Her career has taken her from pop success to Strictly and the stage. She discusses the pain of racist comments, the joy of duetting with Beyoncé – and the enduring influence of her late mother

Alexandra Burke has come out of the pandemic running. Since lockdown eased, the singer has taken part in a reality TV series (she can’t say which) that left her with broken bones and hypothermia, acted in her first film, Pretty Red Dress, and segued to a starring role in the West End musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

What makes this surprising is that Burke describes the enforced stillness of the past year as “the best thing that ever happened to me”. After 12 years of almost unstoppable hard graft since winning The X Factor, she decided to take six months out in 2020 even before lockdown was announced, after the suicide of a close friend. “I hadn’t seen him in a long time and I meant to reach out to him. Instead, I was running on stage thinking I’d talk to him next week and then he was gone. My mental health was really struggling with not putting friends and family first.” She took on a life coach, bubbled with her close friend and assistant Nalini, and switched to a plant-based diet. It all left her feeling fitter, happier and calmer.

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