despite her weekly Pop Idol appearances, it wasn't until she performed in front of arena-sized audiences that Hayley realised the extent of her success. ''When you're on live TV there are millions of people watching but you only see the camera,'' she explains in her distinctive Brummie accent. ''What's happene only really sank in on the first night at the tour when we played Wembley. When you hear that crowd you just think 'Oh my God!' Then you see 11,000 people screaming. Last night when I shouted 'Hello Sheffield!' the house lights went up and I'm like 'Oh, there you are....' That was quite scary - but nice scary.''
It's a far cry from a year ago when Hayley was just another reject from Popstars TV talent contest. She'd returned to her job, working alongside her mum in a local fancy dress shop, and her only whiff of fame was recording and promoting a charity record for a local hospice and laying down a dance track. And then along came Pop Idol.
''As soon as I saw the advert on SM:TV I was on the phone,'' she remembers. ''Popstars definitely made me more determined. It was the first audition I'd ever done and to get to the last 17 I must have been doing something right.''
The nation clearly agreed, voting Hayley into the final 5 contestants. ''What a career change. It's mad!'' says Hayley, dragging onto one of the extra-mild Silk Cuts that she's vowed to give up after tonight's final performance. ''After the series I went back to see the girls in the shop and it was really funny. There were people dressed up in there so I had Batman, Queen Victoria and a pumpkin going - 'Look, it's Hayley from Pop Idol'.
''Then in went to the local pub in Quinton that all my friends go to. I hadn't seen them for weeks. One of the papers had printed what they expected us to earn in the next 12 months and they were like, 'Get the beers in Hayley, you're going to be earning 250,000 this year'.''
One old friend, Charlotte, even refuses to walk down the street with Hayley now - she'll only walk behind. ''She thinks it's really funny to see people's reactions when they see me,'' explains Hayley. ''I can hear her giggling. She thinks it's so hilarious that peple know who I am.''
While Hayley doesn't feel that her celebrity status has altered her, it has inevitably affected her lifestyle and that, in turn, has forced other changes - including, unfortunately, the collapse of her relationship with her boyfriend Will Sinclair. Although 26-year old Will stayed with Hayley during the initial Pop Idol auditions and then travelled from Birmingham to London to see her weekly live performance, Hayley admits the year-long relationship is now on hold.
''We're on a break while I'm away,'' she says. ''It happened a while ago but I haven't talked about it. I think we both saw it coming because I haven't been home for months and months. I used to read about people who became well-known and then split with their long-term partners and think that was really nasty. But now I can see why it happens. It's two different lifestyles and it's such a pressure. But who knows, when it calms down.....''
With Will temporarily out of the picture Hayley is even more appreciative of the support provided by her family. Until Pop Idol she lived in the family home with her lorry-driver dad Malcolm, 51, mum Karen, 45, and 23-year-old brother Stephen. ''They've been there all the way,'' says Hayley. ''I'd been doing karaoke for a few years but my mum and dad had never heard me sing. I got up to perform and they both just burst into tears. They couldn't believe it. They were very shocked. But my mum's cousin is Denny Laine, who used to be in Wings and the Moody Blues, so it's in the blood,'' she adds.
During Pop Idol, Hayley often joked that her dad would kill her for going on stage in such skimpy outfits, and that he'd like to take a pop at judge Simon Cowell for famously telling her she looked ''sooooo sexy'', but it turns out that Hayley's brother Stephen, a mechanic, is the one who really keeps an eye on her.
''My dad always tells me that he's proud of me and he does look out for me, but it's my brother who's the protective one,'' reveals Hayley. ''When I've been staying at home he'll chaperone me to the shops and he phones me every day to make sure I'm all right. He's brilliant.''
Hayley's 64-year-old grandma, who lives next door to the family, is also a big part of the support network. ''Some fans have built a website for me and my nan checks it every day to see how many new people have signed up,'' says Hayley. ''She rings me to say 'Ooooh - you've got 10 more fans'. Bless her.''
Now the tour is ending, Hayley has no plans to return to the family nest. Instead she's moving to London. But while she's reluctant to say goodbye to Birmingham, she's discussed it with her family and come to the conclusion that 'it's not for ever'.
Hayley is considering living with some of the other Pop Idol finalists - ''It has been talked about, but that's all I can say. But it would be so cool,'' she says enthusiastically - as they've all grown so close, especially since the start of the tour. They've picked up various in-jokes and catchphrases and do impressions of each other's dance routines. Apparently the Darius hip-thrust is a favourite.
But it's not all fun. She may have come a long way in a very short time, but Hayley knows there's a lot of work still ahead of her. Although she has recorded the Billie Holiday classic That Ole Devil Called Love with the Big Blue for the new album Pop Idol: the Big Band Album, her future isn't mapped out.
When we met she'd yet to secure a recording deal