Alesha Dixon has spoken out about racial prejudice in the British media. The TV presenter and singer said she had negative experiences because of the colour of her skin and said that there were still too few black female presenters, during an interview with Cosmpolitan magazine.
“There still aren't many black women on prime-time TV,” she said. “Times are changing, but it's interesting we're in 2013 and still experiencing firsts… Hopefully in the next 100 years things will balance even more. Britain is an amazing multicultural place to live in, and that should be celebrated and represented.”
Dixon spoke from first-hand experience when discussing the policies of some entertainment magazines. “Sadly, I've learnt that prejudice still exists in parts of the entertainment industry - I did an interview with a magazine once and the journalist quite openly said they wouldn't put a black person on the front cover because the magazine wouldn't sell,” she said. “It made me angry because it shouldn't be about the colour of the person's skin, it should be about the person.”
The 34-year-old said that not only was she the only mixed race girl at her school in Welwyn Garden City, but also there were few role models for her to look up to when growing up. “There were very few British black women on TV or in music when I was a teenager; when you're growing up you need someone you can identify with. I remember at Christmas being bought a doll that didn't look anything like me so I threw it away. When I saw Neneh Cherry singing on TV I was so glad that there was someone of the same ethnicity - and with the same curly hair - for me to look up to.”
She first found fame as a member of pop group Misteeq, despite having been warned by her family that she would struggle to make it due to the colour of her skin. “When I first told my dad I wanted to be a singer, he said, 'What makes you think you're going to succeed? Black people from this country don't succeed.' I remember that conversation as if it was yesterday because he was right - if you looked at the UK charts at the time there weren't many black British artists selling records… But I've always said you can't use colour as an excuse… I had to do what was right for me. In a way that gave me the determination to work harder.”
Dixon later won BBC contest Strictly Come Dancing in 2007 and then went on to join the judging panel on the show for three series between 2009 and 2011. She was full of praise for the corporation's acknowledging her. “When I joined the Strictly Come Dancing panel in 2009, the controller of the BBC came into my dressing room and said they were proud to have a woman of colour on their panel. It was so nice that they acknowledged it.”
The full interview appears in the May issue of Cosmopolitan, on sale April 4. Behind-the-scenes footage of Dixon's interview can be viewed at: www.cosmopolitan.co.uk/alesha