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AJ Odudu on finding success in TV: Being black was not even the hardest thing

AJ Odudu has said that being black “was not even the hardest thing” when she was coming up in the industry as a TV presenter.

The 35-year-old, who hosted the 2023 ITV revival series of Big Brother alongside Will Best, said one of the biggest obstacles for her was “geographical”.

Speaking to British Vogue for its February issue, she said: “Someone asked me once what it was like being a black female coming up in the industry.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, being black was not even the hardest thing’.”

“We just didn’t have the means,” she said.

“The obstacle was geographical: how do I get from this corner of Blackburn to London, and then stay there? And that was just step one.”

Odudu grew up in Lancashire with her seven siblings, who were born to Nigerian parents.

She attributes part of her hard-working mentality to her father James and mother Florence, who encouraged her to pursue her dreams.

“She’s (Odudu’s mother) an immigrant, a cleaner, and she was telling me, ‘Yes, you can be a presenter, why not?'” she said.

“I felt like, if my mum says I can, then I can. It has really shaped how I think.”

The Fashion Awards 2023 – London
AJ Odudu attending the Fashion Awards 2023 (Ian West/PA)

Now that she has found success, the TV star said she is “having fun” attending celebrity-filled events, most recently An Audience With Kylie, at the Royal Albert Hall and the Fashion Awards 2023.

“I suppose I am out five nights a week,” she said.

“But, I’ve worked so hard to get here and be in these spaces.

“Now I’m having fun. Although sometimes my friends watch my Instagram stories and they’re just like, ‘Go to bed’.”

Reflecting on her success and what she wants for her future, she added: “Growing up, I never thought of myself as beautiful.

“I was always leaning on my personality, so it was like, ‘Of course I’m not going to be doing this shoot or that shoot’.”

She went on: “I’ve come through so much hardship, so many knockbacks, so many barriers.

“Now it’s just great to know that I’m not defined by my class or my race.

“I’m setting the boundaries myself, and that’s exciting.”

Odudu has hosted a number of TV programmes, including Channel 4’s interior design show The Big Interiors Battle, reality programme The Bridge: Race To A Fortune and bidding show The Greatest Auction.

She also presented on spin-off shows Big Brother’s Bit On The Side and Married At First Sight: Afters.

See the full feature in the February issue of British Vogue, available via digital download and on newsstands from January 16.