Big Interview AJ Odudu on lockdown, wellbeing and cooking a perfect hotpot
"Space I asked for space and a garden."
You can take the girl out of Lancashire but the heart of it goes with you and despite having spent quite a few years in the glare of the spotlight and living in the Big Smoke TV presenter, personal trainer and well-being ambassador AJ Odudu is still very much in sync with her northern roots.
The 32 year old says: “I think they thought I was bonkers when trying to find a place in London but I was adamant I needed space and I got the garden.”
AJ is fresh and in good spirits after her early morning five kilometre run which she says is giving a huge boost to the current living conditions.
“At first I was like everyone else, just a bit lost but then it was like when in the last 10 years have I had time to stop like this. I have time to read a book!
“I’m going to do it and I’m enjoying taking care of myself. I tend to workout in the morning usually, I come back and feel amazing and it breaks up the day.
“It’s such strange times for everyone but the entertainment industry, TV has never stopped like this I have no idea what 2020 looks like now - I had so much lined up, so it’s watch this space at the minute.”
One thing AJ, who grew up in Blackburn, has had time to reflect on was her spell on the Stand Up 2 Cancer Celebrity: SAS Dare Who Wins in which she reached the programme finals last year, eventually won by former footballer Wayne Bridge.
The celebrity version of the series returned to screens this week with a new set of recruits including Helen Skelton, Joey Essex and Katie Price.
Recalling her time on the first celebrity edition filmed in Chile, she says: “I’ve said before it is the hardest thing I have done certainly, the most challenging but it was a really good test of character and of strength. So strangely I’ve found myself going back there ‘I am strong,’ ‘I’m brave,’ ‘You’ve got this’
“I had to do a lot of listening to myself and it was all about realigning which I suppose is a similar phase to what we have now and re-adapting and getting back to taking care of ourselves.”
AJ is putting the time to good use, making the most of her home space and says her survival instincts have certainly helped in mindset and for her wellbeing.
She is every bit as engaging and warm as the TV persona who has graced the likes Big Brother’s Bit on the Side, 4 Music Trending and most recently The Voice UK alongside her former presenting pal Emma Willis.
She has appeared on Celebs Go Dating, Come Dine with Me and Manhunting with Mum.
She admits it was determination, opportunity and goal setting which brought her full circle, after a set back when her Big Brother contract was not renewed.
“I’ve always set myself career goals, from very early on when I was trying to break into TV but in this time the goals have changed just to smaller everyday things like reading a book, cooking and making my home more homely and ultimately doing what we need to do to keep safe.
“I’m so used to being on the go - working lots and lots for long hours and it’s all social, so for it to just stop. I can understand how tricky that is for people, especially on your own.”
Hailing from a large family with five brothers, two sisters and her mum based in Blackburn, she has been checking in regularly with video calls
“My mum is so used to having lots of people around her so it’s been hard but she’s spoken about a big party in London when it’s done so I’m going to have to plan for that as well, that will be mad,” she laughs.
Conversation shifts to mindset. AJ is energetic, even in conversation, and has a great passion for self-care and physical and mental wellbeing.
Coincidentally this is a path she chose to return to shortly after Big Brother on the Side and which helped carve a new niche for her return to the screen.
She took courses and certification to become a personal trainer, and then set about creating her own website and blog, documenting and fusing all things fitness, music and fashion.
“I come from a really sporty family and background. I grew up with five brothers and two sisters and they were all good at sport.
“Running, netball, hockey we had a go at everything at school. There naturally wasn’t as much time for it once I moved to London and began working and going out partying.
“But a few years later and after Big Brother, I’d split up from my boyfriend and in general it was just a bit of a rough time. I started to exercise more and realised personal training was something I could do. It felt meaningful and was more stimulated and positive again so it built a drive and got me going again.
“I started the website and then got invited to join different campaigns and challenges with the likes of Adidas and then strangely enough found myself back in TV.
“I’m a big believer in when something goes wrong something special can come out of it.”
It is this positivity and outlook which has helped AJ front campaigns for brands including L’Oreal, Adidas and Superdrug.
Not to mention the determination to carry her through challenges like SAS, compete in triathalons and the London Marathon.
She says: “It would be easy at the minute not to get dressed, stay in pyjamas and for a few days I was okay with that. But then I realised to help myself I needed that bit of structure and to build a new routine for the day .
“Being productive helps me stay positive, and exercise really helps me keep in control. It definitely realigns me.
“The beauty of a morning run, it’s so simple and I’m so grateful right now to live so close to a park and have that quiet time. I’ve found a rhythm now.”
It’s also giving her time to reconnect with Lancashire, “I’ve been perfecting my hotpot. I like to make a good hotpot. I’ve lived away for 11 years now but this has made me think of home and those comforts - I’m fortunate to keep in touch with everyone.”
While her diary for 2020 looks set to be rearranged, AJ is still excited for what the year will bring.
“It’s funny, before this I couldn’t tell you my next bit of time off - there was so many things in the pipeline but that’s now all postponed until further notice. But the most important thing now is keeping healthy and happy.”
What would her advice be for people to keep motivated during lockdown?
“You know I think my number one would actually be finances and budgets one of those jobs people would say they never have time to do.
“Get intentional about it - there’s a really good feeling to be had in being control of those things and money is a big one. Where can you save cash - what can be cancelled or postponed.
“The other thing is using time to make more of our homes, especially when we’re living and working in them everyday.
“To have a nice space makes all the difference and make a separate relaxing space, work space to help calm you and enjoy your home.
“On the day-to-day keep up as much of the normal routine as possible, getting up, dressed, putting make up on if it helps.
“And while it shouldn’t consume you, I also think it is important to watch and read the news daily so you have the important, validated information to hand.
“Exercise and have fun with it!”
For more on AJ visit www.ajodudu.com.