Frustrated by the lack of products on shelf to cater for fair-skinned girls, Nicola simply went out there and launched her own makeup range, Dainty Doll. Concerned by the surge in skin cancer rates sparked by the growing trend for Hollywood tans, Nicola tirelessly campaigned to have an under-18 tan ban introduced.
What's more, Nicola is a refreshing antidote to the modern obsession with looking 'perfect'. Never afraid to try something new, her motto being that looking good is "a bit of fun". So it's no wonder that the star was awarded the Ultimate Fashionista award at the Cosmopolitan Women of the Year Awards, last night.
We caught up with the beauty industry pioneer to find out a bit more about her own beauty and style rules and influences.
Who is your beauty icon?
If we're talking women of our time, I think that Gwen Stefani is incredible. Her makeup is always flawless. No matter what look she goes for, it's just immaculate. But if we're talking about classic icons it has to be Grace Kelly. She's amazing – and Princess of Monaco, too. How fabulous! She really was the ultimate princess.
What drove you to launch the Dainty Doll range?
It was something I've always wanted to do because I was aware of how little makeup there was available for fair skin. In fact there was no other makeup brand on the market that catered for women with pale skin. I used to find it such a stress. When I was getting ready for an appearance with Girls Aloud, we'd have the makeup artist running in excited because she'd transported face paint from Japan that she could mix with foundation to get the shade pale enough.
How involved have you been with the creation of the brand?
I'm involved every single day with Dainty Doll dealing with phone calls and emails. I wouldn't have it any other way. I have to know everything that's going on in order to know that it's going well. The brand has to reflect me. If it doesn't, people aren't stupid, they can tell.
What advice would you give fair-skinned girls when it comes to choosing makeup?
If your skin tone looks natural, even and healthy, you're halfway there so try to match foundation to your natural skin tone as much as possible.
You're famous for your fiery red hair, would you like to be a blonde or a brunette?
I've been blonde, I've been every colour under the sun in the past. I'd never say never again – I just think it's a bit of fun. If I feel like doing something different with my look I just do it.
Recently I had bright red hair because we did a shoot that needed that look but today it's more of my natural colour. It changes with the weather. It's good to have fun with it and not take it too seriously.
How has your style changed over the years?
When I was younger I was more of a tracksuit kind of a girl. Where I'm from we didn't have many good shops. Being in Liverpool at that age it was all really about what tracksuit you're wearing.
It's only really been in the last few years I've kind of grown up a bit that I've tried other things.
You're far from a 'tracksuit kind of a girl' now. Do you enjoy dressing up and being glamorous?
I do but I just don't really have any rules. I hate it when people take things too seriously. Who made the rule that you're not supposed to walk out with blue blusher on? Who said that? It really winds me up.
What's your personal all-time favourite red carpet moment?
I love what I wore for the Pride of Britain Awards last year. I wore the Carrie Bradshaw wedding dress from Westwood – the short version obviously, without the veil and the trail. It was absolutely incredible. As soon as I got off the train from Paris Fashion Week, I went straight to Westwood and saw it and said, 'You have got to let me wear that dress.'
How do you prepare for a red carpet appearance?
I just stay calm and hope for the best. Women put so much pressure on themselves to look the best they can look on that particular day and sometimes it just doesn't happen. You can't take things too seriously because if you do you're going to crack up.
I'm only young. Everybody learns and everybody makes mistakes – it's about having fun. I don't want to look back when I'm older and think what a miserable person I was.
You're a front row regular at Fashion Week. Would you ever consider branching out and launching your own fashion range?
I have lots of dreams and lots of things that I'd love to do but I think you have to be realistc. Creating a fashion line is something that I would take very seriously; I would never just my face to something. Taking a serious interest in what you're doing and being able to talk about what you're doing is really important to me because I can't just fake it.
I would like something like a shoe collection where it's just fun. Shoes to me is the biggest fun you could ever have. The brighter the colours, the more sparkles, the higher the heels, bows and flowers and I'm happy.
What's the biggest beauty faux pas you've ever made?
There have been so many – so many times when my face has been orange and my neck has been white or my school collar's been covered in makeup or my foundation's been five shades too dark.
What are the three beauty products that you can't live without?
I couldn't live without the Dainty Doll Wonderbalm. I use it on everything – lips, eyelashes... It's full of vitamin A and E so it keeps everything nourished and healthy – it's brilliant for chapped hands at this time of year.
I also swear by Johnson's Baby Oil in the shower. I've tried every moisturiser under the sun but nothing keeps your skin as moist as that. It feels dewy all day long – it's amazing.
When I'm out and about I don't go anywhere without the Dainty Doll Mascara & Eyeliner Duo. It's got a mascara at one end and a liquid eyeliner at the other so you can fit both in your purse no matter how small it is. In fact, it would even fit in your jeans pocket.
Which member of Girls Aloud has the most high-maintenance beauty routine?
Sarah does tend to be in the makeup chair for the longest but only because she's so particular – and because of her eyelashes.
What makes you happy?
Knowing that my family's happy makes me happy. I have to have a goal; if I don't have a goal, I'm not happy.
Do you know what you want from life?
I've had a goal since I was 10 years old – it was to be a singer and be successful at it. I grew up always having a goal and that's not going to stop now because I'm a little bit older.
My goal right now is to have the Dainty Doll range worldwide. I've got lots of other goals but I can't really say what they are just yet.
If you could be another high profile woman who would it be?
I don't know – I would say just be yourself.