Amanda Holden is in the middle of a glamour pit stop. She’s having eyelashes stuck on at the same time as her toenails are being painted, whilst conducting our interview.
She’s getting ready for a photoshoot for JD Williams, the high street brand which has hired Holden and fellow television presenter Davina McCall to relaunch its fashion collection, hoping to appeal to stylish over-50s.
“We are refreshing the entire thing,” Holden explains. “Neither Davina nor I give a damn about age and how one is ‘supposed to’ dress in their 50s. I want to guide women to see that there are no limits.”
Holden, who turned 50 in February, doesn’t hold back when it comes to her views on antiquated and ageist style rules. In her JD Williams shoot she wears a ruched bodycon dress, a silver jumpsuit and an oversized tuxedo jacket as a mini.
On her way into work every morning, to present Heart FM’s radio breakfast show, she is photographed by waiting paparazzi wearing thigh-split skirts with draped blouses, off-the-shoulder crop tops and colourful shirtdresses. For years, when it comes to style, she has ignored critics and marched to the beat of her own drum - why would that change now, she asks?
“I wouldn't say that I've always been on point,” she says. “But I definitely always dress for myself and other women. I've never dressed for men. I like the idea of pushing what you see as 50; when I look at people like Kylie Minogue, Sharon Stone and Jennifer Aniston, they're ahead of me in age and they are who I look up to. We don't all look like Jennifer Lopez, but we certainly can make the best of what we've got.”
“I've never dressed for my age, I think that's a generational thing,” she continues. “When my mum hit 50 I remember she stopped dyeing her hair and started covering up and I've done the complete opposite. I thought my mum and dad were ancient when they had their 50th birthdays. Now my daughter borrows my clothes and she’s 15; it’s a completely different time.”
Holden, who grew up in Portsmouth, says that she has always been inspired by the transformative power of fashion and how the right outfit makes you feel. She describes rummaging through bags of hand-me-downs from an older cousin as a childhood highlight.
“We didn't have a great deal of money growing up,” she remembers. “My [other] favourite thing was spending the summer holidays with my grandparents in Gloucestershire as they would treat me and my sister to new clothes and always a brand new dressing gown. We would put on a catwalk show for my grandad in the back garden.”
Due to the nature of being on television and filmed daily whilst broadcasting the radio show, Holden describes her wardrobe at home as something of a revolving closet. She aims to wear something different every day and sets out her outfits the night before as it makes her feel prepared.
“There’s a huge turnover of outfits in my wardrobe because of my work,” she explains. “I'm so lucky I get gifted quite a lot, but nothing is ever binned. I give bags full away to friends and neighbours, and then most I sell on my Depop account raising money for my charity Theo’s Hope [Holden started the fund in memory of her stillborn son Theo, and it is run in conjunction with baby loss charity Tommy’s]. Despite the change over everything is very organised and colour coordinated - it's like a filing cabinet of fashion.”
Holden describes herself as a true high street fan and cites Zara, & Other Stories, Nobody’s Child and Free People among her favourite places to shop.
“I love when someone asks me what I'm wearing, and I can say that it's affordable,” she says. “The worst thing is when you ask someone and they say it's Gucci. I think ‘well I’m not going to buy that unless it’s on someone else’s [television wardrobe] budget’.”
For big occasions and red carpet appearances, Holden works with personal stylist Karl Willet, who also dresses Kylie Minogue, Sheridan Smith and Paloma Faith.
“He makes me take more risks,” she says of what the relationship brings to her wardrobe. “He has access to designers that I've never heard of, and that I can wear on shows like Britain’s Got Talent. I've got classic stuff in my wardrobe that I'll use year in year out, but now and again he will show me something completely bizarre and I love it.”
A star of British television and theatre since the mid 1990s, the campiness and glamour of fashion have always appealed to Holden. “I always say I'd much rather be overdressed than underdressed - I would <die> if I turned up to something and looked too casual,” she hyperbolises on cue.
Even during lockdown, Holden was out to deliver fashion fun for her 1.7 million Instagram followers. The self-proclaimed ‘Vera Lynn of TikTok’ was filmed taking the bins out in her ballgowns and mowing the lawn in her wedding dress.
“When Ofcom gets involved we have to take it seriously,” she says, acknowledging the occasions in 2020, filming Britain’s Got Talent, when her necklines received formal complaints. “But with general comments on social media I just think you have to laugh. People have their own opinions and I respect that people's opinions are different to mine.”
Holden’s confidence is her greatest asset - she puts it down to a combination of feeling secure at home, exercising and “drinking copious amounts of rosé”.
“It sounds like a cliche, but I'm happy in myself and happy in my life,” she says. “I've got a husband that chases me around the house like a Benny Hill sketch, he makes me feel desired. I feel good about myself because I love going running, and I’m never into diets.”
“I think do what makes you happy and you will feel better inside and you will stop giving a damn,” she adds. “As you age you really do start caring less - in my 30s and 40s I felt like that, and never more so than now. 50 to me feels like a completely different mindset.”
The JD Williams Womankind campaign is out now, visit www.jdwilliams.co.uk