SHE’S won a West End theatre award, had both a number one single and album, appeared in a number of high profile shows around the UK and yet Diana Vickers still has to prove herself.

Now 26, the Accrington-born star admits that to may people she’ll forever be Diana from the X Factor. At just 17, she reached the semi-final of the TV talent show back in 2008

But she’s taking it all in her stride.

“I’m older now so I have the self confidence which I need to have because even though I have all this body of work behind me, people do just look to the X Factor,” she said “They don’t see all the work I have done in the past nine years.”

Diana’s latest role is in the new musical Son of a Preacher Man which comes to Manchester’s Palace Theatre later this month.

And even in this production, directed by Strictly Come Dancing favourite Craig Revel Horwood, Diana found she was faced with the usual preconceptions.

“Craig said to me at the start of rehearsals he was thinking, ‘oh Diana, she was in Little Voice and X Factor but can she really act?’” she said. “But I quite like that in a way, I get a kick out of people saying ‘Oh wow, we didn’t think you were that good’. I like surprising them.”

In Son of a Preacher Man, Diana plays Kat, a girl who is unlucky in love who goes to the site of a former legendary Sixties nightclub where the Preacher Man would hand out advice to lonely hearts. The club has long gone but his son is now trying to recreate the magical place.

The show features the songs of Dusty Springfield.

“I get to sing the more uplifting ones like Stay Awhile, I Only Want To Be With You and Son of a Preacher Man,” said Diana. “They are real classics and you just want to do them justice every time you go out there. When you get to sing them you appreciate how beautifully they are.

“But this is such a great show to be part of. It is a more intimate show.

“It’s not a big jazz hands-style musical, it’s on a much smaller scale than that and there is some great music and a bit of dancing, which you’d expect seeing that Craig Revel Horwood has directed it.”

Craig who TV viewers know as being the Mr Nasty of the Strictly judging panel is, according to Diana, “a big pussycat”!

“Craig is so lovely,” she said. “He’s very direct and he tells you how it is but he’s actually quite laid back.

“Even on tech week which is the hardest week of all when the director usually loses their rag he was really supportive and quite chilled.

“I think that’s because he’s also seen the other side of it as a performer so he knows what you’re going through.”

Diana has also enjoyed being involved in a show from its inception.

“It’s my favourite when I get to do something new,” she said. “I love that. You get to put your own stamp on it. You are creating the role which is very exciting. It’s also a bit nerve-wracking because you’re not quite sure how people will react to it and whether they will like it. But when we leave the stage every night the audience are on their feet dancing and clapping. It’s getting great reactions.”

Son of a Preacher Man also stars Bad Girls and Coronation Street star Debra Stephenson and Ian Reddington, Tricky Dicky in Eastenders.

Having spoken to Diana a number of times during her career you can sense she’s far more focused, far more mature than the naive teenager who first won over the judges on X Factor.

“Obviously I am older now and things are different,” she said. “I can take more responsibility for what I want and make those executive decisions. I think I have a much clearer vision of where I want to get to.”

Fans of her music will be surprised to learn that her future plans will see her concentrating on her acting.

“That’s what I really want to focus on,” she said. “I would love to do more TV and film. I love doing comedy but I also want to do more drama. I just want to learn and get better as an actor.”

Although film roles would perhaps increase her profile more, Diana says she will not abandon the theatre.

“Oh no,” she said. “I could never not do theatre, I adore it.

“As for my music, I do enjoy it but I really do want to focus on my acting, I have got this drive to get there. And I want to put all my energy into it and perhaps get that bigger break. Maybe I’ll be able to go back to my music when that happens.”

Although Son of a Preacher Man will tour the UK until the summer, Diana will be leaving the show before Christmas.

“It’s a great show and I have got a lot out of it already and learned a lot,” she said. “But I need to move on and see what else is out there for me.”

Son of a Preacher Man, Palace Theatre, Manchester, Tuesday, September 26 to Saturday, December 30. Details from 0844 871 3019 or