Beloved pop star’s dark past
We've all made drunken mistakes we'd rather forget - but most aren't quite as bad as Cheryl Cole's.
The British pop star star was charged with assault in 2003 after hitting a nightclub toilet attendant in a row over lollies - and it's been brought up again this week in an awkward interview where she was questioned about the court case, The Sun reports.
Keen to move on when questioned about her conviction, Cheryl branded the topic as "irrelevant" and questioned why it was even being brought up.
The singer, 35, has returned to the limelight after a four-year break - but when her single Love Made Me Do It nosedived to number 45 in the UK charts, comedian Kathy Burke quipped: "Maybe if Cheryl hadn't punched that toilet attendant, more people would buy her records."
Over the years Cheryl has successfully rebuilt her public image, becoming the nation's sweetheart - but what actually happened in that nightclub toilet? And how has Cheryl bounced back?
So drunk she was 'swaying'
On 11 January 2003, Cheryl was a fresh-faced 19-year-old who had just reached the Number One spot with her band Girls Aloud and their single Sound of the Underground.
She was enjoying a taste of the VIP lifestyle on a night out at The Drink nightclub in Guildford, Surrey, with Girls Aloud bandmate Nicola Roberts.
Cheryl spent the night downing complimentary champagne and vodka and red bull, with one punter who saw her that night saying she was so intoxicated she was sat on the floor and "swaying".
After going into the toilets, it was reported that Cheryl grabbed sweets and lollipops from a display being looked after by $44-a-night toilet attendant and law student Sophie Amogbokpa, but didn't leave the customary tip.
When Sophie asked Cheryl - who then went by her birth name of Cheryl Tweedy - for money, a "heated" argument broke out. Sophie said she needed the tips to help pay for her law course.
Screams of 'you black b***h'
When the case went to court in October 2003, Sophie claimed that Cheryl had charged at her, screaming "you black b***h, I will deal with you" before punching her, knocking her glasses off and leaving her left eye closed up.
Sophie was left with incredibly bad bruising. Her eye was painful for three to four weeks, her face was bruised for three months and for a while she had blurred vision too.
Cheryl was charged with racially aggravated assault and assault occasioning actual bodily harm - leaving many to question whether she deserved to remain a member of Girls Aloud.
She claimed she'd acted in self-defence, and also denied the racism accusations, saying "I am really distraught that people are accusing me of racism, it couldn't be further from the truth.
"The one thing in this world that I am not is racist and I never will be.
"Throughout the Popstars: The Rivals series Javine was my closest friend. That could never have been the case if I was racist, it is a ridiculous suggestion."
In a later interview with the Guardian, Sophie said she struggled with her course following the attack.
"I was trying to write my final papers but I couldn't sit at the computer or read to do my research," she said.
"I was in a lot of pain. I couldn't do anything for myself. The people around me suffered."
Forced to sandpaper benches at a local football club as punishment
With Cheryl's growing profile, the court case attracted a lot of media interest.
Although the jury reached a unanimous verdict, finding her guilty on the assault charge, the racism charges were dropped.
In Sophie's first police statement, taken in hospital after the attack, she gave no mention of racism.
Cheryl was sentenced to complete 120 hours of unpaid community service and had to pay Sophie $880 compensation, as well as an additional $5000 of prosecution costs.
Judge Richard Howarth, sentencing, called the incident an "unpleasant piece of drunken violence" and said the singer had "showed no remorse whatsoever".
Back in Newcastle as she was forced to sandpaper benches, pick up litter and clean at a local football ground.
The nation's sweetheart
The charges, however, seemed to do Cheryl's reputation little harm.
A spokesperson for the band released a statement saying that her position in Girls Aloud was not affected by the conviction.
She was soon back performing with the group, and wrote a message to fans on her website that said: "thank U so much 4 everything. I really appreciate it: loadsa love hugs and kisses".
In her 2012 autobiography, My Story, she also again stressed her side of events, writing "completely out of nowhere, I was hit in the face.
"I swear on my mother's life that's what happened.
"As the months went on and I prepared for the trial, I started to see that it was not acceptable to have hit her under any circumstances, even in self-defence."
Cheryl went on to be the nation's sweetheart, appearing as an X Factor judge, selling millions of hit records both with Girls Aloud and as a solo artist, signing a lucrative deal to be the face of beauty brand L'Oreal.
She also set up her own charity, The Cheryl Cole Foundation - and has spoken out against bullying on numerous occasions.
It's currently unknown what has since happened to Sophie - but she has said she was extremely embarrassed by the publicity.
"People look at me in the street and I can see them wondering, 'Is it her?'
I deliberately cut my hair to look different," she said in the 2003 Guardian interview.
"I don't hate Cheryl as a person. But I hate her behaviour and I find it very sad that she has not learned from her mistakes."
In a 2007 interview, Cheryl said she wished the [attack] "hadn't happened. It lives with me. But I won't apologise."
It seems the incident is one she is going to great pains to forget.
This story originally appeared on The Sun and is republished here with permission.