Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden knows how the hit show can prove a big break as well as any of the acts.
The actress and TV star felt her image had been coloured by lurid headlines over her 2000 affair with actor Neil Morrissey – then her 2001 split from her first hubby, comic Les Dennis.
But when Simon Cowell made her part of the ITV talent show in 2007, she found it changed people’s perceptions of her.
Amanda, 48 and now married to music executive Chris Hughes, says: “Starting out on Britain’s Got Talent was liberating for me.
“I mean, without dragging up my past, I think, at the time I was with Chris, we’d been together for something like five years but people still kept going on about Les and Neil, and all the other stuff.
“So what was really nice was that anyone that might’ve had a preconceived idea of me could see who I really was and then really make their mind up.
“So, if they didn’t like me after, that’s totally fine as well. But I think I was able to make a wider audience understand that I probably wasn’t as bad as I’d been portrayed, or as naughty as I’d been portrayed.
“I am naughty, I stand by that, but in a good way!
“I think it’s important that everyone has a sense of humour in these difficult times.”
Looking back, Amanda admits she got a lucky break with BGT.
She says: “It’s very surreal because I was lucky. Simon picked me because I was in a very well-known drama at the time that was doing well. So I was lucky that I was in Wild At Heart and he knew me.
“My career as an actress has essentially been put on hold, because BGT has been the biggest thing in my life.
“I’ve gone down a road where I’ve been absolutely able to use my personality.
“I kind of feel very comfortable in that area, being able to be funny as a judge has allowed me to go back into comedy acting. I’ve just filmed Plebs for ITV2, which is where I started.”
BGT is hailed a celebration of our weird and wonderful country and new series BGT: The Champions will showcase acts from around the world.
Amanda says of Brits: “We’re about not taking ourselves too seriously, laughing if we fall over and getting back up.
“I strongly believe we are a warm, very tolerant country, we’re fun and we are stoic and strong.
“I think all of those elements are showcased in Britain’s Got Talent, so doing a champions series is brilliant as it’s a way of uniting the entire world, because we have people from all over the globe coming to compete and we’re welcoming them onto our stage in the capital.”
Saturday’s competitors include 2007 winner Paul Potts and singer Connie Talbot – who was a gap-toothed child when she reached the finals in the same year.
One of Cowell’s “favourite acts ever”, Boogie Storm, also feature in the line-up of British acts for the spin-off’s first episode.
Foreign acts that will thrill viewers include a daredevil father and daughter duo on the wheel of death.
And sand artist Kseniya Simonova – who won Ukraine’s Got Talent in 2009 – will line up with Indonesian illusionist The Sacred Riana and Australian comedy duo the Nelson Twins.
And show judge David Walliams thinks BGT has potential to run and run, saying: “It’s weird because not many talent shows get to run this long.
“There’s no sign of it slowing down. It could easily be on for another 13 years and I think it might be. I used to watch the show when it started because I loved it so much.
“I’ve always watched Simon’s shows and done the same things as everyone does, you know, shout at the TV, ‘Why have they put that one through? Why’s this happened? Why’s that happened? The audience picked the wrong person’.
“That’s part of the appeal of Britain’s Got Talent, even sitting at home you feel involved.”
Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions starts on ITV on Saturday, August 31 at 8pm.