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Amanda Holden: BGT lets people see the real me
10:28am Tuesday 5th November 2013 in News
AMANDA Holden breezes into the room, her blonde hair a little unkempt as, she explains, she’s just taken her daughter, Hollie, swimming and didn’t have time to blow-dry it.
As a much-loved judge on Britain’s Got Talent, it’s hard to believe that a dozen years ago, Holden was branded a marriage wrecker for her affair with Men Behaving Badly star, Neil Morrissey, behind her then husband, Les Dennis’ back.
Today, she’s in a different place. She’s been happily married to record producer, Chris Hughes, for five years and they have two daughters, Lexi, seven, and Hollie, nearly two. Plus she has a string of TV and theatre acting roles under her belt, as well as the BGT job since 2007. All these events are charted in her autobiography, No Holding Back, which we’re discussing today and, from the outset, it’s clear that Holden’s fun, witty and engaging.
The Hampshire star once read in a magazine that Simon Cowell, who hired her for BGT, didn’t like blondes – but he made an exception with Holden because she looked naughty. And then there’s her infectious dirty laugh.
She may have been with Hughes for a decade, but it has taken a long time for the negative public perception of her to change, she reflects.
Holden, 42, who married Dennis when his career was flourishing and hers was just beginning (she’s 16 years his junior), has long held her hands up to her mistake.
“I ruined my reputation – professionally and with the press – but most importantly with the public who’d always been so supportive.”
But she’s not terribly complimentary about Dennis in her autobiography, painting a picture of a needy depressive who’d start flaming rows on a whim.
“I stand by my statement that women don’t have affairs for sex. You are not happy in your marriage if you seek affirmation somewhere else.
“We were together for ten years. When I saw him do really well on MasterChef, I was thrilled, and I’m thrilled for him that he’s happily married with two gorgeous children.
He’s with people who cherish him and who are right for him.
We were just not right for each other.”
She continues: “The thing that angers me is that, if I was a man, the bad image would have all ended years ago. If I was Lenny Henry or Angus Deayton or any of the others, but it’s only ever me. I’m not like this slapper, I haven’t put it about. I was engaged twice. I was a relationship girl.”
Britain’s Got Talent has helped her win over the public again. “I owe Simon a debt for that – or he keeps telling me I do! Before that, I had a huge drama career. I was doing Wild At Heart, so I was getting back into the fold of not being a threatening woman, which is how I’d been perceived.
“But being on national television, being able to be me, then people could really judge me. Not everyone’s going to like me, but at least they can see me and not just read about me.”
The catalyst for the book, however, was her brush with death in 2012, after complications arose following the birth of her second daughter, Hollie, which made her re-evaluate life.
Not even her worst enemies would wish on her the heartbreak she’s endured in recent years, suffering one miscarriage and one stillbirth when her son, Theo, died when she was 28 weeks’ pregnant, a week before her 40th birthday.
She had to give birth by Caesarean and was allowed to hold him before she said goodbye. She was given a photo of him, snuggled in a blanket, which she takes out occasionally to look at.
“I still cry when I read that bit of the book,” says Holden. “As much as you put things to rest, it’s always close to the surface and I’m surprised at myself for that, because I’m strong.
“I will always miss my little boy and I think about him often. I’ve got my little girl and I’ve moved on, but you just don’t recover from situations like that.”
She’s aware of his birthday, of Christmas, and of children her friends had at the time who would be about the same age.
“But I’m a fatalist and that wasn’t supposed to be, and I accept that I gave him back,” she says.
She soon became pregnant with Hollie, but again it proved tremendously traumatic.
She haemorrhaged when her placenta, which had attached to her bladder, was removed, snagging a large artery.
She flatlined for 40 seconds before doctors got her heart going again and induced a coma under general anaesthetic for three days.
“I joke that when I died I saw God and it was Simon Cowell,” she says wryly, but in reality Holden subsequently sought therapy to come to terms with the experience.
“I kept thinking about my own going to sweat the small stuff again’, but I wanted to do that. I was being appreciative of absolutely everything. It was all dramatic and heightened. I had no tools left to deal with the smallest things in my life,” she explains.
“Finally, I found this lovely woman, went to her for about six sessions and she helped me get my strength back.
“I’ve been toughened by this business but I’m a lot softer and more vulnerable than I allow people to think.”
The years of trauma have brought Holden and her husband closer together and her illness also reunited a family that had been torn apart by petty feuds for years.
When Holden nearly died, they rallied round, including her sister Debbie, whom she hadn’t spoken to for six years.
“My sister and I are really different people. Someone should have just banged our heads together. But every woman in my family is a pain in the bum!”
As a child, Holden took up gymnastics and acting, joining her local theatre in Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire. When her mother and stepfather moved to Bournemouth to open a guesthouse, she studied A-level drama and then moved to London to attend Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. Before long, she found herself in a tour of The Sound of Music, after which she met Les Dennis. The rest is history.
She now lives in a lovely house in the Cotswolds but, at 42, won’t risk having any more children.
“I’m not having any more, I’m not allowed. The stuff that happened with Hollie wasn’t predicted. If it had been, I wouldn’t have risked my life.
“I was 41 when I had Hollie. I always tell women to have their babies younger. I would encourage Lexi to have babies younger, otherwise I’ll be in my eighties when I’m a grandmother!”
- No Holding Back by Amanda Holden is published by Simon & Schuster, priced £18.99.
Amanda will be in Bishop’s Waltham tomorrow to sign copies of her autobiography in Hylands Store where she had her first job selling fruit and veg, from 2pm.
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