It’s 3pm on a chilly Monday and Amanda Holden is curled up in her armchair at her Surrey home after a wine-fuelled weekend in the countryside with Robbie Williams’ wife Ayda Field and Simon Cowell’s partner Lauren Silverman.
She’s waiting for her daughters, Lexi, 16, and Hollie, 10, who she shares with record producer husband Chris Hughes, to come home from school and is feeling smug that she has zero trace of a lingering hangover.
“Our nights out used to be more raucous,” says Amanda. “We had a lovely dinner and some good glasses of good quality wine rather than shots, and I got home and watched one of my cheeky Netflix series that I can’t watch with my husband called The Empress – don’t watch it, it’s such rubbish! And I was in bed by 11.30pm.”
In total homebody mode wearing an orange oversized roll-neck jumper, the mum of two cuts a different figure on our Zoom interview to the provocative TV presenter we’re used to seeing in debate-sparking outfits on screen and in the media.
In the past week alone, her choice to go to work braless in a fitted green dress with nipples on show dominated headlines as she unapologetically continues to defy the notion that women in their fifties should dress more conservatively.
But as she opens up about the constant controversy that surrounds her daring style (one of her low-cut Britain’s Got Talent dress choices received 235 Ofcom complaints) she shows a rare glimpse of vulnerability, admitting that the way she presents herself is her armour to go out and face the world.
“That really p**ses me off,” says the 51-year-old, of the concept she should dress for her age. “Age shouldn’t come into anything that makes you feel better, especially what you choose to wear. I’ve always had my own beauty standards and I use my nan as an example. She says, ‘Never see your husband without lipstick’. That’s obviously rubbish!
“But I’ve always wanted to present myself well. It’s a self-preservation and dignity thing. However I’ve felt, to the outside world I’ve presented confidently, because that’s my armour and that’s how I soldier on. Then I deal with everything else privately.”
Born and raised as a working class girl on a housing estate in Hampshire, the BGT judge follows two generations of strong women – her mother Judith and grandmother Ethel, who passed away in 2018 aged 97. She’s a woman’s woman who’s so refreshingly confident about feeling fit and fabulous that she regularly walks around with no clothes in the comfort of her own home.
“I spend a lot of time naked in my house,” she boasts. “I like to cook naked, but that’s normally during barbecue season because I’m in the middle of sunbathing then I come in to do the tea. Chris can’t cook at all.”
The Heart Radio presenter crossed paths with Chris in Los Angeles in 2003 and started dating the following year, with Amanda revealing she felt “something primitive” and knew she “had to be with him”. They wed on December 10, 2008, at St Margaret’s Church in Somerset, with a reception held at Babington House – an exclusive members only club. As the wedding took place near Christmas, the chapel was decorated with gorgeous ivy and fake snow.
So it’s no surprise that Amanda, who fronts JD Williams Christmas campaign alongside Davina McCall, is feeling extra excited for the festive period. So how does she spend Christmas Day? Is it festive pyjamas or all-out glamour?
“I’ll let you guess what I do,” jokes Amanda. “I will always be dressed up. Every year, my husband has to get me something new to wear on the day. He’s got good taste for me, but not in his own fashion. His idea is tracksuit bottoms, an Incredible Hulk T-shirt and flip-flops. I’m like, ‘Come on!’”
But like her close friend Davina, Amanda is keen to point out that the joyous festivities you might see on Instagram aren’t always a true reflection of how tough the Christmas holidays can also be. Speaking from the heart, she recalls her toughest Christmas in 2002 following the breakdown of her marriage to her first husband, the actor Les Dennis.
“When I divorced my first husband it was just before Christmas and it just felt cold,” she says. “I had my family coming to stay but it was just bizarre. My sister wasn’t there and I just had older relatives. Even though they did their best it just didn’t feel right and I couldn’t wait for it to end. I hate wishing Christmas away but I get how horrendous it can be. Most Christmases are wonderful but I guarantee that for most people there’s always something – everyone has issues, everyone has family arguments, nothing is as perfect as it seems.”
It’s this honesty and frankness that has established Amanda as one of the most successful working women on TV with a career spanning more than 25 years.
“It’s all about authenticity,” she says. “In presenting and hosting, you can’t pretend to be someone else – you have to be yourself on both sides of the camera because people aren’t stupid. It’s not having an ego. I can’t lie. Often that’s gone wrong – I wear my heart on my sleeve and I make no apologies for that.”
Amanda Holden and Davina McCall are the JD Williams brand ambassadors and have starred in the Autumn Winter 2022 campaign, featuring the Out Out and Happy Host collections, consisting of sparkly heels, power suits and statement dresses. See jdwilliams.co.uk
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