The Voice’s Emma Willis admits talent shows won't create huge stars again and 'those days are over'

ITS winners have struggled to find chart success but Emma Willis insists she marvels at the talent on display in The Voice UK.

Though a household name with a string of telly hits on her presenting CV, Emma says she is “in awe” of the wannabes.

In an exclusive interview, the 44-year-old said: “I love finding people who are talented and can sing — because I sound like a cat when I sing. So I’m in awe of people who’ve got a good voice.

“The coaches tried to get me to sing once. It was not going to happen. If I sang, people would literally run away. Can you imagine me singing in front of Tom Jones?”

Her karaoke song of choice? “Living On A Prayer by Bon Jovi — you really have to go for it. If I’m on a night out, I think I’m pretty good. But only I think that.

“It’s a crowd-pleaser. Everyone joins in and they can’t really hear what you sound like. That’s my top trick.”

Though modest about her singing talents, Emma’s enthusiasm for the show is undimmed, having replaced Holly Willoughby as host in 2014.

Emma said: “It’s such a lovely show. I’ll be there until they get rid of me. I don’t plan on going anywhere. I mean, what’s not to like about it? I’ll be there for as long they want me.”

The first semi-final of this year’s contest airs on Saturday at 8.30pm.

Guest mentors Mel C, Danny O’Donoghue, James Bay and Leigh-Anne Pinnock will aid regular coaches Tom Jones,, Olly Murs and Anne-Marie.


For the wannabes, fame is far from certain. No winner has yet bagged a No1 single, unlike past champs of Pop Idol and The X Factor.

Emma said: “I think the days of JLS and One Direction and the success they got from this kind of show are long gone.

“If success is getting a No1 (record), that’s one thing. But a lot of people want to make music their living and that doesn’t necessarily mean topping the charts.

“It depends how you measure success. Plenty of people from the show have gone on to make music their career.

“Many have gone on to work in musical theatre and that is a way of living by making music and singing. It depends how the individual sees it.

“Not everybody measures success in the same way. The music industry is so unpredictable. Who knows what will happen?

“All I care about is that the people who come on the show have a good time and hopefully carry on and make music their livelihood.”

Emma is relieved the show can take place at all given lockdown.

She said: “I’ve loved it, actually. Work is now like a night out because we can’t go out.

“It’s like how you normally can’t wait for the weekend to go out. Well, now I can’t wait for work to go out!

“So it was good to get that phone call saying, ‘We’re going to go again’ — and that we’re able, with very strict guidelines, to make it happen.

“So it’s been good. It’s nice we can have a virtual audience, too. It’s different without a live studio audience — but thank God for technology we can still have a few hundred people on screens watching as it’s happening.

“It doesn’t have quite as much of that live atmosphere you get in a room when you’re recording something like that.

“But how lucky are we that we actually get to go out and work and do it?”

Pop stars feature prominently in Emma’s personal life as well as her career. She married Busted singer Matt Willis, 37, in 2008 and they have three kids together: Isabelle, 11, Ace, nine, and Trixie, four.

The telly star was praised by fans on social media recently for sharing a picture of son Ace rocking a pink top and sporting long, blonde hair. On the idea of raising children gender-neutral, Emma said: “It’s a really individual, personal thing.

“My son likes what he likes. Far be it for me to stop him expressing himself or experimenting however he likes with clothes.

“Hair is hair, clothes are clothes and colour is colour. If my son wants to wear a pink top, I’m certainly not going to stop him.

“Let kids explore. Kids love exploring. And they don’t just have to explore in the dirt with worms and spiders — they can explore with colour and clothes and hair. I just let him be him.”

Emma has enjoyed seeing more of her family over the past year.

She said: “The lockdown is not something any of us could have ever pre-empted or could really get our heads around. But now we’re in the third one, I’m just trying to make the most of my time at home with my kids. At some point, when we resume something close to the life we knew before, they will be back at school.

“Hopefully I’ll be busy again and then I’ll be going, ‘Oh, I just want to be at home with the kids!’

“So I’m really trying to make the most of it and interact with them and be present with them and do what they want to do.

“So, as strange as this time has been, you kind of have to weigh it up and go, ‘I’ve loved being with my kids so much’.”

While Emma has been fortunate to keep working during the pandemic, Matt admitted candidly on his podcast he has not “paid towards anything this year”.

The singer, who was in and out of rehab in the Noughties for drug and alcohol addictions, renewed his wedding vows with Emma in 2018, ten years after they married.

He has said he hated looking “like a competition winner” standing next to his bride.

But Emma said Matt remains in good spirits despite the inevitable impact of his work drying up.

She revealed: “From a work point of view, it’s been quiet in comparison to how it normally is for him.

“But he does the podcast (What No One’s Watching, with comedian Matt Richardson) so that’s been really good, actually. He has an outlet and it’s something he can do from home.

“Regardless of work, the whole thing has had an impact on all of our mental health, hasn’t it? It’s a funny old time.”

Emma has overcome uncertainties of her own — including being star-struck.

Of working with Sir Tom, 80, she said: “For quite a few years, I was like, ‘I don’t know what to say to him!’ But now I’ve got to know him, I love listening to him tell stories.

“He’s a very funny, lovely man and I feel privileged I get to work alongside a legend like that. Him and Olly together are a match made in humorous heaven.”

Olly has come out on top among the coaches for the past two contests, mentoring Molly Hocking in 2019 and Blessing Chitapa last year. To celebrate his most recent win, Olly stripped off to perform a celebratory dance the ballsy singer shared with fans.

And if he seals a hat-trick?

Emma said: “I definitely think he’ll get naked again because he bloody loves it — I just don’t know how. He’s quite inventive.

“And he’s quite competitive, so he’ll absolutely want to win. The other three (coaches) are very competitive too, so they will absolutely want to take his crown.

“But I have no doubt if Olly wins, he will definitely be naked and hiding his prized possession behind something.”

  • The Voice UK’s first semi-final airs on Saturday at 8.30pm on ITV. The second semi airs on March 13.

Talent winners' track records

Will Young – Winner of Pop Idol, 2002


ACCOLADES: 2 BRIT Awards for British Breakthrough Act and British Single of the Year

RECORD SALES: Over 8 million worldwide


Gareth Gates – Runner-up of Pop Idol, 2002


ACCOLADES: Record of the Year Award, 2 Smash Hits Awards and an MTV Asia Award 

RECORD SALES: Over 3.5 million worldwide


Leona Lewis – Winner of X Factor, 2006


ACCOLADES: 2 MOBO Awards, an MTV Europe Music Award, 2 World Music Awards and a six-time BRIT Award and three-time Grammy Award nominee

RECORD SALES: Over 30 million worldwide

ESTIMATED NET WORTH: Over £20million

JLS – Runners-up of X Factor, 2008


ACCOLADES: 2 BRIT Awards, 5 MOBO Awards and won the title of the UK’s hardest-working band in 2011 and 2012

RECORD SALES: Over 6 million worldwide

ESTIMATED NET WORTH: £18million combined

One Direction – Finalists of X Factor, 2010


ACCOLADES: 6 Billboard Music Awards, 7 BRIT Awards, 7 American Music Awards and 28 Teen Choice Awards

RECORD SALES: Over 70 million worldwide

ESTIMATED NET WORTH: £260 million combined

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