Our sister publication Woman’s Own's columnist Richard Arnold speaks to Amanda Holden, 49, about the ‘new’ Britain’s Got Talent, her friendship with Piers Morgan, and head judge Simon Cowell’s recovery from a broken back...
How thrilled are you to be back in the BGT studio?
It feels slightly weird with the new rules in place but we are a family and it’s so amazing to be back together again, while social distancing of course! The refresher and deliberation show highlighted how strong the talent is this year so now it’s very exciting to see how they’ve all spent their time in lockdown perfecting their acts. The biggest difference is obviously having no physical audience in the studio. But we have a virtual live audience of 500 fans at home watching which has kept the show very exciting.
It must feel so different… and yet the same old magic?
Being a metre apart is frustrating because we’re an emotive judging panel and we always kiss or hug or high five. Yet we’re so comfortable with each other that there is no pretence with any of us. The laughter and tears are still there. We’re pretty much the same on screen as we are off. That’s why the panel works so well.
I love the bond between you and Alesha…
From the first day Alesha joined we’ve got on like a house on fire. People joke that they never hear so much laughter in one place than from the two of us. We kept in contact during lockdown. Auditions were filmed before lockdown and my youngest Hollie always gets excited when she can get to spend time with Azura [Alesha’s daughter]. When I see them both with Eric [Cowell, Simon’s son] you can’t help but think that all three of them are planning on taking our judges’ seats!
It looked like you had a great summer! Where did you go?
I always look forward to summer holidays because I love switching off and being with the family in the sunshine. Chris [Hughes, Amanda’s husband] was very nervous about flying but we had a great trip to Tresco, which is where my grandparents honeymooned 77 years ago! It’s so beautiful there, you wouldn’t think you’re still in the UK! Plus we spent a lot of time in the Cotswolds where Hollie and Lexi made their new rabbits feel at home.
We see you had an outing with Piers [Morgan] in St Tropez, how was the old devil on the tiles?
I absolutely adore him. We met for a family dinner with our friend David Coulthard and his wife in St Tropez. Our girls Elise and Hollie are the same age, so they had a wonderful afternoon while Piers and I got on the rosé! Let’s just say that shall we…
You and hubby looked so romantic! What’s your secret?
I’m careful with what I say about lockdown because everyone has had a different experience and faced different challenges. For us as a family it’s meant that we’ve spent more time together and that’s just been amazing. Chris nailed the homeschooling so that meant when I got home from breakfast radio, the girls would be more or less finished. I’ve cooked more. I’ve exercised with my girls. I’ve not been rushing out of the door or saying ‘hurry up’. We’ve reconnected as a family and it’s made me look at my work/home balance and make changes for the future. Rather than saying yes to everything I’ve now set boundaries.
How is Simon?
When I first heard about Simon I was awake all night with worry. He is a very dear friend and he hadn’t had the surgery when I was told about it. Obviously he doesn’t have a phone these days, which has worked beautifully for him, so my communication is all with gorgeous Lauren [Silverman, Simon’s partner]. Her phone must be like a call centre! But he’s doing well and the operation was a success so I’m just happy that he’s taking things easy and not putting himself under any pressure. I certainly miss the closeness of sitting next to him because Simon usually always pulls my chair closer to him as we love to discuss what’s happening on stage.
Congratulations on your NHS single. What a set of pipes you have. It was a huge success!
I was very nervous when it came out as we’d put my album on hold when lockdown first happened and I remember saying to Chris that as long as it went Top 40 I’d be over the moon. So when it was #1 on iTunes and reached #2 on The Official Top 40, I was totally blown away!
Your official debut single With You, originally from the musical Ghost, is out now…
It’s actually Simon Cowell’s favourite song, ever – I didn’t know that when I recorded it! The last lines of this song are ‘You took my life with you, Took my world with you’ and so this is for Theo, our baby who was born sleeping in an NHS hospital and for Chris, who stayed strong when I fell apart [Amanda suffered a stillbirth in 2011]. Chris told me he always thought of Theo when he heard this song, which floored me so it’s our song for Theo. Every track I picked because it means something to me and the family. I’ll be performing on Britain’s Got Talent. Luckily Simon isn’t there so the pressure is off slightly, although I’ll have to disconnect David’s buzzer because I don’t put it past him to press it for a laugh!