Amanda Holden’s Instagram content has been one of the few joys of the lockdown period.
“I just like being silly. But I’m really glad you’ve taken it how it is meant, which is a bit of fun and laughter,” she says with her trademark cackle. “I’ve howled with laughter filming it.”
But if you didn’t think Amanda – or Mandy, as she quickly refers to herself – was already a Queen Of Quarantine just for keeping us entertained, the Britain’s Got Talent judge is now raising vital funds for the NHS with the release of her debut single – a cover of Judy Garland’s Over The Rainbow.
The song had originally been recorded for Amanda’s debut album, but after the project was put on ice due to the coronavirus outbreak, she’s teamed up with Marks & Spencer as part of their All In This Together campaign to put the song out, with all proceeds going to the NHS Charities Together.
Amanda has spoken a lot previously of how she owes so much to the NHS – they were there for her and her family when her son Theo was born sleeping in 2011, and saved her life a year later when she ran into dangerous complications during the birth of daughter Hollie.
With the track on course to debut highly in Friday’s Official Chart, Amanda tells HuffPost she’s been left “over the moon and slightly weirded out” by the positive reception.
She says: “When we decided to do this a week ago with Marks & Spencer, I just said, ’Yep, absolutely let’s do this. As long as it gets in the top 40, I’ll be happy because you can then say you had a record in the top 40′. I never in my wildest dreams thought it would soar like this.
“Of course I’m delighted it’s currently at number one on iTunes, but it is all about the money we raise. I’m worried about it being number one because I don’t want people to think ‘Oh, it’s got to number one’ – I want them to keep downloading it.”
But in between fundraising, releasing music and making us laugh on Instagram – as well as continuing to present her breakfast show on Heart Radio – life in lockdown is still like the rest of us for Amanda.
As we speak to her on the phone from her south-west London home, she’s just finished an art class with her daughter (“I’m covered in black paint!”) and is juggling the phone in one hand as she makes tea for the family with the other.
Here, she chats about the need for lockdown laughs, the future of Britain’s Got Talent amid the coronavirus crisis and why she’s not going to apologise for enjoying a few glasses of rosé...
Congratulations on the single Amanda. You’ve obviously got a very personal connection to it – did that make you more nervous about people hearing it?
It’s always very nerve-racking putting anything like this out because people don’t know me for this, even though musical theatre is how I started out. So you don’t want to mess everything up and you hope everyone likes it and takes it for what it is.
I always think that as a judge on Britain’s Got Talent, I’ve got to be prepared to put myself out there and put myself on the line. But, I am a performer and it is how I started and what I’m supposed to do.
And that’s why you’re on the panel…
Hopefully it will keep me on the panel for a couple more years! [laughs]
Have you had any surprising reactions from anyone you weren’t expecting to impress or hear from?
All of my friends have been wonderfully supportive. Lauren [Silverman, Simon Cowell’s partner] was one of the first people to text me congratulations. She woke up in LA and passed on Simon’s congratulations too, because you know, he doesn’t have a phone or anything.
It’s all lovely, but for me, it’s not about that, it’s all about how much money we can raise, so it’s kind of embarrassing – I don’t want the glory of it. I do feel like I’ve got a lot in common with Captain Tom though, because he’s 99 and I’m 49, so I’m hitting my first half century and he’s hitting his second. It’s not something I thought would happen at this age, so you’ve made an old lady very happy!
Is the plan still to perform on Britain’s Got Talent?
Simon has heard [the album] and was very sweet about it and invited me to sing live, so whenever we release the album, I will sing on Britain’s Got Talent. I imagine that will be later this year.
The live shows have been postponed because of the pandemic – what is the latest there?
All of the main judges have been given a date to hold in early autumn to see if it works live. But we would never do it without an audience because we’ve always said the British public is the fifth judge. So we can’t do it without them – it would be no fun without them! We’ll see what happens, but we are planning to do it this year.
Simon has fought very hard for it to be on now, in its normal slot, and it celebrates Britain at its best. All our eccentricities, our nuttiness, and being able to laugh at ourselves is how we get through everything – we’ve got to still find the light in the dark.
One of the things I always look forward to is seeing what you’re going to wear, and I always enjoy how much you love winding up the people who complain to Ofcom…
It just makes me laugh that a bit of sideboob causes so much offence! It is ridiculous.
What I’m hoping for now is that when we get out of this and we’re on the other side is that people have a better sense of perspective about what is actually important. I’ve seen so much humility, love and appreciation of everyone, and we’ve all had a chance to sit back and really have a think about life and what it’s all about. So hopefully, they’ll complain about something more important than some tired old breasts.
I think you should just be more daring and outrageous...
Well, I have got all this time to think about what not to wear.
Your Instagram content has been a proper tonic over the last few weeks – how do you come up with the ideas for your posts?
I literally lie awake at night! No, I don’t really, but I just like being silly. But I’m really glad you’ve taken it how it is meant, which is a bit of fun and laughter. I’ve howled with laughter filming it.
My poor husband, who is the cameraman throughout, is just there staring, and I’m saying, “No, we’ve got to do it again!”. When I came downstairs in that pink gown, he was like, “What the bloody hell are you doing now?”. I was like, “I’m going to do a slow-mo taking out the bins”.
He thinks I’m mad, but my children particularly like the wedding dress one. I went up in the loft and found my wedding dress, and my eldest daughter then walked around the garden in it, so we now have to find a dry cleaner that’s open now.
Is there anything you’ve filmed that you’ve not been able to put on Instagram?
Let’s just say I’ve washed the car. That will be out when this is all over, I think. Even I’ve gone, “Hmmm”. It gets very sudsy, I’ll just say that...
You’re never afraid of being candid or a bit silly – like this story you revealed on Shopping With Keith Lemon – but do you ever get in trouble for sharing too much?
Yes, but mainly just from my husband. He says, “Mandy, I know you wear your heart on your sleeve, but honestly”. But No Holden Back is my name, so I have to live up to it really.
Speaking of Keith Lemon, there’s a spot on Celebrity Juice going now that Holly Willoughby has quit as team captain – would you be up for the gig?
I would love it, but it is hard work because they film for blinking hours. I remember when I filled in for Holly, I was like “Yeah! I’ll come and do that”. But obviously I do Heart Breakfast, which I get up for at 5.30am, they film it over in Elstree and I’m not joking, it takes about four hours and they don’t finish until really late. So I would say yes, I’d love to, but it takes too long!
I know Holly is not goodie-goodie by any means, but that’s what she plays, and I always think it’s better to watch someone who is straighter doing things out of their comfort zone. Everyone knows I’m up for anything, so it’s not as funny.
You are such a positive and upbeat person but have you found it difficult to stay that way during lockdown?
I’ve been really blessed because I’ve been able to continue working on Heart, so having the same thing of going to work every morning has really helped me to stay sane.
I’ve had to get my head round staying still, because I’m never still and always working – I’ve never really sat down in my house and enjoyed it and the lovely back garden we’re lucky to have. I’ve relished it, I’m not going to lie. I know it’s a terribly difficult time for so many people financially and their mental health, but I’ve been blessed with being stuck with the people I love the most and I’ve got to keep my job. So, I’ve learned a lot about myself and who I prefer to be, which is a lot less busy.
You’re homeschooling your kids – what are you like as a teacher?
I have to say, it’s my husband who is smashing it. By the time I’ve got home from Heart, he’s done it. I do all the good stuff – English and Art. I’ve just done this fabulous planets in the sky project, and last week we made a robot, which I loved. Chris does all the stinky stuff like Geography and Science. I love him.
Hollie [Amanda’s youngest daughter, who is eight] also respects him a lot more than she respects me, so they get a lot more done. As soon as I get home, they all get treats and have a lovely time.
We’ve had an insight into your home life on Instagram, but have you ever considered an At Home With The Holdens reality show?
It’s so funny, my husband is the life and soul at a dinner party or the pub, but he would die if there was a camera around, and so would my eldest daughter. But me and Hollie could do a little show and go out on the road.
In 2019, you joined Heart radio, recorded your album, got a doctorate and did a sky dive – is there anything left on your bucket list?
I would love to do a musical film. That would be a dream come true for me, definitely. Maybe this album, when it comes out, will open doors and remind people that I can act.
I’m getting serious Disney princess vibes...
Or a Disney princess’ mother! I could be Rapunzel ’s mum, that’s me.
[Her PR tells me my time with Mandy has come to en end] Ooh, go and have a lovely glass of rosé! I tell you what, I’ve run every day and I’ve drank every day – and I’m proud of it!
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.