The Daily Telegraph - Saturday
Alesha Dixon loves an uncomfortable conversation
Alesha Dixon thinks we’ve progressed past old stereotypes in both gender and race, she tells Boudicca Fox-Leonard
The most obvious image of Alesha Dixon is a beautiful woman wrapped in sparkle. Whether it was her Mis-Teeq days in the Noughties, through the Strictly years to Britain’s Got Talent, Dixon has always dazzled.
The Alesha I meet on Zoom though is the one that’s actually more at home in a T-shirt and trackie bottoms – albeit with immaculate hair and makeup. This Alesha has taken an hour out of caring for her two daughters to talk to the press.
It’s a distinction even her sevenyear-old daughter sometimes makes.
“Azura takes the mickey out of me,” laughs the 42-year-old. “‘Ooh, you’re just being Alesha Dixon now are you, mummy’. She separates the two. I say: ‘I’m the same all the time!’ and she’s like ‘No’. They’re two separate things to her: Alesha Dixon and mummy.”
The glam TV Dixon and the trackie loving homegirl have collided in lockdown, though. She knew she was completely immersed in lockdown when she laid out some outfits for a corporate gig she was recording from home, and ended up doing it in tracksuit bottoms and trainers.
It helps that Dixon’s sparkle isn’t really about what she wears. It’s implicit in the way she talks with such passion about raising happy and kind children to her love of fitness and well-being.
It’s one year since the start of the official lockdown. In March 2020 she had just finished doing promo for her dream job on America’s Got Talent.
“I started the year on such a high, and then March was just crash bang, over.”
Her lockdown was the familiar homeschooling, banana bread (“I’m still making it”), box sets (“I couldn’t watch any more if I tried”), as well as sleepless nights courtesy of her now 19-month-old daughter, Anaya.
She and partner AZ took it in turns alternating baby care responsibilities and homeschooling, while still managing to work on their own projects. Lockdown confirmed they have a healthy relationship. “I don’t think we even had an argument, and we were living in each other’s pockets.”
And working as a team means she was able to complete an incredible amount of work; a new album, another children’s book, a range of children’s clothes for George at Asda and her own soon to be launched wellness platform, NobleBlu.
There were the down moments, of course. There was red wine.
But, she says: “When you have children, you know that you are mindful of their mindset so it forces you to keep yourself positive.
“Once they’d gone to bed you could wallow in it and look at the news.”
She was hooked on it for most of the year. “No matter where you looked, there was so much sadness, so much loss, so much going on in the world.”
In the past, Dixon has talked about her experience of witnessing domestic violence as a child. I ask her how she felt to hear about the rise in domestic violence during lockdown? “It deeply, deeply saddened me to hear the statistics. That’s probably been one of the worst things about lockdown. Those of us who have love around us, we are blessed. Those who are in the opposite situation, my heart breaks for them majorly. I know that’s a dark place to be in.”
She adds: “Once we are allowed back out we must not forget all those people who will still be suffering as a result of the consequences of the pandemic.” Creating a better world for children is something that she feels passionately about. Her collection for George features 34 pieces, many with slogans inspired by mantras that are a staple of her family home: “just the way you are”, “kind = cool”, “kind = power” and “repeat after me: I’m strong, I’m brave, I’m kind”.
It’s also what Dixon describes as “gender-fluid”, with colours and fits that will look great on both boys and girls. “When I was growing up, it was ‘You’re going to have the pink duvet and your brother’s going to have the blue one’. I think we’ve moved past that,” says Dixon. “My boyfriend looks amazing in pink and my daughter looks dope in blue. And I think that’s the point now.”
Are the dresses genderfluid, too? “Absolutely. Anyone should be able to wear whatever they want if that’s what makes them feel good and reflects a part of their personality.
“I really respect people like Harry Styles and Jaden Smith because they do it on their own terms and make it cool. So people go ‘Oh, he’s doing that, so I can do it too, and there’s nothing wrong with it’.
“You want clothes that don’t restrict who you are but accentuate who you are.”
When it comes to teaching children to reach for the skies, the inauguration of Kamala Harris as vice-president of the US was a special moment for Dixon. That her daughters are growing up in a world where a person of colour is in the White House is normal, is just “lovely” she says.
“We never had that growing up. That’s why these moments stand out more to us because we’ve never seen it. Azura has already seen president Obama, now she’s seeing Kamala Harris. It’s phenomenal. We just need that in this country now.”
Are things changing?
“I think we’re moving in the right direction because the world is awake and there’s zero tolerance for anything any more. There are so many people out there trying to make change that things will inevitably get there.”
Dixon believes having uncomfortable conversations are integral to that.
“People shouldn’t worry about having a conversation and asking questions.
‘My daughter has seen president Obama, now she’s seeing Kamala Harris. It’s phenomenal’
It’s really healthy.
“I love an uncomfortable conversation. I really do. Because I’m not afraid to learn and to be wrong.”
Although she adds: “I think I’m in quite a unique position because I have a black family and a white family. When you grow up mixed race you feel comfortable wherever. Both run through me.
“When we have family dinners there’s my white nan having a conversation with my black partner about serious issues. It’s really good and it’s really healthy. My nan’s learning something about what it’s like to walk in the shoes of a black man. And he learns about her generation.
“That’s where it starts; around the table with family and friends talking.”
If the pandemic has taught us anything, she hopes it’s that we’re all in this together.
“Collectively, we are responsible for how we move out of this pandemic. And become more responsible human beings. My mission in life is to always do better – if you show me something I can change that will help others and the planet, I am open to it. You can always improve.”
Alesha Dixon for George is released on Monday, available online and in selected stores. Prices from £5 to £14