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Young Divas: The truth about Ricki-Lee

The Young Divas speak out against the gossip and rumours that have plagued them. In recent months it seems the Young Divas have been living up to their name. With reports of infighting, the exit of Ricki-Lee Coulter and then the news that the other three girls had failed to make it to her wedding, it seemed the hugely successful group was falling apart. Fortunately, they're back with former Australian Idol finalist Jessica Mauboy stepping in to replace Ricki-Lee. As far as Kate DeAraugo is concerned they're sounding "better and stronger" than ever. As the Divas launch their new album, Kate and Jessica, along with fellow members Paulini Curuenavuli and Emily Williams, talk exclusively to Woman's Day about the loss of Ricki-Lee, why they didn't make it to her wedding and about their own shaky love-lives. There's been a lot of speculation about why Ricki-Lee left with rumours that some of you were envious of her popularity and solo success. So what is the truth?
Kate: (laughing) That's right, I was green, green with envy! The story has been blown out of proportion. Honestly, I have nothing to be envious of. I've had great success in my career and I wish Ricki-Lee all the best with hers. It was hard when she left but we picked ourselves up, brushed ourselves off and moved on.
Paulini: That's right — it did hurt for a short time because we got on with her really well but you can't hold onto stuff like that. You've got to build a bridge and get over it. Ricki-Lee left to get married and concentrate on her solo career. Was it hard for the three of you to re-group after she left?
Emily: Ricki-Lee went overseas to do her album and when she came back she left the group. It was a shock and for a week or so we were confused but then we got Jessica on board and she brings lots of energy and happiness.
Kate: Ricki-Lee had other things on her mind and she became half-hearted. The rest of us put our hearts and souls into the Divas and for whatever reason she wasn't prepared to do that so it's better that's she's moved on to what's next in her life and career. That said, we're still in touch. She texted me today to wish me a happy birthday for last week. It's all good.
Paulini: We do miss having her around sometimes. So why didn't any of you go to her recent wedding when you were invited?
Paulini: She'd asked me to sing at her wedding but unfortunately I'd already committed to an event in the Hunter Valley raising money for the Watoto children [orphans in Uganda cared for by the Watoto Childcare Ministries].
Emily: I was in New Zealand doing a TV show.
Kate: I couldn't go because I was on a family holiday in Thailand. I hadn't had any time off since I won Idol three years ago so I needed a break. So has it been hard to re-group and move on?
Kate: The three of us were stronger and tighter immediately afterwards but we're at peace. We've got Jessica now and we're really excited about our new album and single.
Paulini: Jess has just gelled with us. She's an incredible singer and a great spirit to have around. We call her bubba because she's only 18. Jessica, did you have any reservations about stepping into someone else's shoes?
Jessica: No, it was really unexpected but I didn't have to think — I just said yes. It's such a fantastic experience. Girl bands — the Spice Girls for instance — are notorious for bitching and petty jealousies. How do you deal with issues to ensure that doesn't happen?
Emily: We have a simple rule that we talk about everything. We look each other straight in the eye and deal with stuff — no more sideways glances.
Paulini: I may not be as loud as everyone else but …
Emily: If she's got something to say she says it.
Kate: We're not really a girl band because we all do our own solo slots within the Divas so we share it evenly. If there are issues we sort them out and don't gossip behind each other's backs. Some of you have had tumultuous love lives — how are things now, especially for you Paulini? There's been a lot of speculation about your on-off romance with footy star Wes Naiqama.
Paulini: I've been single for three weeks now and I've accepted that relationships don't always work out. In this business you've got to find someone who will understand what you do but right now I'm loving my life.
Kate: Paulini has come out of everything she experienced as a stronger and better person. I'm in a beautiful relationship with someone I've been seeing for a year. He works behind the scenes with bands and we met on tour. He's completely supportive.
Emily: I'm single and I haven't been this happy ever. (Emily split from her daughter's father Richie Lio four months ago). Last time we split up I was a mess and we got back together but this time I'm much stronger. My parents help look after my four-year-old daughter Asia so I'm very lucky.
Jessica: No, I'm not with anybody…
Emily: She's far too young for that. Some of you received criticism of your bodies during Australian Idol. How important is body image and how do you cope with the scrutiny?
Paulini: We're not going to lie about it — it is an issue. I got criticised on Idol for wearing that gold dress. It really hurt me but these days I'm totally comfortable with my body. I train every day but I eat a lot too. You have to decide whether you want to be silly and starve yourself or have a healthy life.
Kate: I've got down about the criticism but I don't think it's healthy for young girls to feel that they're not accepted unless they're thin. I've had messages from fans who say we've made them feel worthy and taught them to love themselves.
Emily: Our fans come in different shapes and sizes so we're just the same as them. Finally, how will you feel if you go head-to-head with Ricki-Lee in the charts?
Emily: I'm sure we will be.
Kate: What's the difference between being head-to-head with Ricki-Lee or Madonna? The new Young Divas album New Attitude is out now on Sony BMG.

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