Singer George Shelley has said he spent 12 months “in my bedroom in the darkness” but is now “back on track” after taking part in a BBC reality show.
The former Union J star was left devastated after losing his sister Harriet in a car accident in 2017 and previously told how her death made him unable to leave the house.
Shelley, 25, is one of six famous faces taking part in Celebrity Painting Challenge, which sees the contestants putting their artistic skills to the test.
He said the four-part series, also starring Jane Seymour, Phil Tufnell, Amber Le Bon, Josie D’Arby and Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, had him crying with laughter and helped him recover from the loss of his sister.
He said: “I went home every day crying myself to sleep with laughter – it made a change from crying myself to sleep with sadness, it was like ‘yes, finally, back on track’.”
Despite his eventual warming to the show, Shelley, who rose to fame after appearing on the X Factor in 2012, initially had misgivings about the series’ competitive nature.
The pop star said he was not “in a good place” when filming began but now says he is “grateful” for the experience.
He said: “On the first day, I got there, sat down and realised I was back at work after having a year off in my bedroom in the darkness, literally. This is intense. I was like ‘I can’t do this, I can’t take the competitive atmosphere, it’s not what painting is for me’.
“It’s taken something that I do for therapy and that I enjoy and put pressure on it and made it into a time thing. I was getting so much anxiety, there was a point I was like ‘I’m not ready to work at the moment’.
“But now I’m so glad that I did it – because that point I was in when we started filming, I wasn’t in a good place. If I hadn’t have done it, I think I could possibly still be there and would have moved out of London by now.
“But I’m not, I’m here and I’ve got my easel up in my spare room now so I’m loving it and I’m really grateful for the show because it really injected everybody with positivity.”
Celebrity Painting Challenge is presented by Mariella Frostrup while the stars will be supported by artists and mentors Diana Ali and Pascal Anson.
Daphne Todd, former winner of the BP Portrait Award, and acclaimed figurative painter Lachlan Goudie are returning as judges.
At the end, a selection of paintings from the six artists will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to charity.
Celebrity Painting Challenge will air on BBC One in April.