'Why I'm making the most of my assets': Singer Camilla Kerslake on dating England rugby captain Chris Robshaw, being signed by Gary Barlow and fighting breast cancer with humour 

The previously demure classical singer has been leaving very little to the imagination of late – with her ‘aesthetically pleasing boobs’ going viral on social media. She tells Judith Woods about the deeply personal reason behind these recent revelations

'I may as well make the most of my breasts while I still have them,' said Camilla Kerslake (she is wearing: COAT DRESS, Zyanya Keizer; JEWELLERY, Gemporia and IAM by Ileana Makri)

'I may as well make the most of my breasts while I still have them,' said Camilla Kerslake (she is wearing: COAT DRESS, Zyanya Keizer; JEWELLERY, Gemporia and IAM by Ileana Makri)

The first time that I interviewed a very demure Camilla Kerslake, way back in 2010, I never mentioned the singer’s breasts. Not once. Not even in passing. 

In my defence, it wasn’t an oversight, it’s just they weren’t relevant. Really. When I used the term ‘crossover’, I was referring to her classical-meets-contemporary musical genre rather than her lingerie.

Five years later, Camilla’s breasts have made headlines and gone viral. 

But – and this might sound odd – not in a bad way and certainly not in a vulgar sense. 

It was at the height of her mother Deborah’s treatment for breast cancer that pretty, witty, irreverent Camilla, 27, wisecracked, ‘Kerslake women have good boobs when they’re not trying to kill us. They are aesthetically pleasing but maybe not life lengthening’ – and a Twitterstorm ensued.

'I’m happy in my own skin... I look in the mirror and I’m content; there’s nothing wrong with me,'  said Camilla (she is wearing DRESS, Gerard Darel; BRACELET, Percy Lau; EARRINGS AND RINGS, Gemporia)

'I’m happy in my own skin... I look in the mirror and I’m content; there’s nothing wrong with me,' said Camilla (she is wearing DRESS, Gerard Darel; BRACELET, Percy Lau; EARRINGS AND RINGS, Gemporia)

‘Humour is the only way to deal with a horrendous, terrifying thing like cancer,’ says Camilla bluntly. 

‘You have to laugh or you’ll cry. What’s to be gained from not talking about it? 

'I may as well make the most of my breasts while I still have them; the brutal reality is that breast cancer is tied up with genetics so who knows how long they’ll be mine?’

This would explain why the previously conservative dresser has lately taken to revealing some showstopping décolletage and daring side-boob when she steps out on the red carpet with her handsome beau, England rugby captain Chris Robshaw, 29. 

Then came the social media excitement over the ultimate fantasy-made-flesh snap of her welcoming home her man from tour wearing nothing but a broad smile and a slinky black negligee, and bearing aloft a roast chicken dinner.

‘If I’d thought for a second that picture would go viral I would have worn make-up,’ she says drily. 

‘It was just a bit of fun because I looked like Betty from Mad Men.’

Camilla is wearing DRESS, Magda Butrym; SHOES, Paul Andrew. CUFF, IAM by Ileana Makri; RING, Maria Francesca Pepe

Camilla is wearing DRESS, Magda Butrym; SHOES, Paul Andrew. CUFF, IAM by Ileana Makri; RING, Maria Francesca Pepe

Breast flippancy aside, there’s a painful realism in her attitude; Camilla has recently overcome her own breast cancer scare. 

‘Last year Chris whisked me off on a surprise city break to a lovely hotel in Brussels, and when I was moisturising after a bath I found a lump in my right breast,’ she says quietly.

‘Actually, I didn’t so much find it as see it – it was clearly visible. In that moment I felt distraught; I’d recorded the charity single ‘You Raise Me Up’ with the Sing to Beat Breast Cancer Choir, and there I was facing the unthinkable. It felt so unfair – but then cancer is never fair.’

On her return Camilla underwent a gamut of tests, including an ultrasound. Thankfully, the lump was not cancerous – but doctors were unable to identify exactly what it was. 

For now she is monitoring it and has been told to seek medical advice if it changes. 

Meanwhile, her focus is on her professional life, her as-yet-unnamed forthcoming album of emotional ballads and up-tempo melodies and the new single ‘Come Home’, a soaring tune that cries out for the waving of a veritable sea of mobile phones. 

Camilla is wearing GOLD TRENCHCOAT, Bimba & Lola; FAUX-FUR STOLE, Helen Moore; BRA, Elle Macpherson Intimates; NECKLACE AND RING, Maria Francesca Pepe; SHOES, Christian Louboutin

Camilla is wearing GOLD TRENCHCOAT, Bimba & Lola; FAUX-FUR STOLE, Helen Moore; BRA, Elle Macpherson Intimates; NECKLACE AND RING, Maria Francesca Pepe; SHOES, Christian Louboutin

‘A lot of crossover artists are simply told what to do based on a model that worked five years ago and has since been regurgitated over and over,’ observes Camilla. 

‘But I am hugely involved in creating a new, more contemporary sound and I love it.’

Today her blonde hair is almost shoulder length, and she looks fresh as a daisy in a boho maxi sundress in which her enviable (for the record 30DD) embonpoint is perky without being showy.

As indeed is Camilla herself. Sparky and bright, she is keen to re-establish herself as very much her own woman. 

‘Way back at the start [of my career], I spent too long trying to look the way I felt a crossover artist should look: low key, not too sexy. 

'With the passage of time and life experience I’m happy in my own skin, and although I know I haven’t got Cara Delevingne’s long legs or Nicole Scherzinger’s perfect curves, I’m all right with that. I look in the mirror and I’m content; there’s nothing wrong with me – as long as I don’t overdo the cheese.’

Back at the beginning of her career, YOU was one of the first magazines to tell the story of how 19-year-old Camilla, doughty daughter of a Welsh mother and a New Zealand father, bombarded Gary Barlow with her home recordings of ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Pie Jesu’ every day for six weeks until the Take That star finally listened to them – and immediately picked up the phone to sign her to his record label.

'As a singer I need to be in peak physical condition because the demands are all-encompassing,' said Camilla (she is wearing BODYSUIT, Jitrois; SKIR T, Zyanya Keizer; JEWELLERY, Maria Francesca Pepe)

'As a singer I need to be in peak physical condition because the demands are all-encompassing,' said Camilla (she is wearing BODYSUIT, Jitrois; SKIR T, Zyanya Keizer; JEWELLERY, Maria Francesca Pepe)

Unlike other classical crossover singers, she hasn’t been privately educated or attended a conservatoire, yet has a pure, exquisitely expressive soprano voice that can swoop an octave higher than virtually any singer around.

By the time our paths crossed she had already been nominated for a Classic Brit award, sung for the Queen (who was uncharacteristically moved enough to comment on what a nice girl she was) and was poised for a stellar trajectory via the role of Cosette in Les Misérables. 

Then, suddenly, it all fell apart and Camilla’s rising star was extinguished overnight.

‘It was just a bit of fun because I looked like Betty from Mad Men,' she said of this Instagram snap

‘It was just a bit of fun because I looked like Betty from Mad Men,' she said of this Instagram snap

‘When Mum was diagnosed with cancer in August 2011 I stopped everything,’ says Camilla. 

‘She didn’t ask me to – she would never have dreamed of asking. But I am an only child and I couldn’t – wouldn’t – have done anything else.’

Despite being on the cusp of the big time, she cancelled £250,000 worth of national tour bookings. 

Her record label dropped her. Her agent followed suit. It was a desperately stressful period, during which time she almost went bankrupt.

‘My mum had a mastectomy and, in order to reconstruct her breast, fat was taken from her sides and there were terrible complications,’ Camilla remembers. 

‘When she had the surgery in October, we had naively thought we would be toasting her health with champagne by January. 

'But she ended up very ill and had to undergo various extra procedures.’ 

While her father worked all hours to keep afloat financially, the daily burden of care fell to Camilla.

‘I would go to the hospital every morning to see Mum, then go to my parents’ house [in Kingston Upon Thames] and walk her dogs. 

'After that I dashed back to my house to make lunch for Chris, who had sustained a serious ankle injury and couldn’t walk, then take our dog out before returning to the hospital. 

'I was exhausted; looking back I barely know how I got through it. 

'Without Chris I honestly could not have coped.’

Chris and Camilla had been dating for less than a year, but as he lived closer to her parents it was taken as read that she should move in with him. 

He unquestioningly accepted her need to run two households, and when it became clear that she had no money left in the bank, he quietly, magnanimously shouldered the bills as well as the mortgage.

By the end of 2013 she was standing back on her feet again.

‘I was booked to play two concerts at the O2, which was incredible and felt like a homecoming,’ she recalls, ‘but then there was another setback.’ 

Deborah, 54, a psychotherapist, suffered an autoimmune reaction to her drug treatment and was once again housebound. 

‘Don’t call me a wag! Ever!,' said Camilla of boyfriend, England rugby captain Chris Robshaw

‘Don’t call me a wag! Ever!,' said Camilla of boyfriend, England rugby captain Chris Robshaw

‘I stepped into the breach and would cook lovely food – when your world shrinks and you can’t get out, food becomes terribly important. 

'Unfortunately, eating all those creamy pastas, roast dinners and shepherd’s pies meant I piled on almost two stone in as many months. 

'It was when I sneezed out of a ballgown that I realised I had to take myself in hand.’

Sneezegate took place backstage at a concert when Camilla was mid costume change and had just squeezed herself into a full-length frock.

‘It was only a little sneeze, but the fabric tore, the zip burst open and then got stuck halfway down,’ she giggles. 

‘Chris was with me because I didn’t have a manager, and we were both laughing so much that at first we could barely function, but he managed to yank the zip and I finally got the dress off with 20 seconds to spare.’ 

She changed back into the previous outfit and seamlessly appeared on stage, vowing to eat healthily. It’s a regime that works for both Camilla and Chris. 

‘He’s a professional athlete so he needs to stay super-fit on 5,000 calories a day. 

'As a singer I need to be in peak physical condition because the demands are all-encompassing; if my body isn’t right my voice won’t be either, which means minding my weight.’

From 2010 to 2012 Camilla, who was born in Britain but raised in New Zealand until the age of eight, was the go-to girl for national anthems at rugby matches. 

‘I played loads of rugby as a child, so it’s a sport I’ve always watched.’ 

It was fate, then, that she caught Chris’s eye, and at a subsequent charity event he asked her out. Actually, it was more of a mumble – but when he asked for her number she gave it to him. 

‘I still can’t believe he had the chops to do it,’ she says, affectionately. ‘He is so British and shy. 

'I asked him how on earth he plucked up the courage and he said, “You were touching my arm. I thought, if she’s touching my arm, she must quite like me.” Isn’t that sweet? He does have magnificent arms.’

By any standards they make a wonderfully photogenic couple. 

Previously, Camilla was a ballet pumps sort of girl, but given that she is 5ft 3in and he is 6ft 2in with spiked hair adding even greater height, something had to give. 

‘We were very loved up and held hands all the time, and friends said I’d better start wearing heels because otherwise it looked as though he was stealing me,’ quips Camilla. 

‘When Mum was diagnosed with cancer in August 2011 I stopped everything. She didn’t ask me to... But I am an only child and I couldn’t – wouldn’t – have done anything else,' she said (pictured together earlier this year)

‘When Mum was diagnosed with cancer in August 2011 I stopped everything. She didn’t ask me to... But I am an only child and I couldn’t – wouldn’t – have done anything else,' she said (pictured together earlier this year)

When she shows me an early photograph of the muscle-bound rugby player and doll-like singer, I have to agree that they had a point.

These days the couple are both so immersed in their respective careers that making time for one another requires methodical forward planning. It’s important to note ‘careers’ in the plural. 

Any foolhardy soul who erroneously dares to describe Camilla as nothing more than an eye-candy adjunct of her chap is liable to get short shrift. 

‘Don’t call me a wag! Ever!’ she shrieks. ‘It’s outrageous to define someone by their partner’s occupation. 

'Take a look at my jam-packed schedule and tour dates, then try telling me I’m a lady of leisure. 

'When I’m performing I don’t speak a word from 8pm the previous evening; Chris’s friends joke that they wish they were married to singers too.’ 

When Chris accompanies her to fashion events and glamorous parties, he is very much her ‘plus one’. 

If it’s a sporting occasion, the roles are reversed. It’s the epitome of sophisticated modern coupledom.

Camilla with Gary Barlow who signed her to his label, in 2009. She bombarded him with her home recordings of ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Pie Jesu’ every day for six weeks until the Take That star finally listened to them

Camilla with Gary Barlow who signed her to his label, in 2009. She bombarded him with her home recordings of ‘Ave Maria’ and ‘Pie Jesu’ every day for six weeks until the Take That star finally listened to them

‘Chris is wonderful; so caring and thoughtful. When he went on his international test in 2012, he bought me an affenpinscher [African terrier] puppy, Rico Robshaw, to keep me company,’ she says. 

‘When Chris is away, which is a lot, we talk on the phone and on WhatsApp, and when he’s back we love walking and cooking together, and sometimes when I’m just padding about in his T-shirt and boxers with no make-up on, he’ll turn and say, “You’re so cute.”’

Despite premature reports of an engagement, marriage and children are definitely on the cards, says Camilla contentedly. (She’s described it as being ‘pre-engaged’, saying it’s ‘all about timing’.) 

Given that Chris has been away training since June and – fingers crossed the team stays the distance in the Rugby World Cup – won’t be coming home until November, there’s scarcely an opportunity to choose a ring, much less consider a wedding.

Camilla no longer sings the national anthem at matches, as she and Chris agreed it was too much of a media distraction. 

But there’s nothing to stop her raising her operatic voice to shatter the high notes as she sits alongside other families in the stand.

'When I’m performing I don’t speak a word from 8pm the previous evening; Chris’s friends joke that they wish they were married to singers too,' she said (pictured singing at Twickenham rugby stadium in 2012)

'When I’m performing I don’t speak a word from 8pm the previous evening; Chris’s friends joke that they wish they were married to singers too,' she said (pictured singing at Twickenham rugby stadium in 2012)

‘It is stressful watching the game because the cameras always turn on us [the partners] to film our reaction and I’m very excitable. 

'I really felt for Kim Sears when she was criticised for swearing during one of Andy Murray’s games. 

'She’s only human! When things go badly we’re the ones who have to deal with the fallout. I’m going to be at every match Chris plays and he’ll see me there, supporting him as he has supported me.’ 

And if that’s not incentive enough, there’s always the warming prospect of coming home to breast, leg and, of course, a roast dinner too. 

Camilla’s new single ‘Come Home’ will be released on 28 September on Estupendo Universal Records. 

Camilla is a Macmillan Coffee Morning ambassador; this year’s World’s Biggest Coffee Morning is on 25 September

 

CAMILLA'S CRAZY FOR... 

READING 

The classics, from Brontë to Orwell. I read in the car when my manager is driving me to concerts. I’ve just finished Jane Eyre.

LISTENING TO 

Kate Bush, Pink Floyd, Blondie – and Madonna’s latest single is great. I love the new Kiwi singer Gin Wigmore, too. 

WATCHING 

My television time is between 8am and 9am so it’s all on catch-up. I particularly love Joanna Lumley’s Trans-Siberian Adventure. 

DESIGNERS 

Emilia Wickstead and Alexander McQueen. I love sensuous feminine tailoring. 

HIGH-STREET FAVOURITES 

Mango, Zara, H&M. 

GUILTY PLEASURE 

Blue brie. It’s hugely fattening but so delicious that it’s worth running 10k for. 

SECRET TALENT 

I can play rounders while holding a glass of Pimm’s and not spill a drop.

 

Styling: Sabrina Henry. Hair: Darren Hau at Lovely Management using Bumble and Bumble. Make-up: Claudine Blythman using Balance Me skincare. 

 

Shot on location at Grosvenor House Apartments by Jumeirah Living. Combining the refined services of a luxury hotel with the privacy, comfort and generous living space of a contemporary Mayfair residence, Grosvenor House Apartments is the ideal home away from home in London: jumeirah.com/gha


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