As regular readers know, I sometimes stray away from the mainstay topic of this blog — film — into music of all kinds. Obviously, the two have been tied since film’s birth. One aspect of both industries that has fascinated me for some time is the odd relationship between the U.S. and the U.K., our highly influential older siblings with the cool accents, who seem to have even cooler record collections, more avant-garde taste in movies, and cutting-edge fashion senses. And yet, for every British artist in any medium that slays Stateside, either by popularity or influence — and the list of those is endless — there are some, for whatever reason, that just don’t click. This is also true of celebrity/entertainment culture in general…some U.K. celebs cross the pond to become household names in the U.S….and others just don’t catch on here. For every Graham Norton or Ricky Gervais, there’s a Cheryl Cole or Robbie Williams.
I’m not sure which category Alesha Dixon will fall into, or if she’s even interested in U.S. success, but at the moment, she is one of the most recognizable women on U.K. television. As an admired presenter and judge on prime-time shows, she’s known to millions of viewers, as well as being a talented singer and dancer, lending her more versatility and overall credibility than many others in the “unscripted” field.
Her rise to the top was slow but steady, and not without setbacks. But the long road to superstardom has been worth it; she’s now a darling of the British public. Her journey from Hertfordshire girl to grime MC to nation’s sweetheart is an interesting one…
Alesha was born in Welwyn Garden City to a Jamaican father and a British mother, Melvin and Beverly Dixon, who split up when their daughter was 4 years old. The early years of Dixon’s life were marred by domestic violence against her mother by a subsequent partner, and she herself has described her home life as “dysfunctional.”
Alesha was at a dance class in London after finishing a Sports Science diploma when she was lucky enough to be approached by two talent scouts in one day, one of whom was forming the band Mis-Teeq. Dixon joined the band, along with Sabrina Washington, Su Elise Nash and Zena McNally.
In 2001, with Alesha as the MC, Mis-Teeq released their first single, “Why.” It was not a commercial hit, but a garage remix a few months later boosted the track to the number 8 spot in the U.K. Singles chart and helped the group to gain mainstream popularity.
Mis-Teeq released two popular albums, Lickin On Both Sides and Eye Candy, both of which spawned a number of very successful singles, including “All I Want” and “Scandalous.” The band earned both a Brit Awards nomination and a win in the MOBO awards for Best Garage Band.
Solo career and “Strictly Come Dancing”
Alesha’s first stab at a solo career was not especially well received, and her debut album, Fired Up (2006), was dropped by her record label after the first two singles did not perform as well as hoped.
In 2007, she decided to appear on the hit BBC1 show “Strictly Come Dancing,” a move which she has confessed she was worried would damage her career — much like reality shows here, the career prospects of those who sign on can be sketchy.
Paired with professional dancer Matthew Cutler, however, she went on to become the show’s most successful contestant ever. With an average score of 36.5 out of 40, she won the show easily, beating runner up Matt Di Angelo into second place by a large margin.
Following Dixon’s success on the show, she became the object of a bidding war among record labels competing for her album. The Alesha Show was released on Asylum Records in 2008, and the first single, “The Boy Does Nothing,” sold 1,000,000 copies worldwide.
In 2009, two years after her win, Alesha was invited to become a judge on “Strictly Come Dancing.” Despite concerns that her dancing skills would not necessarily translate to good judging, Alesha received critical acclaim in her role.
Britain’s Got Talent
Perhaps the most high profile of Alesha Dixon’s forays into the world of celebrity is her time spent judging “Britain’s Got Talent.” She moved to the show from “Strictly Come Dancing” in 2012, to judge alongside David Walliams, Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell.
Her tenure on “BGT” has made her one of the most recognizable faces on Saturday night U.K. TV, and with the show still topping Saturday night ratings after ten years, it looks as if Alesha will be a welcome fixture for the foreseeable future.
If learning Alesha’s backstory has piqued your interest, check her out on Twitter and Instagram, where she is fairly active. She is also available to perform at all sorts of events. Alesha Dixon’s agent is MN2S, a London-based celebrity agency, which incidentally also handles bookings for one of my favorite lesser-known music acts, Disco Fries.