By Generation STEPS and clairerichards.net
Claire Anne Richards was born on the 17th of August 1977, in Hillingdon, Middlesex. Growing up, she shared a room with her sister - and they weren't without their share of mischief! Claire once got so annoyed with her little sister, 16 months her junior, that she stuck stamps all over her and tried to put her in the post!
Claire's mum reckons she could sing before she could even talk, so at the age of 4 Claire was sent to ballet and tap lessons. However, as Claire puts it, "That didn't last too long because they didn't have food breaks in between the two classes, so I said to my mum that I didn't want to go anymore!"
When Claire was 5 she started school and was a star student. Always very good, nice to people and never did anything wrong intentionally. Apart from on one ocassion. One lunchtime, for the first time and without a lunch pass, Claire went into town with two of her friends. When she returned, she got caught even though her two friends did it all the time and it was her first offence! Just Claire's luck eh? At nine years old, Claire joined an athletics club where she did loads of competitions and cross country runs in the cold and wet on Sundays. "I gave it up three years later because I developed asthma," she says.
Making her stage debut at the tender age of 12 she sang in a school assembly, and went on to play Maria in 'The Sound of Music' in her first school production. Despite the lure of the stage, Claire decided to "stay on at school and get her qualifications like a good girl". In fact, she's much more than a pretty face and left school with three A Levels (two Bs and a C in Textiles, Sports Science, and English Literature). Claire was even toying with the idea of going to university if her dreams of pop stardom didn't work out.
But lucky for us - they did!
It didn't all start with STEPS though! Claire's first stab at pop stardom came in the form of girl-group 'TSD'. Alongside members Cossie and Bonnie, Claire released two singles, although neither made a major impact on the charts, and the group was dropped by their record company. Claire went on to work as a receptionist for seven months, winning the temp of the month award for May 1997.
Claire returned to the world of pop when she answered an advert in 'The Stage' seeking talented youngsters who could sing and teach the world to line-dance. Claire could dance - and boy she could sing! With her powerful vocals, which were as crisp live as they sounded on STEPS' records, Claire was a staple contribution to the group - and STEPS were a phenomenal success, selling over 18 million records to date.
After STEPS, Claire had limited success as part of 'H&Claire', releasing three singles and an album with STEPS bandmate H. Taking a break from singing to plan her wedding, Claire never recorded again with H, and the duo dissolved in 2003.
Claire is now taking an extended break from the limelight, living with her boyfriend Reece. They are expecting their first child together shortly.