Just six weeks after giving birth to her son Xander, Katherine Jenkins took to the stage at London’s Royal Albert Hall to perform at the prestigious Classic Brit Awards. "There was a moment when I stood there thinking: 'What am I doing? This is crazy,'" the singer told HELLO! in November 2018 during an exclusive photoshoot - her first since welcoming her baby boy in April. "When you've just had a baby you identify yourself as Mummy, not necessarily as a performer, so it was nerve-racking to do an event as big as that. But I've been singing since I was four. It’s a massive part of who I am, so I hope I'll always be singing."
The 38-year-old is also a doting mother to three-year-old Aaliyah, Katherine's daughter with her artist and film producer husband Andrew Levitas. The former choirgirl from Neath, South Wales, is on good form and looking fabulous, which she puts down to running and regular boot camp sessions. Although Xander is still only six months old, her work schedule is busy, with the release this month of a new album, Guiding Light, and a UK tour planned for next spring. She's lucky, she says, that she can be flexible about work and is not tied to an office timetable. "For example, I'm doing this shoot today, but tomorrow I'll be with the children all day." But there are still small battles. "A perfect example is this morning. I had to leave early to get here, so I got up to feed Xander, who decided he wanted to feed for ages. I was looking at my watch thinking: 'Well, I won’t eat breakfast.'"
Katherine Jenkins looking amazing!
She added: "Then my daughter woke up early and wanted to be my shadow. So I had to think on my feet and say: 'Come and help Mummy shower and brush her teeth.' It was such a mad panic to get out of the door. That's when you have those moments of conflict and think: 'Should I be going to work? Or should I stay at home?' But I love what I do and I want them to see me work."
Katherine is clearly besotted with her baby son, who is a dark-eyed version of his mum. "I'm very close to my daughter, but he’s got me wrapped around his little finger," the star continued. "He's very chilled, calm and already has a sense of humour – he tries to make you laugh. And he’s already singing. Not anything in particular, but he’s using his voice to sing." Having felt such intensity when her daughter arrived, Katherine was worried at first that she might not love both children equally. "But it just happens. When you have your first child, your heart expands from zero to 100 and you feel elated. You don’t get that stretch of the heart the second time around, but I didn’t need it – I already knew how to love him in exactly the same way."
WATCH: Katherin Jenkins on motherhood and marriage
To avoid sibling rivalry, she came up with a cunning plan to convince Aaliyah that the baby would be hers when he arrived. "So she has ownership of him. She'll say: 'Mummy, my baby is hungry and wants more milk.' They're so into each other." On Guiding Light she has written a "lullaby prayer" for Xander, which fits the mood of this, her 12th studio album. "Some of my other albums have been quite anthemic and I’ve felt the need to sing big, high notes," explained Katherine, who signed her first recording contract, for six albums and reportedly worth £1m, fresh out of college aged just 23.
"I'm sure it’s to do with my personal life and feeling rooted and grounded, but I wanted to make an album which is more reflective, emotional and spiritual, and not feeling the need to go: 'Look at the things I can sing.'" There are a few surprises, not least her interpretation of Stormzy's Blinded by Your Grace, and a few songs that are deeply personal to her, including Jealous of the Angels, a song about loss and bereavement that resonated with Katherine, whose "forward-thinking" father Selwyn, who stayed at home to raise his two daughters, died from lung cancer when she was 15 years old. The first verse, she explains, is about saying goodbye to someone without realising it will be your last ever conversation with them. "That’s exactly what happened with my dad. We were told he had six months to live when actually he was gone in two. They pulled me out of school but he was already in a coma so I didn’t get the chance to say a proper goodbye."
She paused for a minute, trying not to cry. "It felt unresolved for a really long time. I was still a child and a year or so later I started to have nightmares, so someone suggested I went to see a child grief counsellor, which was the best thing I ever did as we worked on writing a letter to my dad to say everything I wanted to say." She now works with the bereavement charity Grief Encounter, which supports children and young people who have lost a loved one. Over the next few months she’ll be preparing for her tour, during which she’ll return home after every performance, as she has done ever since becoming a mother, so that she can be with her children for breakfast. "My mum was the breadwinner and gave us a real work ethic," said Katherine. "And I want my children to see that I’m dedicated and passionate about what I do. If I can share that with them, I hope it will be helpful in some way."
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