AS a teenager Shelley Leitch shot to fame as part of the Northern Ireland girl group Femme Fatale.
At just 17-years-old the petite blonde was stepping on to some of the biggest stages in the UK alongside the top names in pop music.
Now, as a tribute to her music business father, Shelley – now 30 – is returning to stage with her new girl group Sorority.
In 2012 Shelley’s dad Ralph died at 63 after getting the news that he had a terminal and untreatable brain tumour.
Well known himself for being in a number of bands and working in the music business, Ralph inadvertently gave Shelley a last wish.
“My dad loved the business. He was a drummer, guitarist and singer as well. He loved getting up to sing, nothing made him happier.
“Dad always wanted me to sing again when Femme Fatale finished. But stupidly at that age I didn’t want to sing with my dad – I was too cool to be seen doing that. That’s something I will always regret because I will never get a second chance.
“He would always say to me ‘when are you going to sing again Shell?’ and he even suggested that we record together. I wish I knew that I had known that music was meant for me the way he did.
“When he died my dad left all his music equipment to me. I found it hard at the beginning to do anything with it, but now I have plans and I want to make him proud.”
In 2003 as Femme Fatale, Shelley and her fellow bandmembers Christine Boal and Jordanna Kalla were sharing the bill with groups such as Atomic Kitten, Busted, Fifth Avenue, Six and popstars like Harvey from the So Solid Crew.
The trio were managed and produced by local dance music mogul Mickey Modelle and signed to the famed Ministry of Sound record label.
“It was most teenager’s dreams” at the time, said Shelley, “and we were living it.”
Having grown up in a musical household, stepping into the spotlight wasn’t a challenge but Shelley explained the tough part was returning to singing in bars when the big concerts stopped coming.
She said: “I always loved singing, I remember the first time I got a taste for it when I was at school and I volunteered to sing the lead in music class.
“My teacher was so impressed she called my mum to tell her. From that day on my parents began to encourage me to sing and get more involved with the music.
“It was completely by chance that my cousin heard two girls chatting about how they needed another singer for their group. I was 16, I was auditioning for a girlband and I was told when I got it my first performance would be at the Waterfront Hall a few weeks later.
“I made two best friends for life, we performed some really high profiled concerts like Popfest 2003 and we released our own single too.
“But like many journeys in the music business the hype died down after Popfest. Suddenly we had gone from being played on the radio with the biggest popstars of the day to gigging in small bars. Gigging was loads of fun and an important part of being in a band, but when you get a taste for that big stage and you lose it, it can break your heart.
“I wouldn’t say this is my last shot or anything but I feel enthused because the music business has grown so much that if you have a talent you can be successful at any time of your life you shouldn’t give up.
“I look at a friend of mine Mark Walton who founded Boyzone, he performed in the band Fifth Avenue the same time as Femme Fatale and he is now living in LA doing absolutely amazing things with his career, helping and guiding others to achieve their dreams because he never ever give up on his.
“He was never handed it on a plate, over the years he never stopped working for it from singing/performing to managing and producing. I admire him a lot for that.”
After Popfest Femme Fatale fizzled out and Shelley turned to her second love, modelling. However, this was also an industry that she would come very close to success only to lose out at the final hurdle.
She said: “After Femme Fatale decided to part ways I took a break from the industry. I had always had a love of modelling .
“I’ve had the opportunity to walk a few catwalks and appear in various shows but I’m too short for the mainstream modelling business. I remember watching the models at Belfast Fashion Week and thinking how I wanted to be up there but never would just because of my height.”
Now, in memory of her dad, Shelley is returning to the music business with a bang and she is starting it all off with a call out for singers for Sorority.
She said: “We decided to do auditions for the band to not only search for undiscovered talent but also to raise money for Cancer Research in memory of my dad.
“On January 29 at the Chelsea Wine Bar in Belfast we will have a fantastic judging panel headed up by Cool FM’s Stuart Robinson to help us decide who will be in the final group.
“We’ve had a lot of interest already and we’re hoping to find a lot of really talented singers as well as raise a lot of money for a great cause.
“I have been absolutely overwhelmed by the support everyone has given me and I’m looking forward to getting out on the road with the group.
“For anyone who is coming to the auditions or knows someone who might be suitable we’re looking for girls with a unique style and sound. Someone that has stage presence, a great voice and a born entertainer.”
If you would like to audition for Sorority email firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet Shelley @Shelley_Model. Admission/tickets for the audition event at the Chelsea Wine Bar on January 29 are £6.