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Q&A: Alexandra Burke

Published 2 June 2014

Alexandra Burke’s first public transformation was from teenager to superstar diva when she won X Factor in 2008 after a triumphant return from her less successful first attempt in 2005. She then transformed from Christmas Number 1 chart-topper with the soulful Hallelujah into a Platinum-selling artist with possibly the catchiest pop song ever on the playlist, Bad Boys.

But tonight will see her biggest transformation yet, as she takes to the Adelphi Theatre stage for the very first time to lead the cast of The Bodyguard. While the public will be well aware of her stunning, huge voice – no one could doubt her more than capable ability to deliver Whitney Houston’s music with panache – this will be the first time we’ve seen the star dance, sing and act.

But this triple threat is more than ready for the challenge, having already well and truly fallen in love with the stage when she appeared for a special curtain call at a charity performance of Les Misérables. While she assures us music remains her greatest priority – don’t worry, we bet she won’t be out of the recording studio for long – right now this pop star’s focus is on having her fans see her in a whole new light and, in the spirit of her on stage persona Rachel Marron, channelling any nerves into a diva-like fabulousness…
 
What first sparked your interest in performing?
I’ve always grown up in a musical family. My Mum was in the band Soul ll Soul and it was the day I saw her on Top Of The Pops that I decided I wanted to be a singer. I will never forget how beautiful she looked, her hair, her make-up, everything. She was having so much fun on stage, I realised then that it was exactly what I wanted to do. I was adamant that I was going to be a singer; that was at the age of five. My Mum sparked my love for it. What made me love it more was that she never pressured me to have a singing career, I think that’s so important. I think if she pressured me I wouldn’t be sitting here today.

What drew you to the stage?
I did Les Misérables for Children In Need and that’s when I fell in love with wanting to do theatre because the singing and the way you pronounce things are so different. I enjoyed the different discipline. I realised I wanted to be on the West End stage one day but never thought it would be now. I thought I would be doing theatre in years to come and it’s happening now. I couldn’t miss an opportunity like this, I’m so excited.

What are you most looking forward to about making your West End debut?
I’m looking forward to my fans seeing a different side to me and I’m looking forward to my family seeing a side to me that they haven’t seen for so long, which is incorporating the acting, singing and dancing all in one.  My fans have never seen it before; it will be great for them to see me in a different light and to get to know a piece of me that I’ve never shared before, which is my love for acting.

…and the thing you’re least looking forward to?
The nerves, no one looks forward to that! I always remember if you don’t feel it, it means you don’t care. I’m not looking forward to that feeling but I’m going to embrace it and turn it into something fabulous.

Were you already a fan of The Bodyguard and Whitney Houston?
Yes [a] big time fan, I’ve always listened to Whitney for as long as I can remember. My Mum used to always buy her album, send me upstairs with my karaoke machine and say learn this, and I would come back and perform every single song for her. The Bodyguard is one of my favourite movies of all time.

What do you do when you’re not performing or rehearsing?
I chill with my family or I’m with my dogs – Alfie, Prince and Teddy.

What is the finest performance on stage you have ever seen?
I went to see Matilda The Musical in New York and those kids are so dedicated to that play, it’s incredible, and at the Oliviers in London when they [the London cast] sang it was mind-blowing. Those kids are just amazing.

If you could create a fantasy production to star in for your next stage production, who would you cast, who would direct and what would it be?
Tom Hiddleston would be cast as the main guy, I’ll be the main woman. The director would be Thea Sharrock, who I am currently working with for The Bodyguard. It would be a love story, the modern day Romeo And Juliet!

Who or what has inspired you?
My mother is one of my biggest inspirations; my grandfather was too for his strength and love that he always gave us. His ability to continue when things were tough was inspiring. His strength gives me strength, even though he passed away 10 years ago his strength lives on. Musically my inspirations are Aaliyah and Beyonce, and the legends who have made music what it is today – Whitney Houston, The Stylistics, The Temptations,  Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick. I could go on and on!

Do you have any regrets?
None. I live my life with no regrets. Any decision I made is because I wanted to make it.

Have you made any sacrifices for the sake of your career?
Yes, I didn’t go to college or university and I really wanted to go. I made my decision at 16 to give myself four years to get a record deal and at the age of 20 I won the X Factor and I never looked back.

What would you choose as a last meal?
Starter would be duck rolls, main course would be jerk chicken, rice and peas, and dessert would be rum cake.

What will always, without fail, bring a smile to your face?
My fans, without fail, seeing them happy makes me happy.

What one book, film and album would you recommend?
The book would have to be the Power Of Now by Eckhart Tolle. Film would be The Notebook and album would be Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits.

What could you not be without?
Family, friends, fans and my dogs!

Do you have a pre-show routine or any rituals?
Yes, I always pray before a show, it’s always a team prayer, we never go on stage without a prayer. I steam all the time and I do a warm-up for 10 minutes. After the show I make sure to warm down.

Where do you head after a performance?
Straight to bed, I fall asleep in the car on the way home. I put all my energy into the show.

Will your career on stage take you away from the recording studio?
No, never! Music is my number one priority. I am just allowing different things in to my life, like this new venture The Bodyguard. The music will never stop.

What ambitions would you like to fulfil?
To continue to inspire and to make people smile.

If you weren’t a performer, what would you be?
I’d still be an independent modern businesswoman.

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