Amid the ongoing scandal over at the original AGT following former judge Gabrielle Union‘s exit, the British star tells PEOPLE that she feels privileged to be a part of the spinoff. Dixon is specifically the only judge of color alongside Simon Cowell, Heidi Klum and Howie Mandel.
“When I got my first job as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing in 2009, I was very aware of the role I was taking on,” Dixon, 41, recalls of being the only woman of color on that judges’ panel with Craig Revel Horwood, Bruno Tonioli and Len Goodman. “There are lots of young girls and boys who want to look on television and want to feel represented. I loved that I represented that for a lot of people.”
Similarly for Champions, the mom of two says she’s “aware” of her “unique position” to represent inclusion on the show.
“As a woman of color, I feel super proud and honored. Hopefully, in my very little way, I can inspire other people to go out there and fight for the things they want, their passions and the things they’re inspiring to achieve in their lives,” she says. “I count my blessings, and I’m very grateful that I can honestly say I love my job. I’m aware that it puts me in a very unique position. I don’t like to take that for granted.”
Dixon, who also stars on the Cowell-produced Britain’s Got Talent, emphasizes the global reach the franchise offers its contestants.
“The reason why I love working on Got Talent so much is that no matter what corner of the world you’re from — whether you’re female, male, old, young, black, white, gay, straight — we embrace everyone so everyone feels a part of something. It’s wonderful,” she says.
News broke on Nov. 22 that Union, 47, and Julianne Hough would not be returning for AGT‘s 15th season. The announcement stirred up a controversy over Union’s reported allegations of racial insensitivities on set. A Nov. 26 report by Variety claimed that while working on the show, Union expressed concerns over a joke allegedly made by guest judge Jay Leno that was later edited out of the episode.
The report also claimed both Union and Hough, 31, said they were subjected to “excessive notes” on their physical appearance. In one instance, Union reportedly said she was told her ever-changing hairstyles were “too black” for AGT‘s audience, while Hough reportedly said she received constant criticism on her hair, makeup and wardrobe.
In a statement to the publication at the time, Hough denied that she had a negative experience on the show and said she was “happy to continue my working relationship with NBC.”
Then, Union revealed on Dec. 4 that she sat down with NBC and AGT production companies following reports that she expressed concerns over racial insensitivity and a toxic culture at the show, which is produced by Fremantle and Cowell’s company, Syco Entertainment.
In a joint statement, Syco Entertainment, Fremantle and NBC said: “We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture. We are working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate.” Union also tweeted about the talk, writing, “We had a lengthy 5-hour, and what I thought to be, productive meeting yesterday. I was able to again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change.”
On Saturday, during NBC’s Television Critics Association press tour, president of NBC Entertainment Paul Telegdy shared that the show is “in the middle of an investigation,” calling it “really serious.”
Telegdy, who said the results of the investigation should be available “by the end of January,” explained, “We certainly take anyone’s critique who comes to work here incredibly seriously,” adding, “if we learn something, we’ll certainly put new practices in place, if necessary.”