updated 07/01/2014 AT 2:00 PM ET
•originally published 07/01/2014 AT 7:00 PM ET
Nicole Scherzinger looked practically purr-fect onstage with the Pussycat Dolls while in her 20s.
“I had such a great life on the outside, the Dolls were on top of the world, but I was miserable on the inside,” she reveals in the August issue of Cosmopolitan magazine in the U.K. “I m never letting that happen again.”
Scherzinger, 36, went public with her bulimia struggle in 2012 and admits talking about her long-secret eating disorder is still difficult.
“It is such a horrible, paralyzing disease and it was such a dark time for me,” she says. “I didn’t think anyone knew in my group or in my family because I hid it that well, I was so ashamed. I knew it wasn’t normal or healthy because I was hurting myself through this cycle of disordered eating. It was my drug, my addiction. It’s an endless vicious cycle.”
“I had started losing my voice, I couldn’t sing at shows, and then I remember my manager finding me passed out on the floor in Malta or in the south of France,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘I’m going to lose everything I love if I don’t love myself.’ ”
Today, Scherzinger is healthy, but admits that despite her outgoing public persona, deep down she is a shy person.
“I get past my shyness by making everything about others and not thinking about myself,” she says. “That’s what I did on The X Factor – I can be goofy and playful when it’s about the acts. They are like my babies. But when I’m off stage I’m not as big and animated … for me all my smiles and confidence are a triumph because it came from a broken place.”
Another thing that makes her smile? Her seemingly on-again relationship with British Formula 1 racer Lewis Hamilton.
“Well, it’s something crazy romantic,” she says. “Relationships are hard and having to hold a long-distance relationship is even harder … But I’m good and I’m happy.”