As Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent re­turns to TV, judge Ale­sha Dixon talks to

Gabrielle Fa­gan

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - INTERVIEW -

Per­former, pre­sen­ter and work­ing mother Ale­sha Dixon is ar­guably one of the most fa­mil­iar faces on out TV screens. After a suc­cess­ful pop ca­reer with R&B band Mis-Teeq, the brunette star won BBC’s Strictly Come Danc­ing in 2007 and went on to re­place Ar­lene Phillips on the show’s judg­ing panel.

She is best known to­day as a TV tal­ent-show judge on Satur­day night’s Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent, along­side Simon Cow­ell, Amanda Holden and David Wal­liams.

Now 39, Dixon has a four-year-old daugh­ter, Azura, with part­ner and chore­og­ra­pher Azuka Ononye. She tells all about fac­ing her 40th birthday, feel­ing broody and what re­ally makes her tick... “It’s a mile­stone — I feel like I’m about to en­ter a new chap­ter in my life. I’m a lit­tle bit ner­vous about it, but at the same time, there’s a part of me that ac­cepts what it is, and is okay with it.

“I al­ready feel like I’ve lived a thou­sand lives; I’ve been through a lot, and there’s still a lot I want to do. I might have the odd day where I get up­set about (get­ting older) but then per­spec­tive will kick in and I’ll em­brace it.

“In my head I still feel about 25... and some days I feel the most alive and vi­brant and best I’ve ever felt. But there are oth­ers where I feel ex­hausted with the roller­coaster of be­ing a par­ent and jug­gling ev­ery­thing. Over­all though, I feel health­ier now than I was in my 20s.” “I feel more alive and en­er­getic when I work­out and I tend to train at home. My trainer comes to the house three morn­ings a week and we do car­dio, weights or yoga.

“I be­came vege­tar­ian six years ago and try to eat healthily, but I’ll have a drink or a treat if I go out. I don’t wear make-up ei­ther, un­less I’m work­ing, be­cause I like to give my skin a rest.

“Mainly, I try hard to live in the now, be present, lis­ten and make con­nec­tions with peo­ple, and avoid stress­ing about the fu­ture.” “Azura’s amaz­ing — I have such un­con­di­tional love for her. Ev­ery day I try to be the best and most pa­tient ver­sion of my­self, so that I par­ent her well. She’s at nurs­ery; she starts school in Septem­ber and it al­ready feels like she’s be­come a big girl. She’ll even tell me, ‘I’m not a baby’ if I try and do cer­tain things for her!

“As a par­ent, I was so up­set and shocked to learn that more than 137,000 girls a year in the UK miss school be­cause they can’t af­ford san­i­tary prod­ucts. It breaks my heart to think of girls be­ing em­bar­rassed and suf­fer­ing in si­lence.

Pu­berty is hard enough to cope with with­out that, which is why I’m back­ing the Al­ways #end­pe­ri­od­poverty cam­paign, which aims to sup­ply chil­dren in need with san­i­tary prod­ucts.” “I would love a sib­ling for Azura. I re­ally hope we’ll be lucky, but who knows? What will be, will be. We’re con­tent as we are, so if we re­main a three, that’ll be great.

“I’m not go­ing to panic be­cause of my age be­cause, re­ally, what would that achieve? FA­MIL­IAR FACE: The main thing is to en­joy her in the present and be philo­soph­i­cal about the fu­ture.” “Az is so re­laxed and laid-back about things — we laugh a lot and, I guess, lik­ing one an­other re­ally helps. To make a re­la­tion­ship work, you need both peo­ple to be com­mit­ted to it, and then you find ways to move for­ward and grow to­gether — be­cause no part­ner­ship is with­out its chal­lenges.

“For me, a re­la­tion­ship should be a safe place where you can be your au­then­tic self and learn from mis­takes too. Az is great if I’m stressed and tells me to ‘zoom out’, so I can see how in­signif­i­cant a small a prob­lem or is­sue is in the grand scheme of life.

“As for mar­riage, I don’t know why we haven’t done it — it’s some­thing that’s just not right for us at the mo­ment, I guess.” “I love it. I’ve been there seven years and have ac­tu­ally sur­prised my­self that I’m still do­ing it. I say that, be­cause I can get bored quite quickly — I’m a per­son who’s al­ways look­ing for the next creative ven­ture. If it ever came to an end, I would gen­uinely be up­set, be­cause I’ve had the time of my life do­ing it.

“Ev­ery year we worry and think, ‘Hmm, maybe Bri­tain has run out of tal­ent’, but we’ve been spoilt for con­tes­tants this year. Each se­ries we put more pres­sure on the acts and ex­pect more from them — I sup­pose the pub­lic also do to a cer­tain ex­tent. This year’s been great though; I think the view­ing pub­lic are in for a re­ally good show.” “We’ve all gelled as a team. We had a great nat­u­ral chem­istry between us from the start, but over the years we’ve be­come more re­laxed with each other and have built up new lay­ers of friend­ship.

“Amanda and I are great friends and love hav­ing fun with the clothes — mine are al­ways a bit quirky and edgy. I’ve learnt to have more of a sense of hu­mour about the crazy acts too, which I never liked be­fore. I’m so much more laid-back as a judge.

The acts I re­ally don’t like are where peo­ple put them­selves phys­i­cally at risk... your heart’s in your mouth, es­pe­cially when some­body is un­der­wa­ter or per­form­ing with knives or fire. I have to say ‘yes’ to them, be­cause what they’re do­ing is skil­ful and tech­ni­cally bril­liant, but I find it re­ally tough to watch.” “When I was grow­ing up, I didn’t have any char­ac­ters in books that looked like me and I wanted to make sure that Azura did. She’s four now and she’s be­come a lit­tle bit con­scious of the fact that the char­ac­ters in some of her favourite books and films don’t look like her.

I read to her ev­ery night and her favourite Dis­ney char­ac­ter is Ra­pun­zel, who has blue eyes and blonde hair. That’s fine, but she needs to see that beauty comes in many dif­fer­ent forms.

“I didn’t set out to make a state­ment about race in the book, but I’d be fib­bing if I said it wasn’t a fac­tor. I’m very proud to have a Bri­tish, fe­male, mixed-race su­per­hero on the cover. I hope Aurora Bean (the lead char­ac­ter) will be a pos­i­tive role model for boys and girls of all eth­nic­i­ties. “Of course I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, es­pe­cially when I was younger. I’ve al­ways been con­scious that, as a woman of colour, I might have to work harder or prove my­self. I want younger girls to look at me and think, ‘Ale­sha can do it’.” Ale­sha Dixon is sup­port­ing the Al­ways #End­Pe­ri­od­Poverty cam­paign; for ev­ery pack sold from now un­til April 30, Al­ways will do­nate a pad to school­girls in need

Ale­sha Dixon, and with the cast of Bri­tain’s Got Tal­ent (from left) An­thony McPartlin, Amanda Holden, Simon Cow­ell, De­clan Don­nelly and David Wal­liams

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