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Why last year's X Factor hopeful Gamu is glad she was abandoned by Cowell and Cheryl

By Alison Boshoff

Now and then: Gamu has a much more sassy style for her new album, left, and right, appearing on last year's X Factor

Not once has Gamu Nhengu been seen to rejoice over the accusations of sleaze, strife and crisis which have engulfed this year’s series of The X Factor; she’s far too nice a person to kick Mr Cowell in the shiny white teeth when he is down.

But, in her own quiet way, it’s clear that she is having the last laugh.

Gamu was, of course, last year’s cannon fodder: everyone was astonished when Cheryl Cole sent her home at the judges’ houses stage in favour of her ‘mini-me’ Cher Lloyd.

In the days that followed it emerged that Gamu’s family were staying in the UK on an expired visa.

The Home Office moved to expel them and it looked as if Gamu’s bid for fame was to cost them everything. She said that if she was sent back to Zimbabwe she’d face Mugabe’s firing squads.

It was the cause celebre of the series - thousands signed Facebook petitions to support her. Simon Cowell said that he would help every way he could.

But, having kept her own counsel since then, Gamu now reveals that actually after Cheryl dismissed her from the competition she never heard from her or Cowell again.

The idea that Cowell was going to lend the family the free services of his legal team to fight for her right to remain in the country also seems to have been a complete invention.

‘But then, why would they remain in touch once I’d been evicted from the show?’ asks Gamu. ‘It wasn’t an easy experience but I’m able now to look back on it from a distance and see what it gave me, and I’m grateful for that.’

What it gave her, she says, is a better understanding of the way that showbusiness works - which you may well decode as an understanding that there may be a show of sympathy, but it’s still just a business.

Perhaps this philosophical bent is possible now because the crisis is coming to an end and she is in the process of getting her passport and launching her musical career without the X Factor boss.

After she left the reality show, Gamu's family was told that they would have to leave the UK because their visa had expired.

And now after many twists and turns on the road to a green light to stay in the UK, her manager John Richardson has confirmed to me that Gamu’s right to stay has come through. She will become a full British citizen.

She must be delighted, I suggest. ‘The matter is closed, so I won’t comment,’ she replies, wary of causing a fuss.

Campaign: Thousands signed Facebook petitions to support Gamu when the Home Office moved to deport her - she has finally won her appeal to remain in the UK

It’s a rare piece of good news for the singer, now 20 years old, who suffered an emotional collapse after her X Factor disaster.

She had been led to believe that her performances had been enough to keep her in the competition. Indeed she had seemed to be one of the very strongest contenders with her powerful voice.

But Cher Lloyd, who snuffled and trembled through her song, laid low with a throat infection, was preferred. Gamu says that at the time she was completely dumbstruck and believed that her dreams of making it as a singer were at an end. She wept for weeks.

Now she says she feels that the rejection makes sense and she understands that it might be possible to make it as a singer without being an X Factor artist.

She tells me: ‘I can see now why it happened. I didn’t have the right street image like Cher. I just didn’t fit the bill for Cheryl.

'It’s not easy but I understand that it’s a competition and that is the way it goes. I hold no ill feeling.’

Although Gamu was told in the initial weeks after losing out that many major record labels wanted to sign her up, nothing came of it. Instead she has watched as her peers on the show release records.

She was, like all contestants, compelled to sign a management agreement with the company which manages all X Factor artists, which meant that she could be kept in obscurity by the Cowell machine.

John Richardson says: ‘They tell them to sit there and shut up. I think that for six months she was basically waiting for something to happen.

'We sent her management dozens of emails and didn’t get a single response. We had a proposal which would have netted her £25,000 but we didn’t hear a peep back.

‘Earlier this year Gamu asked to be released, and now at last she is free.’

Since escaping the clutches of the show she has got a publishing deal, and a record deal, and has spent the past couple of months in the studio making an album.

About half of the songs are written by her, and she describes them as ‘pretty old school, with a very classic Motown feel’.

One of her collaborators is Lamont Dozier, a Motown legend who wrote for The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas and the Four Tops. He has written a song for her, which is quite a coup.

The album should be released in March next year. It’s a long time, of course, since October 2010 when she was big news, but Gamu’s big break might finally be about to arrive.

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