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Our Layla has the X Factor

WHAT a difference seven years can make.

WHAT a difference seven years can make.

Back in 2001, a Henley in Arden teenager had her dreams of stardom dashed after she was booted out of TV talent show Pop Idol for lying about her age.

Now, Layla Manoochehri, aged 22, is back and taking ITV's X Factor by storm along with her fellow band mates.

When the Solihull News first met 15-year-old Layla, then a pupil at Henley High School, she was devastated at having been dropped from the singing contest - which had a minimum entry age of 16.

But her mum Maria had no regrets about her daughter's attempt to get on to the popular programme.

She said this week: "All Layla wanted was to hear if Simon Cowell thought she had potential and could become a great singer. "She was not expecting to get into the top 50 and would definitely have come clean if she'd gone any further."

Layla's silver lining soon arrived and she moved to London to work as a singer/song-writer. One of her hits was Treat Me Like a Woman, which Layla co-wrote for Lisa Stansfield.

"It's because of Pop Idol and the people she met while on the show, such as producers and researches, who helped her get where she is today," said Maria.

Young Layla was then snapped up by the management of successful boy band Blue and embarked on a whirlwind tour with the band, accompanied by Maria.

After a management crisis, Layla returned to the UK to take a year out.

Maria said: "Layla decided to go back on the audition trail and it was her idea to put a group together. "After performing for many years as a soloist, she felt comfortable and relaxed with a group of girls."

Her band, appropriately named Girlband, consists of Bristol-based friends Tia Lau, Phoebe Lau and Marisa Biliterri.

They impressed the judges with their harmonious voices during the televised audition and easily secured a place in the next round.

But Simon Cowell caused a stir when he described their Topshop outfits as "a little bit over-dressed". Fellow judge Cheryl Cole jumped to the group's defence saying, "When you come to an audition, you come dressed how you feel best."

According to Maria, Girlband have what it takes to become the first group to win the programme. "Sometimes you need to get negative comments so that you can up your game. It will definitely make them want to work harder."Layla has been dating ex-Blue member

Simon Webbe, aged 29, for four years and can regularly be spotted visiting Henley in Arden with him to see family and friends.

Maria, who lives with husband Javid and sons Daniel, Sam and Oliver said they all had their "fingers crossed" that the girls will do well in the show.



Cathrina Hulse
Multimedia Journalist
Annette Belcher
Multimedia Journalist
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