Alison Hammond, the presenter on ITV’s This Morning and actress with the most infectious laugh in television, was born and raised in Birmingham alongside two siblings by a Jamaican immigrant who worked several jobs to support the family. From an early age, Hammond knew she wanted to perform in some way, but it was her appearance on Big Brother in 2002 that launched her television career. She has since appeared on Strictly Come Dancing, Loose Women, Stars in Their Eyes (as Nina Simone), and currently presents This Morning alongside Dermot O’Leary.
In her Letter To My Younger Self, the 47-year-old tells Adrian Lobb about famous childhood friends, her upcoming book on Black history, and how her mum has always been her biggest hero.
My mum got a brand new council house when I was one because she then had three kids and she was a single parent. It was in a place called Kingstanding in Birmingham. To us this little three-bedroomed house was like a palace. We had a front and back garden. There was a drive and a garage. It was like we had landed.
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We were in a predominantly white area with quite a bit of racism around. There was a lot of National Front around, but we seemed to be OK. I think it’s because all the community absolutely loved my mum because she was a Tupperware manager. She would bring the Tupperware to their house and do parties and stuff. I had a pretty happy childhood. If someone called me nasty names, it would be like water off a duck’s back because my mum would always say “You’re amazing” or “You’re wonderful.” And what she said was much more important to me.
As a teenager, I was really into dancing. I did tap, ballet, modern and I used to go to a drama school called the Central Television Workshop. It was wonderful. I got to act and learned all the techniques of acting and TV and theatre, and found out what goes on behind the scenes. My mum was really encouraging. She used to do extra work on films and TV shows and would get quite a few non-speaking parts. Whenever she could she’d get me and my brother in on it too. I did a film with Sting called Artemis 81 when I was six, which was incredible. So she pushed for me to be in the industry, but I think it was mainly to get me off the streets so I didn’t fall in with the wrong crowd.
As you can probably tell, my mum was one of my heroes. She had to do three jobs to make sure we were all OK. There was nothing we didn’t have. If I wanted rollerskates or my sister wanted a doll’s house, we’d get it. My brother wanted to become a drummer and she bought him a drumkit. Even at the time I could see how hard she worked, how tired she was when she got home. She was everything to me, my mum. As I grew up, I took on a bit of her work ethic – although I’m trying to wind things down now.