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Lenny Henry's heartwarming comments about daughter Billie he shares with ex-wife Dawn French

The Comic Relief presenter is hosting the Red Nose Day show for the last time in 2024


Lenny Henry attends "The Lord Of The Rings: The Rings Of Power" World Premiere © Dave J Hogan,getty
Sophie Hamilton
Parenting Editor
March 18, 2024
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Comedian Lenny Henry is known for his hilarious stand-up routines and for hosting the Comic Relief, which he has now retired from.

Away from the cameras, Lenny is dad to his daughter Billie, aged 32, who he adopted with his former wife Dawn French.

In a recent interview Lenny, 65, revealed the thoughtful work project he created for his daughter: writing children's books with diverse characters so that Billie, who is mixed race, could identify with them.

Dawn with Lenny Henry in 2006© Getty
Dawn was married to Lenny Henry for 26 years

The star, who first shot to fame on the talent show New Faces, told Capital XTRA Breakfast while promoting his book The Boy With Wings: Clash of the Superkids: "I never saw any black superheroes. We've got Blade."

Lenny continued: "The Black Panther, The Falcon, Black Lightning, Static, we’ve got a few superheroes, but not very many and we’ve certainly got no leading people of colour in children's books."

Dawn French, Lenny Henry and Family© J.Tregidgo
Dawn's daughter Billie at the wedding of Jools Holland in 2005

He added about Billie: "She loved The Hobbit and all the CS Lewis books, but she was like, ‘where am I?’. I ended up writing two books for my daughter, they’re about a little girl called Charlie and she had big hair and she had all these adventures, and I guess these books are for my granddaughter when she gets older. I just want my family to see themselves in a book. It's important to me."

Lenny and Dawn married in 1984 in Covent Garden, London, and adopted Billie in 1991 when she was just two weeks old, after struggling to conceive. The couple split in 2010 after 25 years of marriage, and

Lenny is now in a relationship with theatre producer Lisa Makin, whom he met in 2012, and the couple live in Oxfordshire. Dawn meanwhile, is remarried to Mark Bignell, who has two grown-up children of his own, Olly and Lily.

Lisa Makin in a black dress with Lenny Henry in a suit© Richard Young/Shutterstock
Lisa Makin and Lenny Henry at the Olivier Awards in 2023

Dawn previously revealed how Billie enjoyed being an only child, opening up to The Telegraph: "I’ve got a daughter who bought a T-shirt for herself when she was about eight that said, ‘I’m an only child, let’s keep it that way.'

"She perfectly well likes her new stepbrother and sister but she has been an only kid for a long time so I have to keep that in mind. She’s had a lot of me to herself."

Dawn and Billie live 12 minutes away from each other, with Dawn telling the publication they have had challenging moments: "We could no longer live together - there would be murder. But we have to live nearby." 

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