by PREETI VIRDEE
It's not often you expect to be interviewing the first British female soloist to sell 1 million copies of a single in the UK in the name of rugby. But the beautiful game is becoming somewhat glamorous, and these days there are singing divas, supermodels and even Oscar winning actors all clamouring to join in the popularity of our favourite sport.
Alexandra Burke is one such young lady. She shot to fame after she won the British X Factor in 2008, and subsequently started breaking UK and European records for outselling other artists. Her debut single, 'Hallelujah' went straight to No. 1, and her first album, 'Overcome' also topped the charts immediately.
Now why, you may be wondering, am I talking about this gorgeous young lady in a rugby magazine...well, this patriotic diva is performing at Twickenham at the St George's Day Game. This conveniently gives us the excuse to diversify from sport for a short while and get the low down on an international music sensation.
In the build up to the game, Alexandra Burke was promoting the event with London Wasps and England stars, Danny Cipriani, Simon Shaw and Tom Varndell along with their Director of Rugby, Tony Hanks at world-renowned Selfridges & Co. The gang were there to exclusively sell 100 of the limited edition St George's day shirts, and hundreds of fans turned up to have their shirts and CDs signed. So obviously we jumped on the opportunity to get an exclusive interview with this demure artiste.
I was shown to her dressing room, and was met by her 'huge' entourage of precisely two; and there was this delightful, sprightly though tiny young lady simply full of life and energy. Unfortunately there just weren't enough chairs to go round, so she offered me the chair and just sat herself on the floor - that in itself was quite disarming; you hear and read numerous stories of divas and their over-the-top demands, pomposity etc. Well there's none of that with Miss Burke. Of course we both ended up perched on the floor in a most unladylike fashion.
I do believe I should declare my bias at the outset - I think Miss Alexandra Burke is an excellent singer with a soulful and passionate voice, which she proved she can turn to suit any style of music [I'm also a closet X Factor fan ever since England's Matty Stevens was runner-up in 2006]. So, now we have that out of the way, let me begin...
On the meaning of St George's Day, Alexandra firstly admitted her partiality towards Paddy's Day since she's a quarter Irish, but strongly believes that by being mostly English, St George's Day is important to her, and we should be proud and celebrate as much as the Irish do. A girl after my own heart, her major concern was what we drink on St George's Day; she then deduced it simply had to be champagne, and this would be a great time to take her family along for the party at Twickenham.
But this is not her first outing at the Home of Rugby; she performed at Twickenham back in her gigging days when no one knew who she was, and nerve-wrackingly just appeared at half time, assumed everyone was too busy drinking to really pay any attention, sang a number or two all on her lonesome then pottered off the pitch.
This year, it will be a slightly different affair; if Wasps can sell out the game, 82,000 will be the largest live gig Alexandra has ever performed at, and alongside her will be more than 300 dancers. She'll be centre-stage, holding her own as the main event outside of London Wasps beating Bath.
And for the second time she'll be performing to help our Armed Forces, since £1 from every ticket sold is being donated to Help For Heroes. The first time was when the X Factor finalists released the single 'Hero' for the same cause, and it became the fastest selling single of 2008...that is until Alexandra released 'Hallelujah' of course! She is thrilled to be supporting the charity again as it's very important to her, having met many servicemen when 'Hero' was released. She has no family in the Forces, but her Dad is trying to convince Alexandra's 17 year old younger brother to join the Army to instill some much needed discipline! Like most younger brothers, "Aaron thinks that money grows off trees...joining the Army would kick him up the bum and not take life for granted."
When asked what she knows about rugby, Miss Burke was most eloquent with her north London street speak: "Not much. My ex played rugby. But all I know about rugby is that the players are very fit! They are out there with the muscles man." So she won't understand what on earth is going on for those 80 minutes on the pitch on 24th April, but she loves rugby boys! Her opinion was hugely influenced that morning, as she was trying desperately to remain professional during the signings, but Varndell, Cipriani and Shaw proved to be very off-putting as they just would not stop cracking jokes.
Like all celebrities these days, Alexandra is hounded by the paparazzi whether she's at a public event or just trying to look at houses to buy. But she is under no illusion that they are a necessary evil; "Worry about it when they don't write about you, when they are not outside your house. I know their names and greet them. The day they stop following me is the day I have to start worrying about my career."
With regards to her career, she is an ambitious young lady. Obviously Alexandra Burke does not have to worry too much about her singing career since she is streets ahead of most of today's other 'entertainers' in that she has talent...she can both sing and dance which stands her out from the Cheryl Coles and Victoria Beckhams of this world [who of course are hugely successful but neither singing nor dancing are their fortes]. She has a lot to prove; a fashion line she started before the X Factor needs completion at some point, and she definitely wants to move into the world of acting after much encouragement from her drama teachers at school. But slowly slowly catchy monkey...with time on her side the opportunities are waiting to be taken.
Though the music she is performing today is very much of the pop genre, her inspiration comes from motown and soul. Alexandra's old school musical influences include Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey; more recently Aaliyah and of course her hero, Beyoncé, who she had the opportunity to perform with at the X Factor finals. Another crucial influence on her life is her Mum, Melissa Bell, who is a former lead singer of Grammy award-winning R&B act, Soul II Soul.
But the question of bringing her Mum to Twickenham on the 24th was not so simply answered. "My Mum is fabulous but is a naughty woman...she'll go up to every single player and say can I feel your arms and your thighs"; I suggested she could be a highly entertaining liability!
Obviously Melissa Bell's verve and joie de vivre have rubbed off on her beautiful and gifted daughter, and though Alexandra admits to being a little bit cheeky, I have no doubt her confidence, creativity and talent will be the key to her longevity in the entertainment industry.
Name:Alexandra Imelda Cecelia Ewan Burke
Birthday: 25 August 1988 
Position: Singing Sensation
Weight:Not a question you ever ask a lady
Club: London Wasps!
Hobbies:acting, dancing, gym, throwing great parties!