Growing Pains - Billie Piper

“When I saw Rich with Scott in a corridor I stopped to say hello to Scott, then kicked Rich up the arse. It was so playground – hurt the one you fancy. I’d never even met him. Kicking him was my way of showing him how unimpressed I was. See the weirdness. …Anyway, it was my cheeky, sexy way of saying: “Hi! I’m a pop star too!” Rich gave me a really big hug. … Rich and I met in the backstage bar after the show, pumped full of after-show adrenaline. Because 5ive were really successful in Germany there were girls everywhere and it made me nervous. The attention was making it impossible to chat and so, fearing a backlash, we escaped up to his room. Just the two of us. We kissed for ages and it was lovely – I thought he was amazing. No clothes were removed, whether you want to believe it or not – we just rolled around on the bed together and talked. I instantly felt safe with him. I could talk to him about what was going on in my head and I knew he understood. I believed he was on my side. In my corner. We spent all night holding each other.”

“… But I liked him so much and we were getting on so well. He wasn’t worried about our relationship becoming public knowledge and that gave me confidence. But of course he wasn’t worried – it wasn’t going to affect his sales, only mine. So on the sound but ill-received advice of my record company I hid the relationship. Not that there was a great deal to hide. We didn’t see each other for ages – he was always in some touring.”

“Rich and I lay on the bed and talked, trying to exchange all this information about each other before he had to go again – it was lovely and desperate in a romantic sort of way. We were both huge fans of music. He was a rock-head before he joined 5ive, into Pearl Jam and Nirvana, and suddenly he was singing “Get on up, when you’re down … did um, did um, did um…” We would giggle about it….We didn’t sleep at all. All night we swapped life stories, trying to squeeze it all in. Then it was back on the phone….”

“Sometime just after my sixteenth Rich came home for a rare break and invited me round to his new flat in Kilburn in northwest London. … I moved in straight away, when of course we still didn’t really know each other…
Rich had literally just moved in – there were no curtains, and no pictures on the walls, we had no sofa for about 4 months, and we slept on a mattress on the floor. Because we had so little time between us, the last thing we wanted was to spend our one day off shopping in Ikea. And to be honest we didn’t care….Rich and I slept a long time on the mattress in the back of the flat, in this shell full of boxes. Since he was fourteen he’d had a tiny TV with huge aerial. He always burnt a candle on it, so it was covered in wax…”

“When Rich and I told our respective labels that we’d moved in together neither was best pleased. I think our managers spoke on our behalf. I don’t know what they talked about or what they agreed, but from then on for quite a while we simply lied our heads off about our relationship and denied it was happening. We went out separately and weren’t allowed to be seen together at events.”

“If living with Rich taught me more about music, he also gave me an insight into the industry. He became my ally, person to whom I could moan: “Do they make you do this?” He wasn’t that much older than me, but seemed to be.”

“The only person who made me feel alive was Rich. And he was thousands of miles away. I missed him so much.”

“Rich and I got engaged at the beginning of that summer of 1999. Secretly, of course. Rich went on tour in NY and went shopping for a ring with his hairdresser. Rich was big into yellow gold, but his hairdresser was a lovely guy with great taste and he pushed Rich towards the white gold display case. When he came back from America he held out this tiny black jewellery box and proposed to me in out flat. In the box was a perfect white gold ring set with a very simple but perfect little diamond.”

“In the pop star pecking order, Rich was further up the scale than I was. While his schedule couldn’t possibly be changed, mine was less rigorous (read important). I was trying to juggle things to keep him happy but,.. I ended up pissing everyone off. Rich would get angry, mean messages would be left on my phone, and I was too young and too inarticulate to be able to fight my corner. … I didn’t know what to do about Rich or the possessive, destructive cycle we’d got ourselves into. I don’t blame him. I must have been a nightmare, because anorexics aren’t fun. I was completely irrational most of the time and, frankly, slowly going mad. He was trying to control me, but I was out of control - all I wanted to do was to control food. We put up with a lot of each other’s shit. Every separation was worse than the one before. Even before I got ill we had drifted apart, but we couldn’t admit it. ..We wanted to be in each others lives, yet at the same time hated and resented each other. … We were taking stuff out of each other because we had no one else to take it out on. We split up. We got back together. We split up again. Nothing was going according to plan”

- Special thanks to Nadia X for this.