Beverley Knight says it was ''easier'' for record labels to ''market'' someone with ''European features'' when she started her music career.

The 46-year-old singer has opened up about the racism she experienced when she first entered the music industry in 1994, and the star revealed that she felt ''insecure'' and like a ''square peg in a round hole'' because of the way she looked.

She said: ''It was easier to market someone who was much lighter, with more 'European' features. [I felt like] a square peg in a round hole.

''I've always been an optimistic, happy, and driven person, and I was very secure about myself in my music.

''But I was a boffin. And I was insecure about how I looked.

''I felt I had all the things that were needed - strong music and vocals - except what a star was meant to look like.

''Then I started to put on weight in my mid-20s, which made me feel sluggish. I just felt terrible about my appearance.''

The 'Greatest Day' hitmaker insisted that she is finally feeling confident about her looks and admitted that since hitting age 40, she earns a ''natural respect'' from people.

She told HELLO! magazine: ''It took years and years, but now, in my later 40s, I'm secure. If people try to tell you what you should be doing, at this age, you can slap them down very quickly. There's a respect that's naturally afforded to you.''