Huddersfield Daily Examiner - - FRONT PAGE -

LESHA DIXON seems to have sure-foot­edly made her way to the top. Beau­ti­ful, poised and self-as­sured, she’s be­come one of Bri­tain’s favourite tal­ent show judges, whether on Strictly Come Dancing or, cur­rently, Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent. But pri­vately, she’s bat­tled self-doubt and tur­moil.

Through­out her teens and 20s – when she was rid­ing high in hugely suc­cess­ful girl group Mis-Teeq be­fore em­bark­ing on a solo singing ca­reer – her ap­par­ent con­fi­dence was a front. A lot of the time she was fear­ful and “scared”, she re­veals.

“I’d only ever known bumps in the road and I lacked con­fi­dence. Even when I was in Mis-Teeq, I tended to rely on some­one else to give me courage,” ad­mits the 38-yearold, who was rocked as a teenager see­ing her fa­ther leave home and her mother suf­fer in a re­la­tion­ship with a man who was vi­o­lent to­wards her.

“Dur­ing my GCSEs, I missed an exam be­cause of some things that were go­ing on at home. I re­mem­ber go­ing to school later and cry­ing my eyes out with my teacher be­cause I felt I’d ru­ined my life. I put so much ex­pec­ta­tion on my­self to be per­fect and the fear of fail­ure al­most paral­ysed me. The fear I had about ev­ery­thing as a young­ster took me a long time to get rid of and build my­self up.”

Her 20s were “very up and down, with some real lows”, par­tic­u­larly in 2006 when her ca­reer and per­sonal life col­lapsed si­mul­ta­ne­ously. Her record com­pany dropped her and her mar­riage to rap­per and mem­ber of So Solid Crew, MC Har­vey, ended after only a year when she dis­cov­ered he’d cheated on her with Pop­stars con­tes­tant, Javine Hyl­ton.

“It re­ally felt like a des­per­ate sit­u­a­tion. I had a lot of dark mo­ments and was to­tally con­fused for a while. Al­though I’m a very de­ter­mined, driven per­son, I felt like giv­ing up,” con­fides the singer, who’s back­ing a so­cial me­dia cam­paign #LikeAGirl – launched by Al­ways san­i­tary wear – to en­cour­age teenage girls to be strong and con­fi­dent.

“In the end I dusted my­self off, pulled my­self to­gether and a cou­ple of years later had a plat­inum-sell­ing al­bum. When I look back, I can see I’ve changed so much since then. I’m so much more se­cure, grounded and con­fi­dent in who I am now,” says Ale­sha, who’s hap­pily set­tled with her partner of six years, back­ing dancer Azuka Ononye, and their three-year-old daugh­ter, Azura Si­enna.

“I un­der­stand I needed to go through those times in or­der to get to a bet­ter place, make bet­ter choices and be­come a stronger per­son. Now I al­most see fail­ure as my friend be­cause things that test you, force you to go in an­other di­rec­tion or learn some­thing. Th­ese days even if some­thing scares me a bit, I have the at­ti­tude to go for it and face down the fear.”

She’s cer­tainly demon­strated her strength over the past six se­ries of Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent and de­scribes her­self as the “most stub­born per­son” on the panel, which also in­cludes Si­mon Cow­ell, Amanda Holden and David Wal­liams.

“Si­mon and I are born on the same day, are both Li­bras and are pretty sim­i­lar char­ac­ters. I tell him, ‘You’ve met your match in me’. I stick up for my­self 100%,” she says, giv­ing her sig­na­ture foghorn cackle.

“Amanda, David and Si­mon love those crazy acts, like peo­ple dressed as po­lar bears or some­one who eats cock­roaches, but I’ll never say yes to let­ting those through. Si­mon can al­ways twist Amanda and David around to them, but not me.”

Her close friend­ship with Amanda, she be­lieves, is one of the rea­sons for the show’s en­dur­ing suc­cess. “It could easily have been bitchy and nasty with two girl ri­vals on the panel com­pet­ing with each other. In­stead, we’re gen­uine friends who sup­port each other. Also, it means we have a bit of Girl Power and can say, ‘We want this’ to Si­mon and get our way.”

Ale­sha’s adamant she doesn’t suf­fer work­ing-mum guilt, in­sist­ing she wants her daugh­ter to grow up see­ing “Mummy work­ing to achieve”, and is de­ter­mined to in­still in her down-to-earth val­ues.

“Peo­ple say to me, ‘You’re suc­cess­ful, have lots of money and are fa­mous’. Well, to me that’s not suc­cess. To me suc­cess is who you are as a per­son – your heart, your com­pas­sion and how you treat other peo­ple. I want her to re­alise that.”

She’s re­laxed about the idea of re­mar­ry­ing. “At the mo­ment we’re ren­o­vat­ing our home and re­ally busy so it’s not top of the list. Azuka is re­ally kind – the other night I got in from work and felt poorly and he ran a bath, cooked din­ner and gave me a foot mas­sage. I thought, ‘Aaah, you’re a good one’.” she says.

“I’m so happy and feel very blessed. I know I’ll never be per­fect, even at 38 I still make mis­takes, but I’ll carry on try­ing to learn from them and be the best ver­sion of my­self I can be.”

Ale­sha Dixon leads the Al­ways #LikeAGirl Squad, a team of in­spi­ra­tional role mod­els en­cour­ag­ing girls to em­brace fail­ure and keep go­ing #LikeAGirl

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