After auditioning for the group in 1997, the 46-year-old has claimed that she was told to shed the pounds and admitted the comments caused her to spiral about her body image.
She told The Sun: “It wasn’t right then and it absolutely isn’t right now. But when you are young and you’re being offered that kind of opportunity – and the only stipulation is that you lose half a stone – I think any young girl would.”
Desperate to land a coveted spot in the band, she agreed to lose weight to the point where she became “dangerously thin”.
Richards continued: “I wasn’t fat or big – I was a size ten or 12 – but I got skinny for the band. It was a polished pop group – everyone had their own idea of what people should look like. It was as close to perfect as anyone could get.
“The older I get and the more I think about it, of course it affected me because it just sent me on a spiral for years.”
Last month, she revealed how her body image spiralled after record bosses made cruel comments about her weight when she started out in the industry in the 1990s.
The One for Sorrow hitmaker recalled how she developed an eating disorder when she was put on a 900-calorie-a-day diet comprising of fish fingers and peas.
The popstar explained how her eating was restricted while in a band called The Scan-Dolls before she found fame with Steps. At the time, ‘Heroin Chic’, which fetishised incredibly thin silhouettes, had become in vogue.
And with supermodel figures deemed the ideal standard, the singer claimed her record label put her on the strict diet, which was decidedly less than the 2,000 calories a day recommended by the NHS for women.
Speaking to Vicky Pattison on her The Secret To podcast, Richards revealed: “It happened when I was in [The Scan-Dolls]. They did it to all of us because we were all quite curvy girls. I was probably a 10 or a 12 and wasn’t big at all…
“But in the music kind of world and at that time that whole ‘Kate Moss heroin chic’ was a thing and they wanted everyone to be really, really skinny...
“So, we were all put on a diet. That diet was interesting because we were encouraged to eat fish fingers, peas and baked beans and have like a 900-calorie diet.”
The discussion around her weight unfortunately continued when she joined Steps.
Richards shared: “The audition for Steps was [in] ’97 and by that time I had cut my hair really short, stupidly, and I was wearing this stripy catsuit which I wore in the video for Last Thing on my Mind.
“And I always use to tie a hoodie around my waist because I was really conscious of my bum because I thought I had a massive bum...
“They sat me down, did my audition and they said, ‘Oh, we really like you. We want you to be in the band, but you’re going to have to lose weight’ […] it set me on a pathway of not really eating for four-and-a-half years.’”
For help and support on eating disorders contact Beat Eating Disorders on 0808 801 0677.