Celeb boyfriends, a new single tipped for No.1 and a personal meeting with Simon Cowell himself. It’s been a big year for Little Mix.
We’ve not even begun shooting our Little Mix cover and – oh dear – we’re already one girl down. Having been stuck in traffic for three hours, Perrie Edwards is suffering from car sickness so severe that upon arrival she takes refuge inside our trailer.
Meanwhile, band mates Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall head into make-up yawning, before emerging as pop princesses.
Jesy especially is all tumbling hair and Bambi eyes and is in possession of an enviably shapely pair of legs.
They may have entered The X Factor as soloists before being thrown together as a group, but the friendship is genuine. All four are affectionate and utterly at ease with each other. And if they’re feeling under pressure to bag a second No.1 with new single Wings, it doesn’t show.
“Leigh-Anne,” says Perrie, now fully recovered, “is what we call the Fresh Princess. She’s so streetwise. Jesy is the performer – she’s an amazing dancer. Jade’s the cute one.”
And Perrie? “I bring the rocky, indie vibe. And apparently I’m the peacemaker.”
Not to mention the one who’s dating a full-on teen heart-throb…
We caught up with the girls to find out just how much life has changed since that X Factor victory seven months ago.
‘The girls come before my boyfriend – he knows that’
When Jade Thirlwall auditioned for The X Factor last year, it was third time lucky. She’d been rejected twice – even managing to get to boot camp in 2008 – and this was the final chance.
She says: “I couldn’t have done it again, there’s only so many times you can get knocked back. When you say to people you’re going on The X Factor, they get hyped up and say: ‘You’re going to win!’ And then you come back and have to say: ‘Actually, no.’
“I didn’t want to be there every year – it was then or never. I thought: ‘If it’s not going to happen this time I’m just going to look desperate turning up again.’”
Even so, when Jade got through to boot camp this time round and was asked to form a group, she wasn’t convinced it was the right move.
“I just pictured [previous X Factor girl group] Kandy Rain, dressed like strippers. I could never do anything like that. Girl bands have never done well on the show, so I thought I might as well just go home. But when I got put with the girls I knew we’d work.”
Jade, who’s from South Shields, broke up with her electrician boyfriend Ben McDonald, 21, during the show and is now dating Diversity dancer Sam Craske, 21, after being set up by Jesy (who is dating his band mate, Jordan) in February.
“He came to one of the signings when we were in the competition and because I was with somebody at that time, I just thought: ‘Ah, yeah he’s canny.’
“And then I split up with my boyfriend and Jesy decided to hook me up with Sam and we went on double dates. Sam keeps me grounded.”
Jade laughs as she remembers going to watch Diversity for the first time as an official WAG of the troupe. “I was like a proud mam! I felt myself standing up, going: ‘Come on!’ and Jesy kept saying: ‘Sit down’.
“There’s nobody in my family that performs, so I never go to see people, it’s always my family who come to cheer me on. So I felt weird being in the audience for once instead of being on stage. I just got a bit overexcited.”
She might be loved up, but Jade is clear that work comes before romance. “I said to Sam that my career will always come first and if the person I’m with can’t handle that then… bye.
“Sam respects that. He trains every day with Diversity, we both understand it and see each other when we can,” she says. “In a way it’s better because when you do see them it’s special.”
Spending what little spare time she has with family is especially important to Jade as her mum Norma, 54, has the autoimmune disease Lupus.
Jade says: “Mum’s not very well so I’ve really learned to appreciate my family more. She’s been particularly ill this year. I feel guilty being away, but I try to see her as often as I can.
“When you’re a teenager at home you take your parents for granted and think they’ll just do everything for you. And then when I came to London I thought: ‘I can’t do anything myself.’ It has been a big learning curve.”
Moving to London was a shock after life in the north-east. “The food isn’t the same,” she says, outraged. “I’m like: ‘Where’s my mince and dumplings and Sunday dinners?’ It is so different, but I’m slowly finding my way around. I know where all the shops are now!”
And she’s got the other girls nearby if she ever does feel homesick. “I feel like now I’ve found the other three girls, I’ve accepted who I am. I used to have a big complex because I’ve got no boobs at all, but now I just accept it.
“We are all different shapes and sizes, and it makes me happy knowing that I’m not the only one that’s a bit different.”
‘Zayn is really sweet – we’re official’
Perrie Edwards giggles and squirms in her chair as her cheeks blush pink. So this is The Zayn Effect. In what is possibly the cutest pop coupling of all time, Perrie has been dating One Direction’s Zayn Malik, 19, for the last five months after their friendship developed into lurve.
“Yes, it’s official,” confides Perrie. “We were never together when I was on the show, but we did talk a lot. I met him on the charity single [Wishing On A Star which saw the 2011 X Factor finalists team up with 1D] and he was just really sweet and we’ve been friends since then.”
The relationship first emerged as front-page news in May thanks to a series of pictures showing the couple larking around (and snogging!) on a motorised scooter. Perrie buries her head in her hands at the memory.
“Please don’t talk about those awful photos!” she squeals. “When I saw them in the paper I felt like being sick because I wish I’d got my roots done. I never dress up during the day so when I get caught off-guard I look like a tramp every time!
“From now on I’m going to make an effort. The first thing I did when I saw those photos was go and get my hair dyed.”
Heavy schedules, as well as 1D’s phenomenal success in America has resulted in long spells apart. But Perrie insists it’s not a problem.
“It’s not difficult to have a relationship when you’re so busy, it’s just a case of knowing what your priorities are,” she says. “Things do happen and it’s not you that changes, it’s your life that changes.”
And life has changed beyond all recognition for Perrie, who like Jade is from South Shields, although she scoffs at reports that the girls are set to make £8million between them this year.
“I wish! No, I think we’ve got to work very hard before we end up getting money like that. It doesn’t just get given to you on a plate, you’ve got to work for it.
“You earn money by doing gigs, but we’ve just been in the studio the whole time so we definitely aren’t minted. As soon as the single comes out and we get to do more performances we might start earning money, but right now it’s a really slow process.”
Any cash she has earned has gone towards treating the family. Mum, Debbie, 47, and dad Alex, 53, divorced when she was little, but remain close.
“I go wild on my family,” she says. “I bought my mam a Corsa for Christmas, I got my brother Jonnie  a laptop and gave him some money, and my dad some 50-year-old whisky.”
Singer-turned-teaching-assistant Debbie persuaded Perrie to enter The X Factor in the first place. “I was petrified,” she says of that first appearance in front of Tulisa, Gary, Kelly and Louis.
“I just thought if I went on the show and I didn’t get through and I failed, people were going to talk.
“I didn’t think I was anything special. I’d rather sit in my bedroom and write songs and play guitar than have everyone cringe at me.
“I was like: ‘Mam, please I want to go home. I can’t do it.’
“But she said: ‘Perrie, I haven’t asked you for anything but I’d love you to do this, just for me because I know you have a talent. I’ve always stood by you. I’ve washed your clothes, I’ve fed you. Seventeen years I’ve done this for you so I need you to just do this one thing. I know you’ve got a talent and I want everyone to see it.’
“And she said she’d get me an iPhone if I got through. So I got through the first round. And then she said she’d buy me one if I got to see the judges. After that it was: ‘If you get to boot camp…’ It happened every time. By the time I got to the final I’d bought myself an iPhone!”
Perrie shakes her head, still disbelieving at how far she’s come. “I didn’t expect to get that far. I went to the audition to try to show my mam that she was crazy.
“Now I’m living my own dream and my mam and dad’s as well. They are so proud. I’m a proper mummy’s girl, but I love both of them and even though they aren’t together, they still get on like a house on fire.
“I’ve got such a lovely family. I’m really lucky.”
‘Cyber bullies made me stronger’
Perhaps of all the Little Mix girls, it’s Jesy Nelson who has faced the toughest of tests with life in the limelight. Her decision to go public with the Twitter abuse she was suffering during the TV series was a brave one, but Jesy has no regrets about the strong anti-bullying message she sent out by tearfully talking about it on The X Factor.
“I’m really proud of what we did and it really helped girls relate to us,” she says. “It’s definitely made me stronger and I’m lucky that I’ve got these three girls as well because we stick up for each other.
“People are always going to put you down. Whether you’re in the media or not, you get bitchy people. You’ve just got to learn to ignore it and love yourself.”
The episode was painful, not least because it brought back memories of Jesy’s school days in Romford, north-east London, when she developed alopecia as a result of bullying.
Although she never went bald, Jesy’s now-thick locks started coming out in clumps, and only stopped when she moved schools.
She says: “I was probably about 13 when my hair just started coming out. Stress can cause alopecia and it wasn’t nice. I got picked on because I’ve always liked to dress different. I’ve never really wanted to fit in with everyone else. I like being individual. I think it’s cool. I think the world would be boring if everyone looked the same.”
The sweetest revenge on the people who made Jesy’s life a misery would, of course, be to storm the charts with another No.1 single. What a two fingers to the haters that would be.
Jesy laughs. “The response to the single has been amazing, so positive,” she replies diplomatically.
Simon Cowell is a big fan of Wings too. Jesy and the girls met him in his office to play him the track for the first time a couple of months ago.
“Even though we met on the show, I just felt star-struck. I’ve wanted to meet him all my life. He’s so lovely, he’s really, really nice,” she says. “He loves the single so much he tweeted about it. Wings is about not taking any c**p from anyone and believing in yourself. Just about being individual and not being afraid to be who you want to be and if you have a dream, you should follow it.”
Jesy has been dating Diversity’s Jordan Banjo (younger brother of Ashley) since March although the pair have been friends for 10 years.
“It’s going really well,” she smiles. “He’s so supportive. He makes me laugh and he’s my best friend. I think we always liked each other, it just took a while to happen.”
Fame is taking a while to get used to, but it’s something Jesy is enjoying.
“It’s mad, really strange. Sometimes I forget and I notice people are looking at me and I think: ‘What are they looking at me for?’ It sounds cheesy, but to be able to wake up and know you’re doing something you love for a living is amazing.
“We just love music, so being able do this and making money from it is incredible.”
‘My pop dream means more than a boyfriend’
Had someone told Leigh-Anne Pinnock a few years ago that she’d regularly be performing in front of millions of people, she would never have believed them. Then she was a shy teen low on confidence and the victim of bullying.
“Not a lot of people believed in me,” she says. “Boys would call me ugly. My confidence was so low and I was so shy. I knew that I wanted to be a singer and do what Beyoncé and Rihanna do. But there was always this restriction. I couldn’t perform, I was always just so nervous.
“Now I work the stage. During The X Factor final, I broke down with my sister Sarah  because she’s been the person, along with my parents, who believed in me. She’s my inspiration.”
The friendship and support of the Little Mix girls helped bring Leigh-Anne from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, out of her shell. “They’ve been my rock and the reason why I’ve grown so much. We are all so close. They are all amazing. If I had a problem I could go to any of them, we are just so tight.”
Leigh-Anne is the only single girl in the band having split with her boyfriend of five years, Nathanual Diamond, 21, in February. “We just grew apart,” she says, speaking about the break-up for the first time. “I haven’t spoken to him since we finished because we’re both moving on. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Obviously five years is a long time and you fall in love, and love is a powerful thing.”
“Breaking up was horrible. The one thing I loved more than him was my dream. I needed the time to focus on me and find who I am. I’ve been in a relationship for the bulk of my life leading up to The X Factor and it’s nice to focus on me.”
She knows exactly the type of guy she’s looking for, though, when she eventually feels ready to start dating again.
“I love pretty boys! Like Justin Bieber. I need to meet him,” she says. “I want someone who is sensitive and who will treat me like a princess. I’m waiting for The One.”
Leigh-Anne knows that with fame comes responsibility and is aware the band are now role models for girls.
“Before this I used to go out and get drunk and just do whatever, but now I have to know my limits,” she says. “Life has changed drastically, but it’s been the most amazing thing. I’ve wanted this my whole life and it’s happened.”
The novelty of fame hasn’t worn off for Leigh-Anne, and she’s embracing her new-found celebrity. “I love it! On Twitter people say: ‘You’re my inspiration’. I love being famous.”
The single Wings is released August 19. The book, Little Mix: Ready To Fly is published August 30 (HarperCollins, £16.99).