Saturday, November 27

Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Janet Ellis: ‘Having a famous mother was a high-value coin when I was little’ | Family

BBorn in Hounslow, West London in 1979, Sophie Ellis-Bextor is the daughter of broadcaster Janet Ellis and director and producer Robin Bextor. Janet, the happy face of children’s television, especially Blue Peter, spent most of her career on screen, until she released The Butcher’s Hook, the first of two acclaimed novels, in 2016. Meanwhile, Sophie’s artistic pursuits They started out as one of the band’s indie favorites. The audience, before the stratospheric summer hit Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love) catapulted her into the mainstream in 2000. During the UK shutdown in 2020, her live-streamed kitchen discos saw her perform songs from her six solo albums. His memoir, Spinning Plates: Thoughts on Men, Music and Motherhood, is released on October 7. She lives in London with her husband and their five children; Janet lives nearby.


From the ages of five to seven, before my brothers and sisters came, it was just me and my mom. She had just gotten the job at Blue Peter, and all of my colleagues were watching it. I always hoped that she would take home whatever they were doing, which she occasionally did – there was a really cool Sindy doll bath, which even had little bars of soap, flannels, and towels. I loved. In photography, I am five years old; I can see the remains of the chicken pox still healing on my face. Strangely, I can remember the shirt I’m wearing, the feeling. That 80s fashion planted a seed for my wardrobe. You would probably still bid on it if you saw it on eBay.

Having a famous mother was a valuable coin when I was little. The people she had just met would want to be friends immediately. However, it was not always pleasant. Sometimes they would say, “Actually, you seem a bit stubborn and maybe you’re showing off your mother.” I’d sell Blue Peter badges on the playground – 50p for a badge, and if you had £ 1 you could get a signed photograph too. However, I don’t think I’ve ever been paid; What six-year-old goes to school with spare change? There are some people who owe me 50p.

When I started high school, that was old news. I met a whole new group of peers at a private high school that my parents very generously enrolled me in. That was obviously to welcome me to the academic world. But when I joined a band and said, “I’m not going to college, I’m going on the NME Brat Bus tour,” they were surprisingly good about it.

Being at Theaudience was an explosive moment for me: “Oh, sing! That’s what I want to do! “Of course, the press still mentioned my mother a lot. It’s a good talking point and I understand why, but after a while I found it frustrating.

It was a time of blokey in the media, dominated by men and ladette culture. It often felt like the Blue Peter reference was used as a little dig: “Don’t think you can walk in here and be mysterious or your own credible person.” I remember being on Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Mom kept showing up. At first, you sit there and say, “Yeah, funny! Hah. “But the joke is that they’ll keep doing it until you break up and walk away. Which is kind of intimidating, really.

After Theaudience fell, I was the last to hang on. Someone on my team ended up telling me: “You have to keep going. Is dead. Nobody cares. Do a year, then go to college. “I thought the greatest success of my career was over and I had just turned 20. It was pretty scary.

My mom and I had a lot of conversations; I watched how I managed. But when Groovejet appeared, I suddenly had something extraordinary to hold onto. I never thought he would sign me as a solo artist. I just thought: am I not lucky to sing again? It was also a way of saying, “Fuck you, NME. You can keep your little jokes. I’m going to go to Ibiza. “

In addition to the lockdown, we lost my stepfather, John, to cancer in 2020. Doing the kitchen disco broadcasts on YouTube was a survival mechanism. When I did the first one, I thought people would get the Mickey. He was 41 years old and wearing a sequined cat suit. Children were rolling everywhere. But the reception was incredible. There is a great vulnerability in it, and I often cried with the last song.

My mother and I now live 10 minutes from each other. He has a great relationship with his five grandchildren. Our parenting style is practically identical: Mom has always kept the conversation very open, but within the parameters of what is appropriate for whatever age she is. Which obviously means that now everything is fair game.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have this kind of relationship with their mother. She is my go-to for everything.


Sophie’s father and I were splitting up when this photo was taken. My main goal was to make sure she was protected; that things in his world were as stable as possible, but not silly. It wasn’t about sitting her down and saying, “Mom and Dad have decided …”. She is smart, I knew it. It was about keeping things flowing.

I was 23 when I had Soph. None of my friends had had babies yet. I thought I was the smartest person to get pregnant. She wasn’t completely planned; In fact, when I first told the doctor, a funny old man, that I was feeling a little bad, he said, “Oh! Typical gallstones! “

Obviously, I quickly realized what was going on. I had a fairly easy pregnancy and ate for about seven people. Eleven weeks after his birth, I auditioned for the BBC children’s program Jigsaw. Fortunately, the writer adored babies; I think that’s why he hired me.

I have had periods of unemployment; There have been difficult times in Sophie’s childhood. But I always felt that something would come out, and fortunately it has. I wasn’t the first Blue Peter host to have a child when I joined, but you probably can’t name the others because it wasn’t part of the show’s narrative; our role was that of the older sister. However, I still have Sophie on the screen; she got the hard end of the deal, because she modeled hairnets made from dishcloths and once dressed in repurposed garbage bags.

When Sophie was eight, she became the target of many older children, who found her fascinating. But it was all for the wrong reasons. It was because her mother was on TV. I had to say, “Yeah, they’re lovely people, but let’s invite so-and-so to play instead.” He didn’t want to make her feel like he had done something wrong, but he certainly didn’t want to encourage him.

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This article comes from Saturday, The Guardian’s new print magazine that combines the best features, culture, lifestyle, and travel writing in one beautiful package. Available now in the UK and ROI.

Thank you for your comments.

I was very supportive of Sophie when she joined a band. If it didn’t work out, he knew she would find out the following. At the time, people were commenting that at least I was entering “a world you understand,” but that was not true. The music industry is very different from anything I have encountered. I wrote my first novel late and thought the publishers would laugh at me, but it’s a very welcoming world. Music is not like that; It is an industry where you are judged 50% on your looks and 50% on your talent. I never wanted to lecture her, but of course there were things along the way that we had to correct. Misogyny should not be ignored. It always disappoints me when women my age do the opposite of saying, “Well, you know, I just dealt with it! He was jerking off on the bus! You just had to laugh! “No, that was never right. It wasn’t right then and it isn’t right now.

Sophie and I definitely share a sense of humor and decorate our houses similarly. Neither of them could pretend to be minimalist. My poor husband John, who died last year, had a single white wall in our house that they never allowed me to put anything on.

In Soph, I recognize a soul mate. I am not categorically her best friend, but I am very proud to be her mother. We can always look into each other’s eyes in a crowded room and know exactly what is going on.

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