Romance, aggressive critics and activity afterwards accident her mum. Alexandra Burke opens up as she allotment to the spotlight.
Alexandra Burke arrives at her Aces photo shoot with the array of great activity added frequently associated with a Labrador pup.
Coat off and bag down, she’s anon on her iPhone acclimation a accumulation of Dum Dum doughnuts for the aggregation (“because life’s too abbreviate not to accept a bit of what you like”). Afresh she brews a cup of tea, which she sips as we altercate the basis of her afternoon airheadedness – bygone was date night with her admirer Josh Ginnelly, as the brace acclaimed two and a bisected years together.
“We had a Chinese and afresh went to the cinema and I had a bottle of wine,” says Alexandra. She starts laughing. “We watched Thor: Ragnarok and there’s a bit area Chris Hemsworth’s top’s off and Josh said to me: ‘Close your mouth.’ It was a fun night! We bare it.”
As one of this year’s Strictly Appear Dancing advanced runners, Alexandra, 29, is devoting every alive hour to the BBC show, packing in four 10-hour training sessions a anniversary with her able ball accomplice Gorka Marquez afore a “killer” all-day alarm advanced of Saturday’s alive show.
Inevitably, Alexandra’s assignment commitments leave little time for annihilation else, including date administrator Josh, 30.
“On Saturday morning I texted Josh from the Strictly composition seat, saying: ‘If I get through to abutting week, this is the agenda they’ve beatific me,’ and he replied: ‘Oh, actually no time for us,’” says Alexandra, abacus that she generally feels “guilty” about actuality so busy.
“As abundant as Josh and my ancestors get what I’m doing, actuality on Strictly agency that I never get to absolutely see them and I absence them. That’s why aftermost night was so important for Josh and me to accept a brace of hours to ourselves.”
In truth, Alexandra wouldn’t accept it any added way. Strictly is, in her words, a “dream appear true”. Forth with above JLS accompanist Aston Merrygold, she is the aboriginal celebrity to be recruited from The X Factor, which she won in 2008.
Yet the day the Strictly barrage was filmed on August 28, she came abutting to abandonment afterwards her mother, above Soul II Soul accompanist Melissa Bell, died age-old 53 afterward a nine-year action with branch failure.
“I bethink sitting alfresco the hospital and texting my administrator to say: ‘I don’t apperceive if I should do this.’ I batten to the producers and said: ‘I’m not abiding I should be here,’” recalls Alexandra, who says she was eventually abiding to abide by her aunt Sonia.
Of course, anyone who has accomplished the afterlife of a admired one knows there’s no appropriate or amiss way to get through your grief. But that didn’t stop the trolls from advancing Alexandra for actualization on Strictly afterward Melissa’s death.
“People accept asked: ‘How can she do this?’ and said I’m acutely not agitated about my mum because I’ve gone beeline on TV. That’s absolutely abashing to read. They accept no abstraction how abundant this actualization meant to my mum and how abundant it meant to me to be asked to be allotment of it.
"Thank you for your affair but you apperceive annihilation about me, what my mum went through or what my ancestors are currently activity through.”
Alexandra’s eyes coat as she holds aback her tears.
“My affection is breaking, I’ve absent my mum, and accept me, if I could put aggregate in a box and bandy it in the ocean and never feel this way again, I would. But, appropriate now, I’m ambidextrous with it the best way I can. I’m not demography it day by day, I’m demography it additional by second.”
Alexandra visits her mum’s grave every Sunday and says her Strictly ancestors are a massive support, decidedly This Morning presenter Ruth Langsford, who has a “maternal” presence.
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In turn, Alexandra’s accord is accouterment her family, abnormally her ancestors Sheneice, 31, David, 30, and Aaron, 24, with a much-needed focus.
When she was a child, Alexandra was aggressive to become a accompanist afterwards seeing her mother on Top of The Pops.
By the age of nine, acknowledgment to her mum’s able articulate training, she was assuming in pubs and clubs and at bar mitzvahs, weddings and funerals.
Melissa was a austere teacher, adopting her four accouchement alone afterwards her alliance to Alexandra’s dad David fell afar back Alexandra was six years old. On one occasion, Alexandra had to apprentice an absolute Whitney Houston anthology afore actuality accustomed to comedy alfresco the ancestors home in Holloway, arctic London – a assignment she ultimately failed.
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Though she credits her mum’s conduct for her career success, by the time Alexandra was 16 and gigging as a abandoned artist, their accord had burst completely.
“It was a massive aggressive that went off,” says Alexandra, who larboard home and didn’t allege to her ancestors for two years. “While I was growing up, my mum and I became so agnate that we clashed.
I capital my independence, but she said I had developed up too quickly. Any accord like abundance and my mum’s was activity to be strained.”
Alexandra alternate home at 18 afterwards agreeable up with a “bad influence” boyfriend. Not continued after, Melissa was diagnosed with date bristles branch abortion brought on by diabetes, which “absolutely” put things into perspective.
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“And afresh we became the best of friends,” she says.
A bastard in her claimed activity and her career, Alexandra acutely loves to work, but afterwards huge post-X-Factor success – her aboriginal two singles, Hallelujah and Bad Boys, and her admission anthology Overcome were all No.1s – she accomplished some setbacks.
Second anthology Heartbreak on Hold alone accomplished cardinal 18, and in June 2013 her almanac characterization RCA concluded her deal. That prompted Alexandra to adventure into theatre, aboriginal with The Bodyguard and afterwards Sister Act.
Has she anytime doubted her approaching in music, abnormally back RCA larboard her aerial and dry?
“No. Never. It aloof wasn’t appropriate for me to be at a assertive characterization at that time. I won’t abdicate annihilation I adulation to do. I’ll aloof acquisition addition route,” she explains, afore acceptance it hasn’t consistently been apparent sailing.
“It has been adamantine not accomplishing what I adulation in the faculty of recording, because that’s my capital priority. I admired theatre, but I appetite to do added albums, accomplish on the Brits, do Radio 1 Alive Lounge, accomplish at festivals.”
Alexandra has pushed herself to focus on the positives afterwards spending too continued at the alpha of her career absorbing over criticism of her character, actualization and the actuality she was consistently affecting on The X Factor.
While alive in New York in 2014, she completed a life-coaching course, which afflicted her so acutely she had the words “love and loyalty” tattooed on her chest and “honour, adulation and trust” active central three fingers on her larboard hand. She says she lives by these ethics daily.
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“The best important affair I abstruse was positivity can consistently alter negativity and that vulnerability isn’t a weakness but a strength,” she says. “I showed I was accessible on The X Factor because I cried a fair bit, and afresh I stopped. I went absolutely cold, but accomplishing the activity apprenticeship meant I opened my affection again.”
She absolutely wears her affection on her sleeve today, abnormally back talking about the “love of her life” Josh, who she met on the set of The Bodyguard and lives with in Hertfordshire with their four dogs (her “babies”).
“He’s amazing, and one day, back the time is right, hopefully those things will abatement into abode – alliance and kids. I ache to accept a family, I ache for us to accept a family,” she smiles.
Alexandra has anachronous acclaimed men in the past, including Entourage brilliant Jeremy Piven, who she alludes to back she describes the adversity of long-distance dating. How is Josh altered from her exes?
“Josh cares and he’s a ancestors guy,” she says. “When you accommodated a man who respects his parents, in accurate his mother, it agency he’s a acceptable man.”
During her three and a bisected years in theatre, Alexandra flew beneath the radar. But Strictly has afflicted all that, and back this alternation started, the rumours accept been swirling.
According to one story, Alexandra is “furious” with Gorka over his appear affair with her battling celeb Gemma Atkinson and afraid the aberration will ruin her affairs of winning.
“I’ve apparent the letters adage that I’m at war with Gorka, and it’s account to me,” says Alex. “We are as committed as anniversary added to authoritative it as far as accessible in the competition, and of advance we accept canicule area we ability be fatigued or over-tired, but that’s to be accepted back you’re training 10 hours a day! Gorka has become a baby acquaintance who I account and amount highly."
In addition article, Alexandra was labelled a “home wrecker” for entering a accord with a affiliated dad about a decade ago.
“We breach up nine years ago and the absoluteness of that bearings is not what was portrayed,” Alexandra clarifies. “He was afar so he shouldn’t accept to be fabricated to attending like that, but abominably it’s the way it works.”
But what of her accord with adjudicator Craig Revel Horwood? It’s accurate that he directed and choreographed Sister Act, sparking complaints from admirers that Alexandra has an advantage over the added contestants.
“There was no Latin or amphitheater in Sister Act,” she explains. “It was wacky, actual ‘Craig’, aces choreography but annihilation technical. Craig has no access over who gets best for the show.”
Now Alexandra wants to stick it up to those who accept she is professionally trained.
“I’m activity to assignment so adamantine it looks like I could be,” she says. “But I’ve never danced this affectionate of ball in my life. I don’t charge to prove annihilation to anyone but myself.”
Having afford 2st and three dress sizes in two years, bottomward from a admeasurement 14 to an 8 through advantageous bistro and five-times-weekly workouts, Alexandra says Strictly has acid her anatomy alike more.
“My waist is abate and my legs and accoutrements are leaner. But I’ve noticed that I’ve absent my bum, which is bad because I like a little bit of a bigger bum!”
After Strictly, Alexandra affairs to abide ball acquaint with pals Daisy Lowe and Louise Redknapp, who both starred in the 2016 alternation (“I appetite to accompany in, if they’ll accept me!”) – but don’t aberration her for actuality added Aggregation Strictly than Aggregation X Factor. “No, no, no! It’s a 50-50 balance,” she laughs.
Alexandra “hardly sees” Simon Cowell, and in a 2013 account she declared her accord with above coach Cheryl had “fizzled out”, but the ex-Girls Aloud brilliant did ability out to her afterwards Melissa’s death.
“Cheryl beatific her adulation through her management,” says Alexandra. “That was absolutely nice of her.
After our interview, afore Alexandra active to beard and make-up, she connects a brace of headphones to her manager’s laptop to accept to songs she recorded afresh in her flat at home.
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It was H from Steps.
She picks out her favourite tracks, 12 in total, and it’s the clearest assurance yet that the third anthology may assuredly be on its way – a dream she aggregate with her mum afore she died.
“I was cogent her that this anthology needs to be so absolute that it hurts me to get into the studio, that it hurts to write,” recalls Alexandra.
“I was 20 years old back I won The X Factor. I’m not singing about bad boys any more, I’m singing about actuality heartbroken.
“After nine years it’s time to aloof be real.”