Ten years ago they were the biggest thing in pop. They had ten consecutive top 20 singles, were millionaires and proved that you don't have to come first to be a winner.
Then suddenly everything went quiet for the group known as Liberty X. They disbanded in 2007, unsuccessfully reformed a year later and the pundits finally wrote off the three girls and two guys who, it seemed, had disappeared into the shadows for good.
How wrong they were. Now it's a case of third time lucky as Liberty X are back in the big-time with a peak-time TV show, plus a tour and a new album.
For after successful solo careers, Tony Lundon, Kevin Simm, Michelle Heaton, Kelli Young and Jessica Taylor are thrilled to be back in the group again.
"We didn't realise how much we missed Liberty X until we got back together," Michelle says.
It all started a decade ago when the five finalists in the TV hit series Pop Stars came second to the winning group Hear'Say — who went on to have a brief spell in the limelight.
But for the three girls and two boys who were unkindly dubbed Flopstars, it's been a very different story.
"I don't want to gloat about Hear' Say," says Kelli. "We were all mates and went through a lot together in the original series. But we have always been a team while they seemed to be more interested in individual ambitions."
"After Pop Stars ended we all went our separate ways," Michelle remembers. "Then after a few weeks, the five of us met up and decided to form a band and go for it — we were so strong together and such good friends that it seemed natural to stick together."
They called themselves Liberty and after writing six original songs sent them to Virgin Records boss Richard Branson ," more in hope than expectation" as Kevin puts it.
"We picked that name because it means independence, standing up for your rights and that describes us completely," Michelle says. "I guess you could compare is with Destiny's Child, All Saints or the Superbabes — that kind of thing.
"We found our own manager, we wrote our own songs. Does that make us just another manufactured group? I don't think so. We were really different."
Richard Branson was certainly impressed. "From our first meeting I was completely wowed by their determination and optimism, and their refusal to give up," he remembers.
"But it was when I heard their music that I just knew they were going to be a huge success."
The result was an unprecedented contract for an unknown pop band — a monster six-album deal which made all five into instant millionaires.
Liberty X's first single, Thinking It Over, co-written by Kelli and Tony, reached number four in the charts and their second single Doin' It became number one.
But just when it seemed everything was going like a dream, along came a nightmare — a little-known band called Liberty, took the group to court.
The solution — an X added to the name. And as Liberty X Kelli and her friends stormed to the top of the charts again with their singles Just A Little and Got To Have Your Love, which became the UK's most-played radio track.
"Being what I suppose were pop stars was a bit strange," Tony admits."We were amazed how much trouble fans went to make special banners and stuff. When you realise it's for us — and not for supergroups like Oasis or Blue, it was quite overwhelming."
It wasn't only the public who went overboard for Liberty X. Says Tony: "A surprising number of pop stars went out of their way to encourage us.
"At the time we were pretty gutted that we were Pop Stars also-rans," Jessica says." But bearing in mind what happened to us it's probably the best thing that could have happened.
"Although we came second, we turned out to be the winners in the end."
Michelle,33, is hoping that the Liberty X reunion will herald the end of last year's health nightmare — she battled a heart scare and had a double mastectomy.
Michelle is now looking forward to much happier times. "Getting back together with Liberty X could be the start of something really special," she says. (Tony James Features)