Ricki-Lee reveals backstage fight that made her leave Young Divas

Ricki-Lee in the Young Divas in 2006
Image: Sony Music

Ricki-Lee Coulter has shared some behind-the-scenes tea from her time in the 2000s girl group Young Divas.

The pop singer spoke on Chart Beats’ A Journey Through Aussie Pop podcast about her musical career from her 2004 Australian Idol stint to now. She opened up about her time in girl group Young Divas in 2006.

Ricki-Lee explained that it started under completely different circumstances. She was approached to join a co-headlining tour with three other singers from Idol, she recalled.

“‘You’re all solo singers in your own right, we’ll put you all together on tour, four people for the price of one,'” she said.

“It was never pitched to me as, ‘Hey, do you want to join a girl group?’ Because I just never would have said yes,” she told the podcast.

Ricki-Lee signed on to join Paulini Curuenavuli, Emily Williams and Kate DeAraugo on the tour.

To promote it, the four women recorded a promo single, the camp classic Donna Summer cover This Time I Know It’s For Real. It rocketed to #2 and went platinum.

Suddenly, the four singers were a girl group.

“We did the single, it went off. It was a huge song,” Ricki-Lee recalled.

“Suddenly, the tickets went from three [tour] dates to a million dates. Then they thought, wonderful business decision, let’s capitalise on this and record an album.

“My [solo] label was okay with it. But every step of the way, it was very clear that at the end of the tour I was out.”

‘That didn’t sit well with me’

Ricki-Lee said she still had more solo albums to deliver on her solo recording contract.

She said while the Young Divas was a “wonderful” experience, towards the end it “started to get a bit yuck” and her decision to quit “had nothing to do with the girls”.

“We were doing everything, every gig that could be done, we were at it. The AFL, the tennis, all those things,” she said.

“I knew how much I was getting paid for those gigs [as a solo artist] the year before. But we were told that it was for free, they were promo.

“That didn’t sit well with me, because I knew how hard we were working. I knew how much those gigs were worth and we weren’t getting it.”

During the relentless touring and promo schedule, Ricki-Lee lost her voice. Before a show, the singer saw a doctor, hoping for a steroid injection to allow her to sing that night.

Instead, the specialist ordered at least a week of full vocal rest to avoid permanent damage.

“I had to have a sit-down with one of the guys in charge. I went in a room backstage by myself without the girls,” Ricki-Lee recalled.

The singer said she showed the boss her medical certificate that said she couldn’t talk or sing.

“He was so enraged. He lost his mind,” she said.

“I’m a 20-year-old girl, new into this whole thing, having an adult conversation with a grown-ass man.

“He was yelling, screaming at me, and then he threw a sandwich in my face… That is so wrong! Come on, dude.

“That was very much the end of it for me. My voice is my career and puts a roof over my head. And that’s how you’re going to react? I thought it was so embarrassing for him.”

Read next: Sad reason Anthony Callea fled his first Australian Idol audition

Ricki-Lee also addressed rumours of infighting during her year with the group.

“For the most part, we really got along, I just felt like maybe I was a bit different,” she said.

“I have an insane work ethic and I’ll always do whatever it takes to get the job done. I think at times, I felt like other people weren’t taking it as serious as me and weren’t as respectful of time.

“Just tiny little things that were personal to me. That goes with working with anyone. But there was no real dirt.

“We had so much fun, like this little travelling family. We were very much in it together.

“I think when anyone spends as much time together as we did, there’s always a little bit of friction here and there.”

Jessica Mauboy replaced Ricki-Lee in Young Divas

Fellow Australian Idol alum Jessica Mauboy joined Young Divas in 2007. The group recorded a second album before breaking up the following year.

In 2019, Emily Williams recalled the “turbulent time” when Ricki-Lee left.

“Was it all roses? No. Yes, there were fights, yes there were tears. But let’s be honest, it was never always going to be all smiles with such large personalities,” Emily told the Daily Mail.

“I think there were some feelings that were hurt [when Ricki-Lee left] but at the end of the day we all moved on. That opened the door for Jessica to join.

“We felt like we had built something and suddenly we were on shaky ground.

“Luckily things worked out. It was a stressful time for sure.”

In January, Ricki-Lee Coulter returned to Australian Idol, hosting Seven’s reboot of the show. Two weeks ago Ricki-Lee released her new single On My Own.

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