On her first anniversary as a pop solo star, Louise talks to Ben Knowles about music, love, looks and those darn football rumours...
It's one year since Louise released her first single as a solo artist after sensationallt quitting Eternal to go it all alone. To mark her anniversary, Lou wants to thank Smash Hits readers for their support with a gift, one of her trademark necklaces, given away on the front of this issue. "It's my way of giving something back," she smiles, as she pulls on her party hat and prepares to celebrate her 'annus fantastique'...

"I'm really happy for the first time in my life," smiles Louise, looking back over the 16 months that have passed since she left Eternal (and her surname) to go solo. "I'm actually proud of what I'm doing because I'm going in the direction I want to go. Saying that, I still don't know if it was the right career move - I'll never know that. It just felt right, like it was something I had to do." 
Leaving one of the most successful bands in Britain was a brave move and one which could have spelt the end of Louise's solo career before it was even started. 
"I really didn't know what to expect," refects Louise. "I was scared and, in the beginning, it was very hard." 
Probably the hardest thing was learning to work alone, without the constant companionship of Kelle, Vernie and Easther.

"My lows came the first week after I left Eternal," sighs Lou. "I knew I'd done the right thing, but nothing felt right, nothing fitted in - it was so different. And when the girls phoned me up, I'd feel awful and really alone." 
Although the girls no longer work together, Louise still sees a lot of them (Kelle appears in the video for A Kiss From Heaven) and Lou hopes Eternal will record backing vocals on her forthcoming album. 
"I'd like to do a bit of a tribute to them," she says, smiling at the thought. "We spent so much time together and I still feel lonely without them, which is strange because I'm always surrounded by so many people. It's got to do with everyone just needing a certain part of you, but no-one actually needing you."

The highs of Louise's year have been, she admits, the success of her four Top 20 singles... oh, and being voted the second sexiest woman in the world by the readers of men's magazine FHM. 
"Oh, I'd be lying if I wasn't flattered and hadn't thought about it," she giggles, blushing beneath her tan. "It would give anyone's ego a big boost for a day. But I wake up the next morning and I'm still the same in the mirror. It makes me laugh, it really does. I'm just me, I don't feel anything like that." 
Surely such a compliment like that must go to your head?

"I know a lot of people think I'm faking modesty, but I suppose, at the end of the day, looks are obviously important to my career. They are to anyone in music - look at Liam," she argues. "I honestly thought it was more amusing than serious. I did get excited and phoned my mum saying, 'You'll never guess what - I've just been voted the second sexiest woman in the world.' But that was all." 
Louise came ahead of Pamela Anderson, all the supermodels and even Princess Di, finishing second only to The X-Files' Agent Scully, Gillian Anderson. 
True to her nature, Louise adds, "It was really nice that someone unconventially beautiful won. I'm glad that someone who doesn't wear skimpy clothes and have long blonde hair came top. It's a good and healthy example for girls."

Louise gets very animated on the subject of women and their bodies - it's clearly a subject close to her heart. 
"A lot of young girls feel pressured by the media to have a certain body size or shape. I don't think I'm a bad example, I'm 5'4" and a size ten. I think that's quite normal - I'm fairly average. 
"Girls need to realize that the average woman doesn't look like a supermodel, so few people are naturally that skinny and many of those models are ill.

"It's sad, there's so much more that's important in life to be worrying about. I know people will think that it's easy for me to say that, being where I am. But I've flicked through Vogue since the age of 15, thinking I want to look like that, be like that. It can make your life hell." 
Louise's experience at stage school may be the grounding for this. She went to the famous Italia Conti school in London where standards are high and the competition at auditions strenuous - especially to look thin. When Louise and Kelle were both students there, Kell was told she couldn't take her ballet exam until she lost weight!

"If you didn't have the long, gorgeous blonde hair and that brilliant little body, it could be terrible. I used to diet and diet but never lose weight. I went through stages of saying, 'I won't have any dinner tonight, I'll have an apple', but I soon got over it. 
"I was a podgy teenager. I had a huge appetite and would eat more dinner than my dad. I still have to be careful now."

Louise was only 16 when she left stage school to form Eternal and in the past six years, she's done more than most people squeeze into a lifetime. 
"I was so young when I joined Eternal, I've grown up in the industry and it's become a way of life for me. Maybe I don't recognize how different I am.

"I think I'm more conscious of myself. It's hard not to be a lot more paranoid about what you're wearing, what my shoes are like, what my hair looks like, everything. But I think I've become more confident in my character, especially in the last year." 
In the last year, one major change has seen Louise become one of the highest-profile women in Britain, let alone British pop. She's been splashed across magazine covers, smiled from posters and billboards and, of course, the papers have been filled with lurid tales of Louise's soccer romances, her rude videos and alleged rifts with Eternal. If Louise has become more confident, has she learned to cope with that? 
"No. I'm still quite a sensitive person. When magazines and papers say something bad, it bothers me. Of course it's hurtful. I wish I could just do what I enjoy and ignore it, but I can't. 
"The worst story was that I'd had a boob job! I wouldn't waste my money on something like that. Sometimes, I feel like ringing in and asking, 'How can you say that?'" She pauses for a moment before joking, "I suppose it helps my sale though."

"I think anyone famous has to be aware that you become public property. If it bothered me that much, I'd stop doing music." 
Among the most recent rumours was one which claimed Louise was living with Boyzone. 
"We live in the same apartment block, but we don't share a bathroom or kitchen," she sighs. 
"I see them around, but we're both on tour so much, it's usually a 'Hi, how ya doin'?' We don't live together." 
And as for the recent stories that she's dated footie stars Jamie Redknapp, David Beckham, and Ryan Giggs, she just laughs.

"I'm good mates with Jamie - he Is a close friend. I also get on well with Paul McAteer and Phil Babb from Liverpool, but they all tend to phone me up and ask me if I can get them in touch with girls they fancy! Ryan? I have never even met him and that's the honest truth. I've spoken to David for maybe ten minutes and we only talked about football.

"To be truthful, I know very little about football. I just go and watch some mates. I'm not a football fan, and legs in shorts don't do very much for me... it's not happening."

One thing that is most definitely happening in Louise's life is her pop career. The solo journey, departing from Eternal and arriving in Hitsville, has reached it's destination. It hasn't been an easy ride - she's had to work at it and there have been low moments. But, one year on from her debut single, the girl's done good. Happy First Birthday, Lou.