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Tulisa was born in Camden Town, North London, to Anne Byrne (who was formerly a member of 80s band Jeep, with her three sisters, before Tulisa was born) and Steve (Plato) Contostavlos (also part of Mungo Jerry). Tulisa is an only child and lived with her parents near to the other N-Dubz members Dappy and Fazer. When she was five, her mother was sectioned under the Mental Health Act. Tulisa"s parents separated when her father left home when she was nine years old. She became a carer for her mother who has bipolar disorder and was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder when Tulisa was a baby. Tulisa said she was brought up in a council estate and experienced a lot as a teenager: violence, depression, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, anorexia nervosa, mental health issues, financial difficulties and bullying.
She started her secondary education at La Sainte Union Catholic Secondary School for girls, but at thirteen she was withdrawn and "on the edge of suicide". She revealed that she twice tried to kill herself as a teenager and also used to self-harm to try and help her cope with everything she was going through. With support from her uncle and N-Dubz"s former manager Byron Contostavlos she then tried to put her life back on track and at fourteen years old enrolled in the same school as Dappy and Fazer, Haverstock Secondary School, which they had been attending since they were twelve, later going to Quintin Kynaston School in St John"s Wood. She did not sit her GCSE examinations. She described her school experience on Twitter as, "really hard, but I"m not sad about my life. Everything happens for a reason and I wouldn"t take back one bad thing, because it"s made me who I am and look at me now, how could I complain?"
Tulisa first set out as a solo performer when she was a young girl, however Dappy and Fazer, who had already started rapping together, decided they wanted a female voice in the group, which was called the Lickle Rinsers Crew at the time, and so invited Tulisa to be part of the group. They started performing together as a group around Camden from as young as twelve years old. For N-Dubz"s second album, she did a solo song called "Comfortable" which sparked rumours that she was to leave the group and go solo however when asked by girls magazine Sugar she said "One day we"ll all definitely go solo. I"d like to bring out an album and so would the lads. But we"d always be involved in other people"s stuff. I"d want Fazer to produce it and Dappy to co-write with me".
She states her favourite part of being in a group is performing live:
"I like festivals because I find them a challenge. You"ve got thousands of people and they"re not all there to see you. It"s about winning the people over who are there to see a different act and making them walk away saying, "I went there to see so and so, but you know what, I really loved the N-Dubz performance."
On 29 October 2009, Tulisa co-presented BBC Radio 1Xtra with bandmate Fazer to sit in for DJ Semtex, where they gave an exclusive snippet of the song "Na Na" off their second album, Against All Odds, and they also played the album intro. On 10 January 2010, Tulisa joined Vinesh as a presenter for BBC Switch on Radio 1.
They released their third album Love.Live.Life on 29 November 2010, it includes the singles "We Dance On", "Best Behaviour", "Girls", "So Alive", "Morning Star" and "Cold Shoulder".