Alesha Dixon: I feel fired up and energised says Strictly and Britain's Got Talent judge
With a new book out and creativity flowing, Alesha Dixon has lots going on – and she's feeling good. Gabrielle Fagan finds out more
SHE'S become one of the best-known TV personalities around as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing and Britain's Got Talent, as well as having co-presented The Greatest Dancer, but Alesha Dixon has never hidden the self-doubt and lack of confidence that troubled her in the past.
Now in her 40s though, things have changed a lot on that front. "I feel I'm on the brink of a new era, a new decade and a new adventure," Dixon (41) reveals happily.
"A lot of people fear getting older but for me, one of the best things is that you learn how to be comfortable in your own skin, be wiser because of your experiences, and feel more mature and grounded."
Poised, beautiful and talented, Dixon undoubtedly already has plenty to celebrate. She recently made her debut as a judge on America's Got Talent – a role she describes "as a dream come true" – and her fifth children's book, Star Switch, has just been published.
"Instead of being scared of what might happen next and the unknown, now I can embrace it," she confides, during a call from her home in Hertfordshire. "When you're young, you're constantly questioning yourself and wondering whether you're good enough. But when you see yourself having success and feeling you're doing something well and are able to repeat that, you can say to yourself, 'Actually, I'm good at this'."
Dixon, who first found fame in the early-noughties in girl group Mis-Teeq, reportedly struggled in her 20s with fear of failure and self-doubt. She suffered a double blow in 2006 when her record company dropped her and her marriage to So Solid Crew member MC Harvey ended.
Personal contentment with her partner of eight years Azuka Ononye, and their two daughters – Azura, six, and 10-month-old Anaya – along with her huge career success have clearly been key in her transformation into the strong, super-confident woman she is today.
"As a couple, you become even closer when you have children, and Azuka and I feel so blessed to have such lovely girls," Dixon reflects proudly – but with her trademark honesty, she's open about the challenges of parenthood too.
"I'm really enjoying motherhood but it's definitely been a challenge having two little humans completely dependent on you. After all, I've only got one pair of hands! After juggling the family and work, I have days when I'm absolutely exhausted and just can't wait for bedtime. But I'm truly at my happiest when I'm with them, or on stage."
She admits she's currently undecided about whether she'll have more children.
"Two weeks after I had Anaya, Azura said to me, 'Mummy, I think it's time for a brother now'," she recalls, laughing. "But I'm happy with two for the moment, although I'm very much an open-minded person, so never say never."
Despite the exhausting days, juggling her career and family life seems like something she thrives on. Azura occasionally accompanies her to rehearsals for Britain's Got Talent, and only five weeks after Anaya's birth, Dixon went to the States to work on America's Got Talent.
"For 20 years, I've been obsessed with working in the States, and then when I'm pregnant I get the offer," she recalls, laughing. "I just couldn't turn it down, even though I'd actually planned a year off. It was soon after giving birth but I was so busy and excited, I think I simply didn't have time to register the tiredness. I felt on a baby high and job high at the same time."
She has no truck with 'working mum guilt' and instead believes her career and work ethic could inspire her daughters.
"I work to support them and I want them to see me doing something I love, and to know that both Mummy and Daddy are go-getters," says Dixon.
"I had a wonderful moment recently when Azura wrote her own book, because she'd seen me write mine. If I can spark her imagination and inspire her to create something just by her watching me, then it makes all I'm doing worthwhile."
Dixon has drawn on her experiences in the music business for her latest book, Star Switch, about two teenagers – one a pop star and the other an ordinary schoolgirl – who swap lives.
"A lot of young people tend to see people in the spotlight and think their lives could be better if they could walk in their shoes and have their fame," she explains. "It's a 'grass is always greener' idea. I want to show that to be happy, you need to find joy in your own life, appreciate what you've got and take pleasure in your own achievements, family and friendships."
She clearly practises what she preaches and is careful to nurture her health and wellbeing, with regular workouts in her home gym.
"Training and eating healthily helps me feel good. I know it's important to have 'me time' but that's in short supply at the moment, unless you count time when I'm sleeping! Normally, my treat's an occasional massage or a facial," she says.
"But I'm a great believer in balance in life. Azuka and I try to have time together when the kids are in bed, and have a dinner and dip into a box-set. It's about making our time for the children, our work and us as a couple work as well as possible."
Dixon – who co-hosted The Greatest Dancer with Jordan Banjo ("He's like my little brother and calls me 'big sis'") – is brimming with energy, optimism and enthusiasm, and busy writing and recording new music right now too.
"I've never lost my passion for singing. I feel my most authentic self when I'm recording or when I'm on stage," she declares.
"I still have itchy feet to do more and achieve more. I feel really fired up and energised and with my family behind me, I feel armoured to go out there and go to another level creatively.
"While there are many things I could have done better or differently, essentially I am who I am," Dixon reflects. "I have to own everything I've done, the good and the bad, the mistakes, learn from them, and try and improve in the future."
:: Star Switch by Alesha Dixon is published by Scholastic, priced £6.99 (scholastic.co.uk).