Customers travelling on the first long-haul Thomson Dreamliner flight this morning got a big surprise in the form of a very familiar face…
We think you’ll agree that flying off on your hols is exciting enough at the best of times. But imagine this scenario. You’re about to depart on the first long-haul flight to Orlando, Florida on the Thomson 787 Dreamliner, the plane set to revolutionise air travel. You’re already pretty pumped. You trundle up to the check-in desk at Manchester Airport, trailing kids and Trunkis in your wake, and you’re greeted, not by the usual airport staff, but a celebrity. Someone who is so famous you feel you know them even before you’ve met. The celebrity we’re talking about? The fabulous Alesha Dixon…
In preparation for Alesha’s appearance at a Thomson Airways check-in desk and on the Dreamliner today, she took part in some vital training beforehand – we couldn’t let it be a case of ‘all the gear and no idea’, now, could we? Ever the professional, Alesha took it in her stride and was the consummate student. By the end of the day, she had charmed every single last one of us.
Before our star pupil set foot on the Dreamliner for the first time, I was given some time with her for a quick chat. Or as our PR team dubbed it, ‘A World Exclusive’. I prefer their version. So, to pre-empt this interview, let’s just say not all my questions were entirely conventional. Okay, so most of them weren’t. In fact, I think it’s fair to say my main goal was to make Alesha laugh… as, if you’re familiar with Ms Dixon’s TV work, you’ll know that she has the greatest laugh known to mankind. It’s, quite simply, extraordinary.
So, first thing’s first, I started off on theme, asking her a few travel-related titbits…
El: Were you excited about joining the Thomson Airways team today?
Alesha: I was! The cabin crew were showing me how to use the trolley, showing me the uniform, and some of the menus that are available on the flight. It was really fun, actually. I mean, I travel all the time, so it was really nice to see it from the other side.
Do you have any travel rituals?
I get on the flight and the first thing I do is check out the menu. Then I check out the movies and plan what to watch. I usually wear something comfortable so I don’t need to change on the flight. I always carry those big flight socks – basically really cosy, warm, thick socks. I tend to bring a book, even though I never get around to reading on a plane because I’m always too busy watching the movies…
What sort of movies do you like to watch?
All sorts, really. What I like about flying is you can see movies that have only just come out, so if you haven’t had the chance to get to the cinema, you can catch up.
Would you say you’re an organised packer, or do you just throw it all in?
I’m an organised packer. I’ve been doing it for so many years. Sometimes, depending on what you’re doing in your career, it almost feels like you live out of a suitcase. So, by the time you’ve unpacked, you’re re-packing again – there is a bit of an art form to it. I always try and pack less – never works out that way – and you go away and say to yourself, I knew I didn’t need to pack that.
Better to have the choice when you’re there…
Better to have the choice, exactly. I’m a bit of a Monica when it comes to packing, so, very neat, very organised.
As a frequent flyer, do you have any tips for busting jetlag?
The great thing about the Thomson Dreamliner is that it reduces the effects of jetlag, which is incredible, as that’s most people’s issue about a long-haul flight… having to go back to work and function after a holiday. Luckily, I don’t suffer too badly from jetlag – I don’t know if that’s just because I’ve done quite a few long-haul flights that my body’s got used to it. But what I tend to do – like most people are advised – is drink lots and lots of water, stay hydrated, and when you want to sleep, sleep. Just listen to your body for what it wants, really.
Do you have a favourite holiday destination?
There are so many places I love, and so many places I’m yet to see, but I’d say Los Angeles is one I’d like to go back to. I know the area quite well now, and it’s hot, but the air’s still quite fresh. They’ve got some amazing restaurants, and there’s a place called Runyon Canyon, that I like going to, where a lot of people go walking. I just like the vibe out there.
Can I give you a little travel quiz?
Yeah! Oh gosh…
It’s called ‘Island or Mainland’ – are the following countries an island or are they on the mainland?
Oh no! This is geography! *laughs*
(My first laugh from Alesha! It’s like hearing unicorns sing. If unicorns could sing. And if they, in fact, existed.)
Never heard of it, so I’ll take a guess and say an island.
It’s actually on the mainland, in South America… how about Java?
Correct, it’s in Indonesia… and Bahrain?
It’s an island…
*shocked* I didn’t know Bahrain was an island! (Alesha asks team if they knew that – they confirm they did). Oh, man!
(Time to go a bit more “off-piste”. Deep breaths.)
I’ve had specific instructions from my boss to ask if you have any skincare or haircare tips that you can share…
*laughs* (oh, it’s never going to get old…)
She said you have the loveliest skin she’s ever seen, and would like to know your secrets…
Oh my goodness. I’m very fortunate that I have a glam squad, because they obviously look after my hair and skin really well, probably better than I would. With me, it’s very basic. Coconut oil, which is a really organic, natural product, without too many chemicals, and really good for your skin. I do drink a lot of water – that’s my staple drink… water, green tea, and I’m really into juicing as well. I do think you are what you eat, in that respect, so if you want good skin, it’s really the basic principles. I know I’m mixed race, but if I don’t sleep very well, I can look quite grey. I think I look more glowing when I’m rested, when I’m eating well, and I’m looking after myself. Exercise, too… all those things that we try to cover up with millions of products, but actually it’s the basic things that work the best.
(I can confirm she has indeed got lovely skin. I regret not having a facial en route.)
You’ve obviously worked on talent shows like Britain’s Got Talent, and your new show, Your Face Sounds Familiar, but do you have any hidden talents, besides singing and dancing?
Hidden talents? Hmm… erm, I can do a little bit of sign language. I don’t know if that’s a talent, though.
It would be if you did it to music…
That’s true, that would be good. Luckily for me, my talents have ended up being, for the most part of my career, how I’ve earnt a living, so I’m quite lucky in that respect. But I wish I had hidden talents. What you see is what you get with me! *laughs*
Who would you say is the biggest diva you’ve worked with?
(There’s a bit of debate in the room, before the name I was hoping for comes up…) Simon Cowell! That’s the most obvious one! But in a nice way. In a funny way. I mean, it doesn’t offend me. Because there are divas out there who are arrogant – even though he is a bit arrogant – but they’re not likeable. And he’s likeable. When he’s late, or if he’s doing diva-ish things, it’s just part of his whole persona. He’s always really charming, really nice, and quite funny, actually.
That leads into my next question – some of the come-backs to the performances on BGT are so quick, do you have a bank of clever comments to make, or is it completely off-the-cuff?
We don’t have time! I mean, the great thing about BGT is that when we watch the auditions at the same time as the audiences do, the producers probably know who’s coming out before we do… so it’s a genuine surprise, and it’s a natural reaction. I think that’s what’s great about the show.
Have you had a slip-up on live TV?
Not that I’m aware of! I don’t think I’ve ever sworn on live TV, or fallen over, touch wood…
It must be terrifying, though, with millions of people watching you?
I don’t get scared with live TV. I don’t know what it is. I get butterflies, but not in a scary way, just a nice nervous energy that you get before you’re going live. You’re getting ready for that moment. I enjoy it, because when something’s live, it brings a better energy, it makes it more fun. It’s the adrenaline. If I had the choice, I’d always pick live over a pre-record.
What’s your most treasured item of clothing or pair of shoes? What would you save first in a fire?
If I’m being really honest with you, I don’t think I own one item of clothing that I would save in a fire. They’re just not that precious to me. I’d save my mobile phone, probably, over a pair of shoes. But I do have some lovely shoes that I’ve been so fortunate to wear on shows like BGT, which I’d never normally wear out in my everyday life. But for TV, I’m lucky I get to play around with some amazing fashion. I’ve got a lovely wardrobe, but I’m selling most of it and giving the money to charity – I’m going to auction off all my BGT outfits.
You have 3 dogs – 2 of which are rescues. Do you talk to them like they’re animals or humans?
I’d probably say like an animal, but I guess we’ve humanised them, haven’t we? I love my dogs – apparently I talk to them in a funny voice, but I’m not aware of it. I just got back from a dog holiday. That sounds terrible, doesn’t it? After the BGT final, I went to Cornwall with my family, and we took 11 dogs, and there were 12 adults, and we rented a farmhouse. It was amazing, taking the dogs to the beach, to the river… that’s my idea of fun.
This morning on YouTube I watched ’77 Reasons Why Alesha Dixon Should Still Rap’…
*laughs uproariously* (it’s the best one yet)
What’s your all-time favourite YouTube video? Is it that one?
(Someone asks Alesha if she knew that one existed) No, I didn’t!! *laughs some more* Oh my goodness… but my favourite YouTube video has to be the baby, Charlie… ‘Charlie Bit My Finger’. *Does impression*. Yep, that one.
If you had to pick two celebrities to be your parents, who would they be?
Actually, yeah! Oh, definitely Michelle and Barack Obama. Actually, no, I’m changing it. Oprah Winfrey can be my mum, and the President can be my dad.
What was the best thing before sliced bread?
*Long pause* Unsliced bread? *laughs* Does it have to be something that doesn’t exist anymore?
It can be…
Oh, Bagpuss. *laughs for a long time* I can’t think of anything else! Yeah, Bagpuss.
What’s the weirdest fan mail you’ve ever received?
My mum runs my fan club, and she takes care of that side of things for me… but I get to see everything and I do reply to people when they write to me. I have somebody that writes to me, pretty much every other week… he’s called Ken Adams. But I think he’s pulling my leg. Because that’s obviously Joey’s alter-ego in Friends. He never leaves an address. I want to reply to him, because he’s been writing to me for so long, and he just tells me his whole life story – what he’s been up to, his views on things, like, essays, and I’m fascinated by it. But he never asks for a signed picture, or a reply. It’s the most bizarre thing that every other week, he takes time out of his life to write to me…
You could reply as Regina Phalange…
*laughs* Regina Phalange… exactly! But I’ve got nowhere to send it to, isn’t that funny?
(Time to pull out my trump card…)
So, you’re from Welwyn Garden City, I was born in Welwyn Garden City…
You’re joking!! Where?! At the QE2?
We were born in the same hospital!! Nooo…
(There follows a lengthy conversation about where we went to school, and how my mum and Alesha’s nan both live in nearby Datchworth, and how beautiful it is, and the rest of the room is looking on in total bemusement…)
Now, the most important question for anyone living in Welwyn Garden City is, what’s your favourite car park?
I like the Waitrose car park…
I do too, the one with the 2 levels…
Yeah, the Waitrose car park is good!
(More conversation follows about Datchworth and how her nan used to be in the village hall plays. I’m worried that I’ve used up all our time chatting about our mutual home-town, but thankfully I’m granted time for a couple more crucial questions…)
To test how down-to-earth you are, do you own a onesie?
I don’t, no. But I’d like to get one.
It’s the fleecy blanket with the sleeves… like an old lady blanket…
No, I don’t… no…
(I keep quiet about the fact I not only own one, but spend most of the winter months underneath it.)
You might want to look into that…
*laughs* Okay, I will…
How about a beanbag tray?
A beanbag tray? What’s that?! I’m so old school, I don’t know what that is. I have a normal tray! Is this a new thing? I’m so out of touch. I really need to get with it! *laughs* I’m putting that on the Christmas list.
Finally, instead of asking who your dream dinner party guests would be, I’m going to switch it around and ask who you’d put in Room 101 – who or what annoys you the most?
*laughs* What annoys me the most? Oh, petrol station toilets. They’re never clean! Sorry, is that a silly one? They just really annoy me! Just avoid them at all costs. So, petrol station toilets. And arrogant people.
But not Simon Cowell.
No. Simon’s allowed to be arrogant.
Thanks so much, Alesha…
Thank you, darlin’.
(To team) We were born in the same hospital!! *shakes head in amazement*
So, there you have it. I uncovered Alesha’s travel tips, her beauty secrets… and her favourite car park in Welwyn Garden City. I bet even Piers Morgan wouldn’t have got that scoop. To be honest, I think we were one invite to her nan’s house at Christmas away from being BFFs.
She may well think otherwise.
To see more of Alesha with the Thomson Airways team at Manchester Airport, visit Thomson’s Facebook page.
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Author: El Berwick
Published: July 8, 2013
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