Sarah Harding, who found pop star fame as a singer with the British-Irish girl group Girls Aloud, has died from breast cancer, her mother announced on Instagram Sunday. Harding was 39 years old.
“It’s with deep heartbreak that today I’m sharing the news that my beautiful daughter Sarah has sadly passed away,” her mother, Marie, wrote. “Many of you will know of Sarah’s battle with cancer and that she fought so strongly from her diagnosis until her last day. She slipped away peacefully this morning. I’d like to thank everyone for their kind support over the past year. It meant the world to Sarah and it gave her great strength and comfort to know she was loved. I know she won’t want to be remembered for her fight against this terrible disease — she was a bright shining star and I hope that’s how she can be remembered instead.”
Harding — who sang on Girls Aloud hits like “Love Machine” and “The Promise” alongside bandmates Cheryl Cole, Nadine Coyle, Kimberley Walsh and Nicola Roberts before disbanding in 2013 — revealed her cancer diagnosis last August, sharing a selfie from her hospital bed. The British star told fans that after being diagnosed earlier that year, doctors had told her that the cancer had spread to other parts of her body.
Video: Sarah Harding in action with Girls Aloud
“I’m currently undergoing weekly chemotherapy sessions and I am fighting as hard as I possibly can,” she wrote. “I understand this might be shocking to read on social media and that really isn’t my intention. But last week it was mentioned online that I had been seen in hospital, so I feel now is the time to let people know what’s going on and this is the best way I can think of to do so.”
She added, “I am doing my very best to keep positive and will keep you updated here with how I’m getting on. In the meantime I hope you’ll all understand and respect my request for privacy during this difficult time.”
As a result of competing on the 2002 U.K. reality show Popstars: The Rivals, Harding was tapped to become a member of Girls Aloud, a girl group formed by public vote. By the end of that year, the group had scored the highly covetable Christmas number one, and would go on to have 20 consecutive top 10 singles in the U.K.
Harding, who would have turned 40 in November, also pursued modeling and acting, becoming the face of Ultimo lingerie and starring in St. Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold in 2009, the year Girls Aloud announced the band was going on hiatus; they parted for good in 2013 following their 10th anniversary tour.
Harding also acted on the British soap opera Coronation Street in 2015, but couldn’t resist her reality TV roots. After competing on Celebrity MasterChef and The Jump, she joined the U.K. cast of Celebrity Big Brother in 2017, ultimately winning the competition.
In 2015 she released the solo EP Threads; the single “Wear it Like a Crown,” recorded 10 years earlier, was released by Harding this spring, with profits benefitting the Christie NHS foundation, where she received her treatment.
This spring also saw the release of her memoir Hear Me Out, which inspired a fan campaign that drove the 2004 Girls Aloud song of the same name to the top spot on the U.K. iTunes chart. In the book, she shared that her cancer was terminal, writing that “in December my doctor told me that the upcoming Christmas would probably be my last.”
Harding’s Girls Aloud bandmates have not yet commented on her death.