As she prepares for her first Mother's Day without her beloved mum, singer, songwriter and actress Alexandra Burke pours her heart out to HELLO! about the woman who inspired her and her extraordinary musical journey. "I owe everything I have in my life to her," says The X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and West End star of her mother, the Soul II Soul chart-topper Melissa Bell, who died last August at the age of just 53. "This passion inside me, I absolutely inherited it from her. Losing her is still quite raw for me so I'm taking it one hour at a time."
To pay tribute to her precious mum, who battled kidney disease for nine years, Alexandra penned the poignant song The Truth Is for her new album of the same name. "I wrote it for her," she says of the track, which includes the line: "I get scared of life without you."
"The thing is, I've always been the kind of person to sugarcoat how I feel. When people asked me how I was, I used to reply that I was great and everything was fine. But now I'm learning to be honest and that if something is wrong I talk about it.
"I started writing this album five years ago, but so much has changed in my life since then. So I scrapped some of the original songs and wrote new ones, wearing my heart on my sleeve about where I'm at now.
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"I've poured my heart and soul into my new music and it reflects the incredible journey I've been through – the highs and lows, love and loss. It's a mixture of everything I've gone through in the past couple of years."
The 29-year-old London-born singer has certainly experienced some phenomenal highs. From winning The X Factor in 2008 – after which she had a No. 1 hit with Hallelujah – to starring in West End shows such as The Bodyguard and Sister Act, to reaching the finals of last year's Strictly Come Dancing (she lost out in the final to Holby City's Joe McFadden), Alexandra's versatility has propelled her to stardom.
"When I look back at how many opportunities have been thrown my way over the last ten years, I feel very lucky and take nothing for granted," she says.
However, competing on Strictly was a bittersweet experience for the effervescent performer. Although she bowled over viewers with her fancy footwork, deep down she was grieving for her mother – a Strictly fan – who had died a few days before her daughter began work on the show.
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Despite her complex emotions, Alexandra discovered a new passion on the dancefloor.
"I had never done Latin or ballroom before but my dance partner Gorka [Márquez] and I were rehearsing ten hours a day," she recalls. "I went into a bubble where I became addicted to dance – I wanted to do it all the time. Those moments on stage every Saturday were the most carefree I've felt in my life."
A few days after her Strictly finale, there was even more happiness in store: her boyfriend of three years, stage manager Josh Ginnelly – whom she met while she was starring in The Bodyguard – whisked her off to Paris, where he asked her to marry him.
The couple live together in Hertfordshire with their four dogs. "He is my rock and we’re very happy together," says Alexandra, flashing her dazzling diamond engagement ring. "He's so supportive – a wonderful person."
Now, as she prepares for yet another West End role – this time in Chess – after which she will embark on a UK tour of The Truth Is, she says: "Music will always be my first love. It’s my way of dealing with anything in life. I hope that when people listen to my new album, they will be able to relate to it and see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"I'm still on my journey to find my light," she adds. "But the way there for me is through my voice, through singing."
The Truth Is is released on 16 March by Decca Records.