Amanda Holden on growing up in Bishop’s Waltham, her charity work and her weakness for latte and cake

Amanda Holden

Amanda Holden - Credit: Archant

You can take the lady out of Hampshire but you can’t take Hampshire out the lady. Yes, it’s a corny expression but it is true in the case of actress, singer, dancer and TV presenter Amanda Holden, who has never forgotten her roots in the county

“I loved growing up in Hampshire. My childhood memories are nothing but happy ones and at least in part that is because I was totally at home in my surroundings. Whenever I go back now I still feel the same. It is always lovely to see the same places and often the same people too.”

Amanda Holden was actually born in Portsmouth and you cannot get much more Hampshire than that. She grew up though in Bishop’s Waltham where her talent was spotted at quite an early age.

She was always a bundle of energy since she first learned to walk and was a natural entertainer, often driving her mother, Judith, to distraction with her early dance and acrobatic routines which were absolute attention grabbers, not for any psychological reasons but simply to entertain.

“I have always wanted to entertain for as long as I can remember and I used to make up routines just for fun,” said Amanda. “I am the same now really. I love what I do and I am no different in my private life to what people see on stage or on television.”

When she went to school her teachers soon realised that Amanda was born to entertain.

“Bishop’s Waltham was a lovely town to grow up in and it still is,” she said. “When I was four we moved to Waltham Chase, which is another lovely spot just near Bishop’s Waltham, so there was the best of everything, town, countryside and if we went in one direction we were in Portsmouth and if we went in the opposite direction we were in Winchester. We lived at Tangledown, Lower Chase Road. I remember it well.

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“I will never forget joining Bishop’s Waltham Little Theatre company for drama classes and getting my first role as a fairy. Angie Blackford was the director and I was really excited to be taking part. I had to sing and I must admit that I was really bothered about that until the night, and then when the applause came at the end I was partly relieved and partly thrilled. It made me realise that it wasn’t so bad and helped my confidence a lot.”

Amanda went to Swanmore College after leaving junior school and her talent developed further still through school productions.

Sammy Cross, who was a teacher at Swanmore at the time revealed, “I said at the time that she would be a star and appear on the West End stage and I’m glad to say I was right. She just had a natural talent and never really needed telling what to do.”

As a young teenager Amanda got a part-time job in a local bookshop and when her own autobiography was published in 2013, she went back to that same bookshop for a book launch.

“I loved my time at the bookshop and it was so lovely to go back there,” she said. “It was like turning the clock back, it still had that lovely bookshop smell and I met so many people I had known before. I couldn’t help bursting into tears at one stage when I saw a girl that used to live at the top of my road. I met people who had been my friends, my teachers, neighbours and shop keepers. It was just so lovely to go back and see everyone and the places where I grew up.

“Because of my work I live near London now but I would never rule out moving back to my roots one day.”

When she was 16, Amanda moved to Bournemouth and then enrolled at the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London, which has produced so many famous actors and entertainers.

“I left there in 1992 and have been working ever since,” said Amanda. “I think going there gave me something extra. All these growing up experiences are invaluable if you want to be a capable entertainer.”

Amanda’s first TV appearance was on Cilla Black’s Blind Date in 1991 but since then she has hardly been off our screens or the stage. Her credits just go on and on and are very varied; proof indeed that she is a great all-round entertainer with a huge public following and the love and respect of her fellow performers.

It is exhausting just too read her CV which includes everything from appearing in Eastenders to playing Fairy Godmother at the London Palladium and being nominated for a Laurence Olivier award for her role in Thoroughly Modern Millie on the London stage. She even played Princess Fiona in the stage version of Shrek, a tribute to her ability to tackle just about anything in front of an audience or camera.

“I like to do different things,” she said. “I love being on stage whether it is a musical, a pantomime or a drama; I love the interaction with a live audience. I think that is why Britain’s Got Talent has been so enjoyable; you have the magic of television as well as audience reaction. Presenting things like This Morning are also great fun. You meet interesting people of all sorts from all walks of life talking about many different subjects and issues. Also working alongside Phillip Schofield is always a delight so I have always been thrilled to be taking part.”

Amanda also uses her fame to help others and supports many different charities.

“I think it is important to give something back and I do my best to help whether it is a community project, an animal charity or whatever,” she said. “I don’t like to just lend my name but to get involved. I even ran the London Marathon to help raise some cash for one of the animal charities. If you are in a position to help others you shouldn’t hold back.

“It is the same when you are asked for an autograph. It is not always convenient but it doesn’t take long to sign your name. Most people are polite and being spoken to by strangers or pointed at in the shops goes with the job. It is nice to meet people and have them happy to see you.”

Amanda Holden has been happily married to Chris Hughes since 2008 and they have two daughters together.

“My family mean more than anything,” she said. “I have actually enjoyed the school run although I always like picking them up more than taking them. We have a lot of fun together.”

Amanda admits to a weakness for latte and cake but her high-energy life more than allows for the occasional treat. So what is the secret of her success?

“I work hard, I get up early to keep my fitness regime going and to look after my family, I tap dance, which is great for keeping fit. I like to laugh and to be busy and I come from Hampshire. That’s the combination that works for me.”

It certainly does!


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