THIRTY years ago, when a 19-year-old Amanda Holden made her screen debut on ITV’s Blind Date she had no clue it would take 13 more years to find her soulmate.
Amanda first clapped eyes on handsome, floppy-haired record producer Chris Hughes in Los Angeles a few months after divorcing comedian Les Dennis in 2002, following a tricky seven year marriage featuring infidelity on both sides.
Recalling how she felt when she and Chris – son of Les’ agent, Mike Hughes – began dating a year later, Amanda insisted he sparked in her “something primitive” and she “had to be with him.”
Within two years the couple became parents to Lexi, now 15, before getting married in December 2008 at exclusive Somerset members club Babington House.
Then in 2012, one year after a tragic stillbirth, they welcomed a second daughter, Hollie, now eight.
As she hits 50, Amanda is approaching 19 years with Chris – good going in an industry where love is often short-lived.
So what is their stay-strong secret and how does their relatively private marriage actually work? Fabulous delves deep…
Neither take life too seriously
“The secret to our success is humour,” Amanda once revealed. “We take the Mickey out of each other mercilessly”.
Well, that explains their wedding invitations, which featured a cartoon of Amanda dragging Chris to the church on a lead.
When they got together she was 34 and would often whisper in his ear ‘yes’, before adding, ‘just practising’. Yes, really…
Not a day goes by when Chris, who Amanda describes as ”like a stand up comedian”, doesn’t elicit that infectious cackle and she has confirmed that good humour has helped them through strife, saying they can “make jokes out of any situation throughout the best and darkest times of our lives.”
In 2011, their son Theo was stillborn at 28 weeks, then after Hollie’s arrival a year later, Amanda almost died when she haemorrhaged so badly she flatlined for 40 seconds.
Amanda, too, is the centre of lols at the family home in Petersham, Surrey. During lockdown, snaps of the Britain’s Got Talent judge mowing the lawn in her wedding dress and wearing a ballgown to put out the bins went viral.
Then last April, when Chris dared her to leap naked on the girls’ trampoline she didn’t hesitate. "I would encourage anyone at home to strip off and have a cheeky bounce,” Amanda later told Heart FM breakfast show listeners.
Beyond family fun and simple things like baking and countryside walks with their dogs Rudie and Buddie, Amanda and Chris keep their marriage fresh by prioritising private time.
Last September they escaped for a weekend to Clivedon House in Berkshire and during lockdown sneaked into their Campervan for a romantic dinner alone. Full marks for effort!
He avoids the public eye
Amanda is a showbiz force of nature and more in demand today than ever – she’s the longest-serving BGT judge, a Heart FM staple, has a £1m recording deal with Virgin EMI, is on the cards to replace Holly Willoughby on Celebrity Juice and is fronting BBC One’s forthcoming eight-part series I Can See Your Voice.
Former insurance worker Chris, meanwhile, shuns the spotlight, making him a huge stabiliser within the marriage.
Amanda once revealed Chris “hates any public attention – I still can’t believe he married me!” In fact, he almost didn’t.
At the start of their relationship the couple were on shaky ground when Amanda was pictured at a gala dinner chatting to ex lover Neil Morrissey.
Sensing she was a magnet for media attention, Chris called it quits but changed his mind when Amanda penned him a letter, quoting Julia Roberts’ famous line in Notting Hill: ‘I’m just a girl, standing before a boy, asking him to love her’.
Shortly after, they moved into his new riverside penthouse apartment in Richmond on Thames.
These days, low key Chris is largely absent from two places where Amanda shines – her social channels and red carpets, which apparently make him so uncomfortable he breaks into a stress rash.
To spare his blushes, Amanda either invites a girlfriend or her gay pal, Ben Cooke.
Yet, there’s no escaping his wife’s blabbermouth. Not long ago Amanda confessed Chris is frequently “dismayed” whenever she divulges too much about their marriage.
The penalty? “Chris puts me on the naughty step,” revealed Amanda.
Yet Chris is always there to help Amanda tackle the pitfalls of fame, particularly social media trolls.
"I've got a very strong husband who is very sensible and not like me in any way,” she said last year. “He cuts through all the bulls**t”.
Romance is well and truly alive
Amanda is, in her words, a “strong, opinionated woman” and has revealed she and Chris have their own bank accounts (“I spend my money on what I want and that’s that”) but she openly relishes being “looked after” by a husband she dubs “a proper bloke” aka a true gent.
Not only does Chris keep Amanda’s car clean and ensure she relaxes (a dip in their outdoor hot tub with a glass of wine is a Mandy firm favourite) he’s also a dab hand at loving gestures.
Before their first date, when Amanda took a shine to a dress modelled by Jodie Kidd at a London Fashion Week show organised by Chris, he arranged for her to wear it at the Elle Style Awards.
He also flew out to South Africa when she was newly pregnant and filming ITV’s Where The Heart Is and, a few years on, snapped up a car Amanda had been pining for for years – a Morris Minor 1000 convertible, complete with red leather interior.
Romance is reciprocated by Amanda too. After meeting her die-hard Everton fan husband, she swore allegiance to the club and has since accompanied him to scores of matches.
Then to mark their 10th wedding anniversary she recorded a cover of The Greatest Showman hit Tightrope.
There’s no denying Amanda and Chris indulge in the finer things in life – and why not when on top of Chris’ fortune Amanda last year overtook Holly Willoughby as the UK’s top-earning female star, banking an estimated income of £5m+?.
Every year, the family holiday in Santa Monica and last summer, before a staycation in the Scilly Isles, jetted to Saint Tropez where they dined with Piers Morgan and his family at the lavish Le Club 55.
Yet their marital strength is rooted in simply enjoying being side-by-side. The box set-loving couple, who share a passion for QVC, are mega Netflix fans and, says Amanda, “love sitting down with a glass of wine in the evening when the kids have gone to bed”.
They build each other up
In the Hughes-Holden marriage, team work makes the dream really work.
Amanda once praised Chris for being her rock, saying: “He says he’s last on the family list after the hamster. It’s not true. I couldn’t do any of this without him because he’s my core.”
She commends him too for contributing ideas to her homeware range BundlBerry and dubs him “the most incredible hands-on Dad” who, she insists, never shies away from practical duties.
But Amanda respects Chris’ parenting limitations.
In June 2019, after landing her Heart FM gig, which requires 5.15am weekday starts, Amanda arranged morning childcare to help Chris with Lexi and Hollie.
Amanda later explained he would be “rubbish” at tasks including “remembering to test Hollie on her spellings” and “plaiting hair”.
On a more serious level, the couple have also invested in psychological support.
Last year, when Amanda released her debut album Songs From My Heart, she dedicated a cover of With You from the musical Ghost to her stillborn son Theo and Chris, who she said “stayed strong when I fell apart”.
The pair were subsequently diagnosed with PTSD and sought therapy to help process bottled-up emotions.
In addition, Amanda had twice weekly appointments with fertility expert Zita West who treated her with therapy, acupuncture and hypnosis, which rebuilt confidence in her body.
They've got a great sex life
Divorce rates might be rising during the pandemic but for Amanda and Chris, non-stop time together has been the making of them because, as she revealed recently, it’s all been “about the lockdown loving”. Ooh er, indeed.
That their love life needed a sprinkling of magic dust is debatable. In the past, Amanda has made no secret of her chemistry with Chris, a man she said from day dot inspired in her a “primal thing”.
As well as describing him as “an amazing kisser” – a quality she believes “really matters” in a relationship – she revealed in 2015 that he perpetually struggles to resist her age-defying size 6/8 body, which she keeps tip top with daily morning runs, boxing, Kundalini yoga, Viking Method training with her personal trainer Svava Sigbertsdottir plus eating healthy vegetarian food.
As a side note, her boobs went up from a 34B to 34C after having children.
“He can’t keep his hands off me,” explained Amanda. “I actually tell him off because I say ‘I don’t want to have a kiss and a grope while I’m trying to load the dishwasher. Chrispy’s up for it any time. Always. So it’s when I decide. Poor chap!”
But at the heart of their marriage is a deep mutual appreciation.
At the end of her autobiography No Holden Back, Amanda saluted Chris, saying: “I catch myself looking at you everyday and loving you a little bit more. How is that even possible?!”
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