Despite the global fame, critical kudos and acceptance from the notoriously tricky fashion crowd, it took Ellie Goulding some time to finally believe in herself.
Whenever life gets a bit daunting, Ellie Goulding likes to play 'the Extras game'. "Now that I'm doing such big shows, I feel I owe it to people not to walk out on stage shy or apologetic," explains the die-hard Ricky Gervais fan. "By pretending that I'm in Extras and that everything is either not real or a bit of a joke, it makes those kinds of situations easier." Having watched her friends Taylor Swift and Katy Perry "walking out super-confident on stage", the 28 year old had long thought to herself, "'I should try that'. So one day, I did - and it works! Now, my confidence has risen so much on stage that I think a lot of people who once thought of me as 'that Ellie Goulding from the John Lewis ad' are almost scared when they see me live - because I'm an entirely different person."
That metamorphosis hasn't been limited to Ellie's stage persona. It's hard to believe that the poised, self-assured and fashion-savvy star who laughed her way through our shoot was the same cover girl GLAMOUR shot just a year ago. Because for all the successes Ellie had racked up since releasing her debut album, Lights, in 2010 - almost 30 million sales to date, two Brit awards and that performance at William and Kate's wedding reception - the singer still didn't seem to believe in herself as much as she should have.
Today, with her third album due for imminent release, something seems to have slotted into place. "You have to deal with fame on your own terms," she smiles, a lithe-bodied, luminous-skinned and serene figure sitting Buddha-like on the sofa of her two-bed-and-balcony West London flat, in a pair of black Isabel Marant leggings and an Acne T-shirt. "Otherwise it can destroy you. I've never wanted to disguise myself with a sparkly blanket and say that nothing bad has ever happened to me," she shrugs, referring to her outspokenness on the subject of her undertaker father, Arthur, who left when she was five, and her "shitty" step-dad. "And I do think that if I hadn't had my manager and my friends around me, I could have crumbled very quickly.
But anyone who is famous has probably wanted to be famous," she maintains. "It doesn't happen accidentally. So when you find out that it's not as pretty as it looks, I feel like that's almost your comeuppance or karma. It's the universe saying: 'You wanted it so badly, and here it is. Not what you thought it would be, right?' Because there are people following you and judging you for the way you look, the people you've been with and the people they think you've been with."
Although Ellie has never joined the long list of celebrities who whinge, ad nauseam, about the trappings of success, she will admit that at first this public scrutiny chipped away at her already fragile ego. After suffering a series of panic attacks in 2010 - the year she won the Critic's Choice Brit Award - that left her feeling she needed to be hospitalised, Ellie embarked on a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy "which dissolved the panic attacks pretty quickly, because it taught me exactly how to deal with them - so now, I haven't had one in years." Therapy also helped her deal with the abandonment issues that may have been at the root of many of her insecurities.
"I sometimes laugh at my own hardness now," she smiles, a little sadly. "But when you don't have that male figure in your life, you become very strong - both man and woman in a way. And maybe I owe that to my father and the fact that he wasn't around."
It would be too neat to suggest that Ellie's newfound confidence is down to her settled romantic status with her boyfriend of nearly two years, McFly/McBusted bassist Dougie Poynter. It may be her longest relationship since Radio 1 presenter Greg James (which ended in 2012 and was followed by fleeting romances with US dubstep DJ Skrillex and actor Jeremy Irvine), but the singer refuses to confirm lingering rumours of an engagement.
When I ask whether she feels ready to marry, however, Ellie responds with a resounding: "God, yes! I'm nearly 30. I once had a pretty warped view of marriage," she muses, "because so many people around me had divorced parents. So for a long time I did think that I'd never get married and that men were shit - all that stuff. But when someone comes along and re-establishes that trust," she goes on, whispering now in case Dougie, who is "kicking about downstairs", overhears, "then it's nice to think of doing everything the traditional way: having a church wedding, with all my family in one place - I love the idea of that."
If and when an engagement does happen, Ellie points out, she certainly won't be breaking the news on Instagram. "It's just asking for trouble, isn't it? Because it's saying that you're OK with letting people into your personal life. That said, I do occasionally post pictures of Dougie, just because I like having that sense of normality that I'm doing what my friends do."
So if this man who "gets her" in a way no one else has and understands her "absolute independence" wasn't the catalyst for Ellie's new serenity, what was? "It's been more of a gradual thing," she says slowly. "I haven't changed anything about myself, but I feel more confident now because I've realised I've got a lot to offer that's not about how I look. I feel like I've got a good sense of humour and I like to think that I'm a smart person - and the truth is that you can't spend every day worrying about your looks. My best friend is so pretty that she got bullied for it. So I feel like you can never win with yourself and you'll never be happy unless you make a conscious decision to accept yourself. Life is very precious, so to worry about the way you look is such a waste of time."
Ellie may know this now, but for years she couldn't look in the mirror without pulling herself apart. "I'd always been unhappy with my body and felt that I had an awkward figure - not bad, but awkward. I was constantly paranoid about my hips and belly and had no boobs, so I felt the pressure of those worries constantly." Too busy to exercise as a teenager growing up in a small village near Kington in Herefordshire - "I spent all my time smoking, drinking and being a goth" - Ellie discovered a love of running at 18 that has kept her in great shape ever since. Today, she breaks up her runs with Bikram yoga, Barry's Bootcamp and boxing, and sticks to a clean, vegetarian diet.
While she was studying drama, politics and English at the University of Kent, however, her sense of nutrition was all over the place. "I remember being so badly addicted to sugar that I could eat two big Galaxy bars in one day - and nothing else. I was terrified of eating potatoes or rice or any kinds of carbohydrates, but I would still have loads of chocolate every day. It made no sense.
My friends were so worried about me because I would come to their houses with bars of chocolate and when they asked me what else I'd eaten that day, I would tell them, 'Chocolate for breakfast, chocolate for lunch and then an apple and a salad.'" An eating disorder "would maybe be too strong a term," she says, "but I definitely thought about food in a way that wasn't healthy, and ate in a very extreme way that should have given me diabetes. Now that my attitude to nutrition is balanced, I feel and look better. My skin is brighter and my eyes are brighter - and when I look at myself in the mirror, I've got far fewer hang-ups."
Judging by the state of Ellie's living room - littered with designer clothing after a visit from her stylist - this new attitude has meant her embracing fashion more than ever. "I can't deny it!" she laughs, showing me a new Topshop sheepskin gilet and embellished suede Tommy Hilfiger boots. "But it's hard not to be into fashion in the music world, because the two are so intertwined. And when my stylist shows up with all these clothes, it's like being a little girl let loose on the dressing-up box again - amazing!"
Rather than hustle designers, Ellie prefers her style partnerships to happen organically, which, judging by her front-row appearances in London, New York and Paris, they do. "Fashion shows are actually quite odd, unglamorous things," she insists, "because you're all squashed in and can hardly move. Sometimes I'll get led to the front row and there's literally no room, so again I'll pretend I'm in Extras and do the whole, 'Well, maybe I can squeeze in there?' thing, before wedging my arse in between two famous people."
Ellie can make light of the scene, knowing that however fun the 'dressing-up box' is, her music is all that matters. "I remember at the beginning, all these labels holding back on signing me. They would tell me to Google pictures of this star and that star and 'think about my look' - because at that point I was wearing hoodies and trainers all the time. That just turned me into a bit of a rebel - I knew that I wasn't going to be that kind of pop star - and now I'm so glad I never went along with it all, because people were never distracted by my clothes. Even when I'm in the recording studio now," she goes on, "I would never wear anything too glamorous, because I want the only impressive thing about me to be my voice and my songs."
If the last two albums are anything to go by, Ellie will get everything she wants - and a lot more besides. Although all this contentment, she admits, can make songwriting difficult. "It's easier to be inspired when you're unhappy," she laughs. "Any writer will tell you that. Because even when you're writing a happy song, you still need the fire of sadness. Which is why most of the artists I know have a destructive streak and sometimes the happiest of situations can be too happy for them. I've always used singing and songwriting as a way out - a way to escape. Now, I no longer have to do that."
Ellie's new album, , is out in November