Alexandra Burke says she deeply regrets going on tour while mother was dying

Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor
·4-min read

Alexandra Burke has said she deeply regrets going on tour while her mother was dying and described her final moments as she held her in her arms.

The singer and former X Factor winner said her mother Melissa Bell lived for another eight months after doctors told her she had 72 hours left.

She died aged 53 on August 17, the day Burke was due to join her co-stars to film the Strictly Come Dancing launch show.

Speaking to Elizabeth Day on her How To Fail podcast, she said she had been working flat out ever since she won the X Factor in 2008.

She said: “When my mum fell sick it all happened very suddenly, were weren’t expecting her to spiral so suddenly.

“Everything was fine one minute and then all of a sudden she had a stroke. It was like she was two different people.

“My mum was a strong woman that could speak and all of a sudden she had a stroke.”

Burke was in the middle of a tour of the Sister Act stage show, which still had months left.

Burke recalled her mother told her: “Quit? I didn’t raise a quitter.

“You had better get that black backside on to that stage tomorrow, people have paid to watch you.

“She said get the tour over with and then we will have time.”

Alexandra Burke singing with her mother Melissa Bell
Alexandra Burke singing with her mother Melissa Bell (Matt Crossick/PA)

Burke said while she was performing a member of theatre staff would have her phone in the wings and would give her updates during costume changes.

She said: “If anything was happening to her that I would have to leave the show and then I would drive from wherever I was Manchester, Sheffield, name it, I would sleep on the hospital floor, then drive back to London, see to my mum.

“I bought a blow up mattress bed, I would see to family, stay the night and go back and do the show.”

Describing how her mother lived for another eight months, she said: “She gave us another Christmas, she gave us another birthday each, a mother’s day.”

Breaking down in tears, Burke continued: “Then the last day of my show, I finished in Blackpool, I was driving back to London and I got a call saying ‘you need to come to hospital now’ so I drove to hospital, I got to the hospital and she passes in my arms within 10 minutes of me getting there.

“So I lost those nine months, I regret going on tour. I regret it so deeply, because I had so much more time in my car and on the road than I did with my mum and that really burns me because I should have just gone with my gut and listened to myself.

“I should have just told my mum ‘Look you’re the priority, let me just quit the tour and be with you.’

“Instead I listened to her, which she wanted me to do, and she didn’t want me to let anyone down, she was adamant you can’t let your fans down, that has been her thing since I won X Factor.”

Burke said she is now learning not to always put work first, saying: “You just don’t know what tomorrow is gong to bring and if you can hold off work for a day, it’s not going to hurt you.

“I’ve learned that and it’s taken me a long time to stop putting work at the forefront, I’m hiding what I’m going through because I am working so much and truly regret doing that for 12 years since winning X Factor.

“Just thinking about the love I have for my mum puts the biggest smile on my face, that love was unbreakable.”

She continued: “I was 29 when my mum passed away and I was so lucky to have had that strong role model in my life for 29 years, that is a long, beautiful time.

“What we shared, our memories we created together, money couldn’t buy that.”