Nicole Scherzinger expertly peels off the schermazing black patent-leather boots she’s just worn for her scher-fabulous cover shoot.
“They remind me of my Pussycat Doll days,” she says, tossing them on the floor and tucking her legs up on the sofa.
She should probably keep hold of them then.
Because seven years after the sexy, multi-platinum American girl group with which Nicole made her name went their separate, acrimonious ways, there are whispers of a possible reunion.
Given the apparent divisions within the band at its peak and some of the unpleasantness that came with the fallout of the split, getting back together would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
“Yeah,” agrees Nicole.
“We’re a lot closer to it now than ever before. I had dinner with Ashley [Roberts] and Kim [Wyatt] the other day and that was a really big deal for me because I don’t think I’d seen Kim in seven years.”
And how was that?
“It was lovely. We’re grown women now. [As you get older] you become more accepting and loving, right? And supportive of each other. So it was really nice for us to reconnect and it was a great laugh.
“We didn’t discuss the past, we were all about the present. Kim’s got two babies now and she’s from Missouri and her children have English accents! We caught up with girl stuff and connected as women.”
The claims made by former member Kaya Jones that the group was originally run as a “prostitution ring”, with members subjected to sexual abuse, are off limits today, although Nicole, Ashley Roberts, Kimberly Wyatt, Melody Thornton and Jessica Sutta have all firmly denied the allegations.
What Nicole will say is that it’s high time they started the reunion ball rolling. “I like to walk the walk, not talk the talk.
“So until I actually make it happen, it doesn’t happen!
“I know what I dream of and what I aspire to, and I just hope I’m back on tour soon in whatever shape or form that is because that’s where I’m meant to be.”
The Nicole who is curled up on the couch right now is very different to the one who has just spent the last two hours posing for our photographer.
In front of the cameras she is fierce and instinctive, but once the shoot is over and she no longer has to perform, she’s quieter, softer, thoughtful – and almost self-conscious at times.
In fact, the only time there’s a flash of panache is when it’s mentioned that she has a “milestone birthday” coming up next year.
“A what?” she queries.
While her flawless, doll-like face might have you believe she’s a good decade younger, Nicole will turn 40 next June.
“No, we’re not even talking about that,” she says, only half-joking.
“We’re living in the moment, right now. I’m holding on to these 30s forever.”
Does she think she’s changed between 30 and 40?
“I already said we ain’t even talking about this s**t because I ain’t even in the 40s. So I wouldn’t know.”
OK, point taken.
Nicole pauses and says she’s better placed to talk about the changes she’s been through since her 20s.
“You become more balanced in your 30s and more loving of yourself.
“In your 20s there’s more angst. I was more all over the place, full throttle and emotional.
“I still am, but I deal with things better. I was like a pistol in my 20s.
“It’s a lifelong journey trying to figure yourself out. I never worry about ageing, although it does get a little scary when the numbers start to change. But what are you gonna do about it?
“All you can do is grow older gracefully and know it doesn’t take anything away from the child in you. I still feel like I’m 21. Age is just a number.
“It’s about how you react and how you accept things or don’t accept things. Learning to let go.”
Letting go is something she readily admits she struggled to do when it came to ex-boyfriend Lewis Hamilton, whom she dated off and on from 2009.
They finally split for good in 2015, and Nicole says today that it took a lot to walk away.
“I was in that relationship for almost seven years. And I don’t like to fail at things. So I’m like: ‘I will make this work somehow!’ But sometimes we don’t realise that things just aren’t meant to be.”
Reports suggested the romance faltered due to Lewis’ reluctance to commit, settle down and start a family.
Nicole hints heavily that this was indeed the case and that the relationship had become quite one-sided.
“As women, we tend to love the other person and give everything to them. But sometimes the other person – the man – tends to be quite selfish, so they’re thinking of themselves and doing what’s best for them and meanwhile we’re giving everything.
“When we start to lose ourselves and compromise who we are and our worth, that’s when we really need to re-evaluate things. We need to draw that line and make those boundaries.”
For the past two years, Nicole has been dating Bulgarian tennis star Grigor Dimitrov, 26, although there were rumours recently that they’d split.
Not so, says Nicole.
“We’re still together,” she says firmly.
“Those reports were not true.”
When asked how they make the distance and long spells apart work, she pauses to consider her response.
“I can’t sit here and preach I know everything about relationships because, at the end of the day, I’m just a big, fat, juicy heart of a girl who loves to love. I don’t fall easily, but I fall hard. And deep. When I’m in, I’m all the way in.
“We’ve been trying to juggle schedules and making sure too much time doesn’t pass before we reconnect.
“Long distance is hard for anyone, especially when you’re in very demanding lines of work and travelling a lot.
But those are more factors than obstacles. So it’s about making the time and communicating as much as possible and being honest. That’s all.”
In an interview earlier this year, Nicole seemed to imply that she planned to have children “in five years’ time”, but today she clarifies this comment.
“I’ve never been one to say I’m going to do this by a certain time. I’m very spiritual, so everything in God’s time. I still have a lot of stuff I want to do musically and creatively, but in the right time, in a few years I should probably start thinking of a family.
“I will have a family one day. I will. I come from a huge family and I will have one of my own.”
But no time frame? “No, because you never know. That’s not how things really work.”
This is Nicole’s fourth season as a judge on The X Factor, after she won it last year with Matt Terry and in 2012 with James Arthur.
This time round she’s had the Overs category – typically the one nobody wants – but she claims she was delighted to get Matt Linnen, wildcard Talia Dean, Tracyleanne Jefford and (especially) Kevin Davy White.
“I call them the Sexies because when you say Overs everyone thinks they’re like 1,000 years old.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world. When you live life you have experience and you bring that to your music. There’s a depth to what they bring. I’ve had the Boys and the Girls, and this time I wanted the Overs.”
Nicole has stayed in touch with all her previous contestants, and she’s particularly proud of how James has turned his career around after a series of controversies, social media meltdowns, run-ins with the media and spats with his record label.
“The year I had James, Jahméne [Douglas] and Rylan [Clark] was a very special year,” says Nicole.
“It was the first time a judge had all three contestants in the quarter-final. I’ll probably go to church with Jahméne on Sunday, and I gotta go over to Rylan’s for dinner soon!
“And with James, I believed in him 1,000%. I stood by him when the s**t hit the fan and he knows that.
“We’d talk through it and I’d try to be there for him. I’d say: ‘Babe, you have to put this in the music. The only way you’re ever going to come back from this and be able to show who you really are and expose your heart is to put it in your music.’
“And he did. He’s done it himself with no one’s help, and he showed everyone.
“We remain super-close. I’ll never stop believing in him and I have done from the second I saw him in his audition. I knew.”
She also “knew” when, as a guest judge in 2010, she suggested putting five of the boy auditionees together.
“I said there was nothing out there like them. These boys were talented enough and strong enough. There was a handful of really cute ones who could all really sing and I said if you put them in a group…”
Ahem. That group became One Direction. No biggie.
“I never ever in a million years or in my wildest imagination thought they’d blow up like they did. Cut to two years later, I’m in Walmart trying to buy One Direction merch for my niece, thinking: ‘How did it get to this?’ I’m still waiting for my percentage.”
Has Simon ever thanked her? Nicole scoffs.
“No! In his head he remembers it differently. But I think maybe asking me back is my thank you. You know, this one might know a thing or two.”
First and foremost a singer, Nicole admits she can find judging frustrating. It’s been three years since her last UK Top 10 single (Your Love) and more than six since her last No.1 (Don’t Hold Your Breath).
Anyone who has seen her perform live – who could forget that extraordinary Purple Rain duet with Matt on last year’s final? – will be more than aware of what she unleashes when handed a microphone and stage.
“I love that [the X Factor audience] see me for my voice and my talent, and that it lets me remind people what I really do! I’m an artist and a singer first, that is my God-given talent and my best way of communicating with people.
“I am done with not being in the studio. I’m so over it. I think about it every day, I miss it so much. I know it sounds cheesy, but I want to unleash my heart and soul. I was born to perform.”
As well as touring and recording, she’s eager to get back into theatre.
Last year she had a bit of a quarrel with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber after pulling out of the Broadway production of Cats at the 11th hour to rejoin the X Factor panel.
Lloyd Webber, who had championed Nicole for the role following rave reviews of her performance in the West End version, accused her of making him look like “an absolute twot”.
However, it seems that they’ve since managed to bury the hatchet.
“Yeah, there was a bit of a toing and froing and a hiccup patch,” she says. “But we’ve resolved things.Andrew and Madeleine [Gurdon, his wife] have always been like family to me over the years in the UK, and as families do, we have our ‘moments’. I’d like to make sure I see them soon.
“He’s releasing my version of Memory on his new album, which is a huge accolade in my eyes. And I’d love to do something again with him on the West End stage.”
Does she have any regrets about pulling out? Lloyd Webber said at the time she was crazy.
“No regrets,” she says. “I think if you start to go in that direction and not living in the moment… One of my favourite things to say is that everything in life happens for you, not to you. And that is my frame of mind. If you live by ‘shoulda woulda coulda’, then it’s gonna be like that as opposed to making the most of where you are.
“And I will be on Broadway at some point because that’s my dream.”
Most famous follower?
Probably the One Direction boys or one of the Kardashians.
Instagram because I’m better with pictures.
It was from Jourdan Dunn. I gave her my number.
Funniest person on Twitter?
My friend Jamie Foxx is hilarious.
I love quote accounts like Phuckyoquote that are female-empowering and send positive messages.