Welcome to Metro.co.uk‘s The Big Questions, where we ask, well, the big questions (and the smaller ones too), and this week, we’re diving deep with AJ Odudu.
The presenter has become a staple of British TV, having hosted Big Brother’s Bit on the Side, competed in Strictly Come Dancing and been the face of Eurovision 2022’s UK jury.
And things are only going up for the Blackburn-born star: 2023 brings AJ back to the Eurovision spotlight, she’s set to appear on Celebrity Bake Off and hosting Comic Relief alongside other major names.
There’s also persistent rumours she could be in the running to take on hosting Big Brother when it returns – though AJ insists she’s not sending out cryptic messages about it.
Metro.co.uk sat down with AJ to talk all things Comic Relief, her future in the spotlight and how she always believed she’d break into the TV industry.
You grew up one of eight children – is showbiz and TV always what you wanted to do?
Yeah, as you can imagine, with 10 people all growing up in a tiny, tiny terrace, It was absolute chaos and pandemonium in our house. The house is always messy, always loud, but always filled with so much fun and joy. And I definitely always wanted to be a TV presenter.
You know, sometimes people say, ‘when did you start in TV?’ and my mum always says, ‘she’s been presenting since she was six years old.’ In the kitchen, in the living room, doing a show. It was always showtime for me.
It was amazing to grow up as a part of such a big family. Just having essentially a lot of people to show off in front of!
With that many siblings around you there must have been a ready-made cast for you to play TV pretend games with.
Exactly! My poor sister. She’s younger than me, so I was always like, ‘right: you need to pretend to be a pop star and I’m gonna ask you questions – go!’ And she’d say, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ And I’m like, ‘yes, we’re doing it. And now we’re doing it in front of everyone. Come on everyone, watch our show!’ So I think she’s just really happy that she’s not roped into doing any more silly little games that I would make her play.
So if 14-year-old AJ could see you know, what do you think she’d make of what you’re doing?
It is bonkers. Because even now it’s like, really a dream that has come true. It is phenomenal. I remember as a 14-year-old just being so confident that I was going to do it. I didn’t know how I didn’t know anyone in the industry. I didn’t know anyone to get into TV, I just had no clue. But I was always like, ‘I’m gonna do it.’ I really visualized and manifested it. And now I sometimes get so emotional about it because I really stuck at it and it’s all come true and I’m so happy, I’m proud of myself in that respect.
You’ve done so much and you’ve got plenty still to come – have you got anything on your bucket list you’d love to achieve?
I want my own prime time Saturday night show, at some point. There have been points in my career where I’ve presented, maybe an MTV News bulletin, but I’d get one of them every six months. I would be a presenter but I’d also still be working in the call centre, or I’d present something and then go back to a bar job.
And when you’re in London for so long, juggling all of these part-time jobs while trying to pursue a career in TV… I remember saying, ‘I can’t wait to just be a presenter. Full time. That is my job, that is what I do. I don’t have to present a show and then go back to retail.’ And I think now, just being able to do all of the things that I want to do full time, I still feel just really happy and lucky. So I’ll always remain ambitious and hopeful that my career goes from strength to strength, but at the same time, I’m very conscious and mindful of acknowledging where I am now and being proud of where I am right now.
Speaking of going from strength to strength, you had massive support when hosting the UK jury for Eurovision 2022. How did that feel, and how excited are you for this year?
I just found it so special. It was the first time that the jury votes were coming live from Salford and I just beamed out to the UK with all of this Northern energy, which thank goodness went down a treat. I felt lucky to be part of an iconic show that I’ve grown up watching – to be part of Eurovision history just felt really, really special. And this year, again, has been an extension of that by hosting the jury votes with Rylan earlier in the year. It was just so fun being in Liverpool, knowing how excited everyone is for Eurovision to be hosted in Liverpool on behalf of Ukraine. It’s just spectacular. It’s one of those moments where everyone’s coming together.
Fans went a bit wild at the Eurovision launch when you appeared to do an impression of Davina McCall – do you have any Big Brother news or hope you can tell us about?
There’s no Big Brother news that I can tell you but there’s certainly hope! I’ve made no secret about the fact that I’d love to be a part of that iconic reboot of the show. It would be amazing.
And I wasn’t being cryptic [with the apparent Davina impression]. It’s amazing how these iconic moments get ingrained in your own psyche. Davina’s coined ‘fancy another one’ – I just said a sentence, and here we are now! Yeah, I’m not sending out any of those cryptic messages.
I appeared on Saturday Night Takeaway in a murder mystery sketch, which features a whole host of people including Ant and Dec and Stephen Mulhern and Joe Dommett. But because I’m in there with Davina McCall everyone’s like, ‘there’s something going on here.’ It’s really nice actually, it’s really nice to see fansalready excited to get behind Big Brother, and they have been so positive with me, which is really nice, but yeah, no news.
It’s a huge compliment, it’s really lovely, but whoever they pick for the show I’ll be watching it regardless.
You’re hosting Red Nose Day on Friday, what can you tell us about it?
It’s hitting our screens on the 17th of March, live from Salford, which I’m very excited about. I always love working up north. Maybe it’s because I am a northerner myself, but I always feel it’s extra fun, there’s an extra boost. The crowd there as well, a bunch of northeners in the crowd on a Friday night. Really, really fun. I’m hosting that alongside Paddy McGuinness and Zoe Ball and David Tennant and Joel Dommett, all people that I admire and respect.
I’m really excited about it. The show is shaping up to be just as special as ever because this year marks the 35th year of Comic Relief, like I remember growing up watching that show. Buying my Red Nose for a pound from the supermarket, wearing it to school, all of the amazing sketches growing up. So to be creating our own version of that this year, all for an incredible cause, it’s just really, really exciting.
All the causes Comic Relief supports, not only in the UK but abroad, are really, really important to me. And I know that they’re paying particular attention to the cost of living prices and mental health charities in addition to the likes of hunger and homelessness and all of the causes that just mean so much to me.
I love being part of events that bring people together, and this is a show that brings the whole country. together. We all get behind it. We all buy our red noses, we all stay up and we all dig deep. So it’s it’s really really amazing.
What are you most looking forward to audiences seeing on the night?
Many of us are massive fans of The Traitors, and there’s one Comic Relief sketch which will include Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French and Claudia Winkleman herself. So that’s gonna be really exciting. I know that Kylie Minogue is in a special of Ghosts which I’ve no doubt will be really fun. Love Island has sketch and there’s going to be a Eurovision special with sketches with Graham Norton and Sam Ryder. I’m really, really looking forward to seeing them.
You’ve also got Celebrity Bake Off this year alongside some other massive names. Do you ever get star-struck?
Probably, deep down, but I just pretend that I’m not. I’m like, ‘it’s fiiine, we’re all friends here!’ That show is amazing because it’s so humbling. You just go into a tent and whack on an apron and get baking, good or bad. You are literally in the middle of a field as well.
I remember having the worst hay fever that day, but I had the best time recording that and I can’t wait for you to all see.
You also have your own show coming up: Big Interiors Battle. You’re a big fan of interior design yourself, what can you tell us about it?
I love, I love transformation. Nothing is more uplifting than watching something go from seemingly nothing to palatial. And what’s amazing is this show is set in Sheffield, in an old cutlery factory that is now being converted into apartments in the heart of Sheffield, but in an area that is trying to come up and develop. And it’s eight contestants, who are all competing to win their dream property that they themselves have done up to their specifications.
And if they win, they win their property mortgage-free. For eight people who’ve never been on the property ladder, it’s just amazing. I don’t know anyone who’s mortgage-free – if they’ve even got a mortgage! So it’s a huge prize, it’s really special. One of the great things about that show was just learning about a bunch of people where from their story, their background. It’s one of the things I love about my job, just meeting people. And yeah, it’s a very exciting show … it’s got all the right ingredients to be an amazing dish of a show.
Is there anything in particular you’re most looking forward to in 2023?
I’m always looking forward to just fun, new, exciting things. I’m going to Cape Town on Thursday afternoon [for Love Island] which I’m really excited about. I love the series so far. I love Maya Jama. I’m excited to be in the sunshine! I’m looking forward to Comic Relief of course and the interior design series. There’s a whole host of other things that I can’t even mention, which I’m just so excited about. So yes, it’s going to be a really fun year. And one that I feel really grateful for.
AJ Odudu will host Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day telethon on Friday 17 March from 7pm on BBC One and Player. She will also host The Big Interiors Battle, coming soon to Channel 4.
What does AJ Odudu’s weekend look like?
What does your typical Saturday look like?
I get up at around 8:00 AM, do a cheeky little workout, then I’ll have a massive breakfast which will include hash browns, sausages, tomatoes, avocado. It’s like a big old brunch. And then it varies, but I might go to the cinema, watch something in a fancy picture house. I might go for a walk, I might pop in and see me dad, and then I’ll probably be out. I like to have a healthy start to the day because I know that by 4pm I’m going to be drinking!
How have your weekends evolved over the years?
I remember back in the day when my mate would just ring me up on a Friday night and be like, ‘what we’re doing tonight?’ and ring me on the Saturday like, ‘what we’re doing tonight?’ and then on Sunday be like ‘what’re we doing tonight?’ And now it’s like, ‘what are you doing in five weeks?’ because our weekends are all full. So now we definitely have to schedule more. And sometimes I’m working on the weekend. But even if I’m working my Saturdays start at 6am because I’m off to a shoot and going to get glammed up and then it’s showtime.
What TV shows are you bingeing?
At the moment I’m getting into films a little bit. I’ve got a very short attention span for films sometimes. So I’m training my brain again. I just watched Elvis recently, which I really enjoyed, and an oldie but a goldie, Salem’s Lot. RuPaul’s Drag Race is always, always, always on. And I’m enjoying the chaos of Starstruck on the weekend. It’s hilarious. I love entertainment telly. Love Island is on of course.
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