The X Factor‘s Sam Bailey tells TV Times magazine about getting festive, her family and this weekend’s final…

You’ve just been photographed for TV Times. Did you enjoy getting glammed up for our photoshoot?
“I felt out of my comfort zone a little bit! It doesn’t come naturally for me to pout, which is why I always laugh when I do it! It’s something I’m not used to doing, but I’m kind of liking the attention. Although I wish I was a bit thinner!”

You have lost a lot of weight since the start of The X Factor, though…
“Yeah, a stone and a half! I tried a dress on at the weekend when we were having costume fittings for the show and I managed to get into a 12. It made my day! I used to be a size 18.”

What will this Christmas be like for you?
“It will be quite a poignant one for me, because this is the year where my life has changed. I spoil my kids [Brooke, eight, and Tommy, four] every year – it’s something that I’ve always done. They always get a good Christmas. But this year I want to do something really special for them; I want to get a day where I take them to Hamley’s in London and just buy them a few bits. And get all new decorations and make it as magical as possible, because I know I’ve got a busy year ahead.”

What were you doing on Christmas Day last year?
“I was working. Obviously the prison doesn’t shut down at Christmas, we still have to be there and we’d all take it in turns to work. I suppose this year will be very different…”

What’s the best thing about Christmas for you?
“Seeing my kids’ faces when they come down the stairs is a biggie for me – they normally wake up at 5.30am! I’m not very good at wrapping presents, though – you know when you go to a fish & chips shop and they wrap your chips up? That’s my wrapping up. My husband is amazing at it and he goes into so much detail!”

What’s your favourite Christmas song?
“Fairytale of New York. I love it because it’s so out there. It just reminds me of Christmas when people have arguments. Christmas is all about people coming together, and then when people have had a drink they say exactly what they think, by the end of the night they’re wanting to rip each others’ heads off. Or is it just the people that I know? It always happens! That’s Christmas all over.”

You’re now the favourite to win The X Factor! Do you get swamped when you go out now?
“I went to ASDA the other night, and I got recognised by a couple of people, but I don’t tend to get people screaming for me all the time. I went back to Leicester, and I was sat in the food court in the shopping centre and my daughter went ‘Mum, there’s posters of you everywhere!’ and literally I looked up and every pillar had a poster of me on it. I’ve got huge support in Leicester, so when I go back there I get a little bit bombarded but I don’t mind it – I really don’t. These are the people who are voting at the end of the day so it makes me feel a little bit happy and overwhelmed by all the support.”

Is there a typical Sam Bailey fan?
“No, I’ve got all sorts of people– anything from school kids to grandparents. I think I had 30 followers on Twitter and I didn’t really use it before The X Factor. I’ve now got 221,000!”

Do you still feel like you’re learning every week?
“Yes. When I finish performing on a Saturday night, as soon as I get in the car to go back to the house, I watch my performance back and I pick at it, criticise it and literally rip it to shreds. But that’s what I do. It’s not a bad thing. I’ve never in my life watched a performance of me singing and gone ‘That was awesome’. Ever. I’ll never reach that, because I’ll always pick at something. But it’s just a way of me learning for next time.”

It’s The X Factor final this week. Have you given much thought to it yet?
“I don’t like to think about things like this until nearer the time because at the minute, I set myself up every week to be in the bottom two. I’m quite the pessimist. I don’t think ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m going to win this’, I always sit back a little bit and think this could all end tomorrow. You just don’t know when you’re going to be back working in your normal job and be forgotten about because it’s happened to so many people in this programme. If I get through to that final or even win it, then I’ll be a happy woman. But at the minute, I’m just appreciative of what I’ve got.”

If you reached the final, which star would you want to duet with?
“Michael Bolton. That man is such a genius and people don’t know the extent of it. The fact that I’ve got to meet him and he potentially would like to sing with me in the future puts a massive smile on my face. His music has got me through these past few weeks.”