Lancashire-born TV presenter AJ Odudu explains the importance of fragrance when you are a 'hand-me-down' kid in family of eight children

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Lancashire’s AJ Odudu has barely been off our TV screens since her stint on Strictly Come Dancing in 2021.

During 2022, she's presented E4's Big Blow Out, as well as Channel 4's The Bridge and the revamped Big Breakfast with Mo Gilligan. The Blackburn-born presenter, who first burst on the scene with Big Brother's Bit On The Side back in 2013, says she loves being versatile with her look for different shows or events: "What an amazing thing to be able to do, to be really playful with beauty products." We caught up with the 34-year-old, who has been named brand ambassador for The Perfume Shop in the retailer's 30th birthday year, to discuss experimentation, beauty regrets and the products she can't live without...

What beauty advice did you learn from your mum?

"My mum, in terms of her beauty regime, is definitely very minimal, very natural. My biggest lesson from my mum was always moisturising my entire body - head to toe. She loves moisturing."

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AJ Odudu.AJ Odudu.
AJ Odudu.

How did you express your individual style growing up with seven siblings?

"Being a sixth child out of eight, you become the queen of hand-me-downs. Your trainers aren't new, your school bag isn't new, all of your clothes are passed down as well - which is all great. [But] fragrances were really our own. We all had our individual fragrances. My mum wore Chanel No5, my brothers wore Hugo Boss, mine was Issey Miyake. [My first bottle] was a gift from my boyfriend, age 17, we had his and hers. I wear [perfume] every single day. I feel like I'm not ready without a fragrance on."

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What's your best skincare tip?

AJ OduduAJ Odudu
AJ Odudu

"I recently learned we should put our eye cream on with the finger next to your ring finger. That's your lightest finger, not your index finger - too heavy apparently. I've never thought of the weight of my fingers."

Do you like changing up your hair?

"I feel a lot more confident with my hair [now] and definitely have been a lot more experimental. I wear wigs a lot, be it short bob or long straight wigs. I went to the Fashion Awards in a blonde peroxide wig. To the GQ Awards I wore long braids. For [Channel 4's] Big Breakfast I had a lot of braids and cornrows. Earlier in the year I had blocks - which I loved, I've never had blocks before. For years I had long straight hair, that's kind of my signature look, and now I try to be really explorative and celebrate the versatility of hair, and different looks and how transformative it can be in a positive way."

How do you care for your hair?

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AJ Odudu. Ian West/PA WireAJ Odudu. Ian West/PA Wire
AJ Odudu. Ian West/PA Wire

"I don't massively wear [my natural hair] out in an Afro style that much, especially in winter. My personal hair is quite delicate - it shrinks, it snaps, it breaks, it does all the things I don't want it to do. I think it depends on how much water I've drunk, how good or bad my diet has been, how much I'm changing it for work. So I try and protect it as much as I can by doing regular scalp treatments in the hairdresser. I started taking vitamin tablets, Biotin is meant to be really good for your hair. [Plus] leave-in conditioner, Aveda has some really nice leave-in conditioners."

Any past beauty regrets?

"Definitely! I remember bright red cheeks, I think everyone has overdone it on the blusher from time to time. Back in the day it was very trendy to shave off your eyebrows and just draw on a thin line. That's what's happened in the past, I'm not proud of it! The slicked-back hair with the two little gelled bits at the front like antlers - I did that at school. Ironing my own natural hair - bonkers, I don't know why I did that. Also wearing make-up that's too light for my skin, looking so ghost-like and ashy - never a good look. The foundation on the lips, I've done that - just dry, cracked foundation lips. Honestly, you name it I've done it!"

Who are your beauty icons?

"I really like Michaela Coel. She's someone who wears wigs but also has a natural shaved head, that is so cool. She shows a lot of versatility. Rihanna - the queen of versatility, like a dark black lipstick, and short bobs to really long hair. I love Leomie Anderson - supermodel queen. But there are also guys like Bowie, Prince... I like people who aren't afraid to express themselves and toe the line between an androgynous look and a super-glam, old school diva look."

How do you feel about diversity in the beauty industry?

"It's definitely come a long way from when I was growing up in Blackburn, I never saw any black women on the cover of the magazines. Unless you saw Naomi Campbell, you really didn't see anyone at all, I didn't think anyone was remotely even close. On TV, magazines, radio, just all forms of media, I certainly didn't see any northern black women - or men. I think the internet, with all of its problems, has also made the world a lot more accessible in that respect. Little guys and girls growing up in smaller towns, for example, can at least have access to a community of people who look like them, just by the click of a button. That's the exciting thing about [social media], wow, like your tribe, you can literally search them and and see them, whereas definitely back in the day, I didn't see that. We'd all love to see a lot more diversity, but I definitely think we're moving in the right direction. Progress takes such a long time, but forward is forward - even if it's the slowest thing ever."