Amanda Holden’s rise to fame including link to Cilla Black

Amanda Holden's career began with an unexpected link to Liverpool legend, Cilla Black.

The television presenter, who now boasts 1.5 million followers on Instagram, has amassed a legion of fans after tugging on the nation's heartstrings in her role as a judge on popular talent competition show, Britain's Got Talent.

Her career in the entertainment industry has spanned more than 25 years, seeing her step into roles as a TV presenter, talent show judge, occasional actress and a singer.

As an actress, she's earned television credits on Wild at Heart, Kiss Me Kate, Cutting It and more – but her first television stint may come as a surprise.

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The mum-of-two made her first television appearance as a contestant on Blind Date back in 1991 when she was just 19.

At the time, Amanda was a student at London's prestigious drama school, Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts.

She appeared as contestant number two on the smash-hit dating show and flirted with her potential date Barnaby – though she confessed to Cilla that her ideal man was Jack Nicholson.

Speaking to Barnaby, who admitted he had some "podgy bits", Amanda quipped: "First of all, I'd have to think of a nickname for your podgy bits so you don't feel too embarrassed – so let's call them love handles, shall we?"

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Barnaby didn't choose Amanda to go on the blind date with, though.

In an interview with The Independent in 2015, Amanda reflected on her Blind Date stint and praised Cilla Black for being "brilliant and funny".

Of Cilla, she said: "She was great to me. She was brilliant and funny.

"I said that I was going to be an actress. It's the bizarrest thing – I have now worked with some of the directors and producers who were on it.

"When I said that I was going to be an actress, I knew that I was going to be one – but not necessarily that I'd go down the TV route."

So how did Amanda go from a Blind Date reject to one of the most recognisable women in British television?

Early life

Amanda was born in Portsmouth and has a sister named Debbie.

At the age of nine, she joined Bishop's Waltham Little Theatre Company.

Angie Blackford, theatre director at the company, told the Daily Echo : "I put her in the first pantomime Bishop's Waltham ever had, casting her as a fairy.

"I gave her a song to do which she didn't like, but I made her do it anyway and she got a rapturous applause.

"I said back then she would be a star and be on the West End and I was right."

Amanda went on to attend Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts which provides specialist vocational training in acting and musical theatre, as well as production arts.

Acting gigs

Amanda has continued to work in television and theatre since graduating from drama school.

From 2006 to 2008, she made a name for herself appearing as Sarah Trevanian in three series of ITV's Wild at Heart alongside Stephen Timpkinson.

She has appeared on a string of successful British shows, including Smack the Pony, EastEnders, Hearts and Bones and Cutting It.

She worked with Harry Enfield in the comedy series Celeb.

In 2009, the actress starred as Lizzie the Ring Mistress in the BBC sitcom Big Top.

Her theatre work has seen her perform in several stage musicals.

In 2004, Amanda was nominated for a coveted Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance in the West End production of Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Amanda also works in radio as the co-host of Heart Breakfast with Jamie Theakston.

In 2019, she signed a recording contract with Virgin EMI Records.

She continues to work regularly in the entertainment industry as a presenter and performer.

Marriage

Amanda Holden was married to Les Dennis

When Amanda was 24, she married TV presenter and comedian Les Dennis, who was 42 when they tied the knot.

Les, from Garston, married Amanda in 1995, with the pair splitting briefly in 2000 when Amanda's affair with Neil Morrisey was exposed.

The couple reunited despite the affair but things were strained and they ultimately separated in 2002 before divorcing a year later.

The actress and TV star said she believed her image had been tarnished by lurid headlines surrounding the affair and her subsequent split from the Liverpool comedian.

But when Simon Cowell made her part of the judging panel on Britain's Got Talent in 2007, she found it changed people’s perceptions of her.

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Amanda told the Mirror : "Starting out on Britain's Got Talent was liberating for me.

"I mean, without dragging up my past, I think, at the time I was with Chris, we’d been together for something like five years but people still kept going on about Les and Neil, and all the other stuff.

"So what was really nice was that anyone that might’ve had a preconceived idea of me could see who I really was and then really make their mind up."

Amanda is now happily wed to record producer Chris Hughes.

The couple tied the knot on December 10, 2008, at St Margaret's Church in Somerset.

Children

Amanda has two daughters with her second husband, Chris Hughes.

She gave birth to her first child when she was 34, a daughter named Alexa Louise Florence Hughes, on January 20, 2006.

Her daughter goes by the name Lexi.

Heartbreak struck in 2011 when Amanda gave birth to her second child two months prematurely after being told there was no heartbeat.

Son Theo Hughes was stillborn on February 1, 2011.

Amanda opened up about the painful ordeal in the BBC's Dear NHS Superstars special.

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She said: "I remember waking up and thinking I hadn't felt my baby kick for most of the night which was unusual because he was so active.

"I tried all the things they tell you to do but he wasn't moving. But I didn't panic."

Amanda went to Middlesex hospital to get checked over by midwife and close friend, Jackie.

She said: "Jackie said to the obstetrician, 'Please can you go in, I can't hear the patient's baby's heartbeat', and then I heard this guttural screaming.

"It was the most bizarre thing that's ever happened to me because it was me.

"I didn't know I was doing it – I had no control over myself, I thought it was another person making the noise."

Amanda then had to have a C-section to deliver her son.

She said: "The C-section was beyond horrific because at the end a little baby who has nothing wrong with him apart from being asleep is going to come out.

"I kept saying, 'I can't hold a dead baby', I was absolutely terrified. Just as the baby was going to come out my husband Chris had to leave the room, he couldn't bear it."

Amanda said Jackie encouraged her to hold her son, describing him as "absolutely gorgeous".

The TV star added: "That's when I held him even though he was fast asleep. The one thing I remember is his perfectly formed eyebrows, which all my children have."

On January 23, 2012, Amanda gave birth to her third child at age 40, daughter Hollie Rose Hughes.

*Britain's Got Talent airs on ITV

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