Once a ‘marriage-wrecker’ and now TV’s golden girl, Amanda Holden has successfully navigated one of the biggest career U-turns in the showbiz industry.
The star suffered a mighty ‘fall from grace’ 20 years ago when her brief affair with actor Neil Morrissey was exposed – leaving her marriage to presenter Les Dennis and her reputation in tatters.
Yet, 20 years later, Amanda’s career is rocketing as she racks up an impressive list of TV, radio and presenting gigs – not to mention her charity single, Over the Rainbow, recently made it into the UK Top 10.
The nation’s appetite for Amanda– now married to record producer Chris Hughes – has grown to the extent that the 49-year-old overtook presenter Holly Willoughby as the UK’s top-earning female star last year, with an estimated income in excess of £5 million.
Not many stars are afforded a second chance – so how did she manage to turn public opinion around so dramatically?
Fall from grace
Amanda married comedian Les Dennis in 1995 after four years together, but their union was short-lived.
In 2000, it emerged that Amanda had had an affair with actor Neil Morrissey – who was also married at the time – and she and Les soon separated.
Amanda quickly became known as a ‘home-wrecker’ and her notoriety was a bitter pill to swallow.
‘I found the fall from grace incredibly hard to deal with. I can’t bear not to be liked,’ she admits. ‘I had an affair and overnight turned into this awful person.’
While she came out the other side fighting, Amanda says it was the ‘darkest time’ of her life.
She confesses, ‘I brought it on myself – I appreciate that – but nothing will ever be as bad again. It was a very dark time. It got to the point where I felt I could hardly breathe.’
Accepting her mistakes
The fallout following her divorce from Les could have forced Amanda out of the limelight, but she hasn’t let it.
‘The point is, I keep putting myself out there,’ she admits. ‘I don’t like playing it safe. I know exactly how the contestants feel on Britain’s Got Talent. Like me, they’re prepared to take a risk.’
The now mum-of-two wasn’t ready to give up on her career, so she accepted her flaws and apologised for her mistakes – a lesson good friend Simon Cowell taught her. She explains,
‘His best tip? Don’t be frightened to make mistakes. He knows I’m a perfectionist and control freak – everything has to be just so. But Simon made me see that the public want to see your vulnerable side, too.’
Perhaps it’s the fact she’s never hidden her remorse that earned her forgiveness.
‘Les Dennis was my saviour, even though I broke his heart. I’m so happy he’s found love again,’ she admitted previously. ‘Everything’s worked out for the best in the best of all possible worlds.’
Amanda’s second bite at the cherry began with Simon Cowell offering her a judging spot on BGT back in 2007.
Her repertoire has since expanded, and her earnings have escalated. As well as starring in the West End and being the longest-standing BGT judge, Amanda now presents Heart FM’s breakfast show – the UK’s biggest commercial radio show with 4.6 million listeners – and is in the running to replace Holly Willoughby on Celebrity Juice.
She may have missed out on stepping in for Holly on This Morning in 2018 after Phillip Schofield allegedly scuppered her chances (something he denied), but Amanda still came out on top as, months later, she signed a £1 million record deal with Virgin EMI.
Coming out stronger
Some say you can’t have a solid career and a happy home life, but Amanda seems to have it all. ‘Because my life at home’s so wonderful, everything else seems a bonus,’ she admits.
So what’s the secret to her 12-year marriage to Chris? ‘We can make jokes out of any situation throughout the best and darkest times in life.’
Years after the scandal that nearly broke her, we can all learn a lesson from Amanda in accepting the past and not having any regrets. She reflects, ‘I always have the mindset of “I’m an adult, I make decisions”.’ Well said, Amanda!