Cheryl Cole
Cheryl Cole is preparing to return to screens for the new series of X Factor. ITV

She is has amassed a £16m ($25m) fortune, but Cheryl Fernandez-Versini knows exactly what it means to struggle. The pop star and national treasure has opened up about her tough childhood on a council estate in Newcastle, admitting that she would often go without.

Writing for the Huffington Post in a candid blog post on GCSE results day, the former Girls Aloud singer offered support to young fans as many collected their grades and began planning their future. "We didn't have much money and there were times when me and my brothers and sister would have to go without so we had food on the table," she explained. "I remember really wanting a Barbie doll, but because they were so expensive, I ended up having an old one from a girl up the road. I was also used to wearing cast-offs from my big sister and another girl up the street."

The popstar was 11 when her mother Joan Callaghan – who brought up five children single-handed – split with her father Garry Tweedy. Emphasising the importance of having a positive role model, she credited her family's love and guidance with preventing her from going down the wrong path.

"It's easy to see why so many people I knew didn't do well at school and ended up mixing with the wrong crowd and heading down the wrong path to a life of unemployment and sometimes even drugs. It's scary to see that this is still happening."

Despite their financial woes, her family always supported her ambitions of singing and dancing and made sure they found the money to pay for her local dance classes from the age of four. Their hard work paid off in 2002 when she auditioned for the reality television show Popstars: The Rivals on ITV and eventually won a place as a member of the girl group Girls Aloud.

"Without them realising it they'd opened up a whole new world to me and for that, I am so, so grateful," she continued. "They've made it possible for me to create an amazing life for myself, doing something I love every day."

She added: "You don't have to be from a large family to have a happy childhood, but you do need to have that one role model. Someone you can look up to or ask for advice every now and then."

Fernandez-Versini is now paying it forward as an ambassador for youth charity, The Prince's Trust. This year, the singer also launched Cheryl's Trust, which will support thousands of underprivileged young people as they embark on the journey of turning their lives around.

"For those who did well with their GCSEs, or even managed to just scrape by, their world is about to change. Maybe they're about to take up a place at college to study their chosen subjects, or maybe they have their dream job lined up. Either way, it is a time for celebration. Not just for them but for those who supported them through the hard work and tears to get to where they are today."

"It's so sad that one in 10 young people here in the UK describe their childhood as 'traumatic'. That's a million kids which is absolutely heartbreaking."