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X Factor star Alexandra Burke: I’ll never forget my mum’s courage

Talented Melissa Bell, whose singing career was cut short by health problems, died on Monday aged 53

01 September, 2017

Alexandra Burke with her mother Melissa Bell

MELISSA Bell, who found fame singing with Stevie Wonder and Whitney Houston after working as a sales assistant at Marks and Spencer for 10 years, died on Monday aged 53.

Melissa, who lived off Caledonian Road, is believed to have died from kidney failure.

Her daughter, Alexandra Burke, who won The X Factor TV talent show in 2008, touched the heart of the nation when she revealed that she had been inspired by her mother, who was ill with diabetes.

Instant fame didn’t come to Melissa. She believed in “paying your dues”, and got a job at Marks and Spencer at Marble Arch.

When Mrs Thatcher visited the store, Melissa proudly lined up as the only black face to shake her hand, but the prime minister walked past her without acknowledge­ment. Whether this was intentional or not, Melissa never forgot what she called a “snub”.

After work, she joined bands by night and caught the eye of Jazzie B, founder of the influential Soul II Soul – another local musician who attended Holloway Boys’ School. Melissa was a pupil at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington.

Then she went solo but her rising career came to an end when a long-term diabetic condition led to kidney failure. Never one to give up, she helped Alexandra develop her musical talents while looking after her three other children, Shenece, David and Aaron, as a single mother.

Alexandra drew close to her mother as she struggled with the kidney condition. She is believed to have spent more than £20,000 on adapting her home. She offered to donate a kidney but her mother refused to take it.

In an online message, Alexandra said the family “will never forget her unconditional love, support, charisma, strength and courage throughout her life”.

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