Meghan Markle and I just weren't meant to be, says X Factor winner Matt CardleDecember 5, 2020
HE is the former X Factor winner who played an unlikely hand in shaping today’s Royal Family.
Matt Cardle, who became the most voted-for winner of the ITV show exactly ten years today, exchanged messages about going on a date with Meghan Markle shortly before she met future husband Prince Harry.
Matt, Meghan and Harry’s lives could all have been different had he started dating the then Suits TV star.
Speaking to The Sun on Sunday in an exclusive interview, Matt said: “It was just a very weird situation — very odd. And I really don’t know how it came about.
“Life’s got a course and I was not on that one. I’ve laughed about it, but it’s amazing thinking back.”
The pair started swapping messages in 2015 after Meghan, who was single and in the UK at the time, followed Matt on social media after his award-winning appearance in West End show Memphis.
But before the pair could hook up Matt, 37, got together with his current girlfriend Amber Hernaman, 29, and Meghan met Harry.
The singer beat One Direction to The X Factor crown in 2010 and went on to earn almost £5million from his triumph.
But as well as the ups, there have been downs, and Matt has told of his shock at being abruptly cut loose by Simon Cowell’s record label, how he battled addiction to prescription drugs and how he still bumps into his pal Harry Styles in their local.
Singer Matt’s rise to fame was extraordinary.
In less than six months he went from playing in the tiny The Bull pub in Halstead, Essex, to selling one million copies of his first single When We Collide, a cover of a Biffy Clyro song.
Of his first TV auditions Matt, a former builder, said: “When I turned up it looked like 200 X Factor winners and me.
“I still had mastic gum on my boots from work and a hat like Jeremy Corbyn wears because I was losing my hair. It wasn’t a good look but it served a purpose to disguise my bald patch.
"I don’t need one now as I’ve had two hair transplants.”
While performing on the reality show, which at the time was pulling in 17million viewers every Saturday night, he was cooped up in a mansion with the other contestants.
He said: “It was pretty claustrophobic. We were all just eating cold chicken nuggets most nights and being herded around by security.
“We were all getting ill and giving each other colds. At this moment ten years ago I’d had the flu, tonsillitis, bronchitis, laryngitis, — everything. I was an absolute mess. I don’t know how I managed to get through it.
“At one point I was lying in bed unable to get up. The X Factor people were like, ‘Look, you can not do the Saturday show but that means you’re out’.
"I was having steroid injections in my butt cheeks to get me up and moving. I was very, very close to chucking it all in.”
In the final Matt performed a duet with megastar Rihanna, with the Umbrella singer looking stunning in a sexy, sheer black dress.
Matt described it as “the most surreal experience ever”.
He added: “When she walked on to the stage, with a dress slit up to her armpits, I couldn’t believe it.
“If I’d thought about that kind of stuff at the time, I think I wouldn’t have been able to sing properly.
“She came up to me in rehearsals and said, ‘Are you all right? You look pretty f***ing ill’, and I said, “I am really ill. Don’t come too close”.
“She gave me some ginger and some throat sweets.”
Matt found the fame that followed his win a huge shock to the system.
I fell for Rihanna
MATT revealed how he almost floored superstar Rihanna during The X Factor final.
He said: “Rihanna was so sweet. Very bohemian.
"I’d got new brogues for the performance and on stage it was like standing on ice skates.
“We were supposed to just walk up really close to each other at the end and stand still.
"But she started circling around me and I went to turn around and nearly slipped over. I looked like I’m doing this weird dance.
“I nearly went down and took her with me.”
He added: “It was freaky. I went back to my mum’s house and said ‘I’m gonna just nip out in the car to Sudbury, which is a little town near where I grew up.
“I walked into this phone shop but on the way out someone stopped me and said, ‘Oh It’s Matt, can I have a picture?’.
"Before I knew it there was a crowd about 20 deep outside the shop and a policeman came barging his way through the people and was like, ‘Are you all right?’.
“I got a police escort out of town to my car and then home. It was that level of madness.”
Unfortunately, after his winner’s single made it to No 1 on the back of a £1million record contract, it was all downhill for Matt.
Follow-up song Starlight only got to No 185 and Amazing limped to No 84.
It led to Matt being dumped by Cowell’s label Syco in 2012.
Matt said: “There’s never any communication when it ends.
“There’s no gold watch or picture, carriage clock or a nice dinner out. It was just, ‘You’re not with Syco any more’.
"I did bump into him (Simon) at the premiere of a musical he wrote about The X Factor. It was all right.”
Matt thinks that more needed to be done for reality show winners after they were let out into the real world.
He added: “There were a couple of people sort of floating around — you know, seeing if you were all right — but not in a kind of mental health way, in a very kind of general sense.
“There was no specific preparation for the impact that such sudden fame was going to have on my life, no, not at all. They should employ more of that on reality TV across the board.”
It was struggling to come to terms with fame which led Matt to develop an addiction to prescription drugs, leading to a stint in rehab centre The Priory in 2013.
He said: “The whole show and the whole experience and fame, it’s difficult, really stressful.
“I was travelling a lot, going back and forwards to and from LA. I’m petrified of flying so a friend said, ‘Have some valium’. After I took it I thought, ‘Oh my God, for the first time in two years I feel relaxed’.
“I’ve always liked to party. I was pretty comfortable with it but I wasn’t aware of how dangerous the game was I was playing with prescription drugs and alcohol.
"I wasn’t aware of how lethal it was becoming. I was dependent within eight weeks. Within six months I was in The Priory. I’m pretty sure it was a life-saving move.”
Now Matt, who has been recording a new album and was hoping to tour this year before Covid-19 struck, has kicked the prescription drugs and cut back on his drinking.
He has lived in North London with his stunning girlfriend Amber for the past four years. She is a project manager for the Royal College of Physicians and has helped him write the album that he hopes to release next year.
Matt, who also shares a miniature golden doodle called Ted with Amber, said: “We met in 2015. I was sober. This is after the Priory. I wasn’t drinking and neither was she. It did her good and it did me good and it was great to have that support.
“We don’t drink much now. We’re just on the same page, two peas in a pod.
"Things like lockdown, when someone wants to do the same things that you want to do every step of the way . . . you can’t lose.”
But Matt admitted he still remembers his X Factor days with fondness.
He said: “I haven’t spoken to Harry Styles for a while but I did bump into him a while ago in the pub, actually.
"He drinks in my local area and he came to a party so I had a brief chat with him. He seemed really well.
“The X Factor was an amazing experience. I made some good friends.”
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