‘Some days I feel the most alive and vibrant I’ve ever felt... healthier than I ever did in my 20s’
As Britain’s Got Talent returns to TV, judge Alesha Dixon talks to Gabrielle Fagan
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...
How do you feel about approaching your 40th birthday?
“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.”
How do you look after your health and wellbeing?
“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.”
What does being a parent mean to you?
“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.”
Do you want more children?
“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? The main thing is to enjoy her in the present and be philosophical about the future.”
You’ve been with Azuka for eight years. What makes your relationship work? Do you think you’ll get married?
“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.”
Britain’s Got Talent is back for another series — how do you feel about the show?
“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.”
How do you and the rest of the judges get on?
“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.”
You’ve written a children’s book, Lightning Girl, about a mixed-race schoolgirl with superpowers. What do you hope to achieve with it?
“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.
Have you experienced racial discrimination yourself?
“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