With infectious glamour and a radiant smile, AJ Odudu has ascended to the throne of reality TV, and her journey is as captivating as her on-screen presence. In a candid conversation, Kerry McDermott explores the unstoppable star’s rise to fame, touching on her roots, setbacks, and triumphant moments.
When AJ Odudu enters a room, her megawatt smile and towering presence immediately command attention. Dressed to impress in a backless black catsuit and platform boots, the 35-year-old TV presenter exudes confidence and celebration. Fresh from wrapping up the rebooted Big Brother, AJ is ready to embrace the party season, marking the culmination of a year filled with diverse TV projects.
From sharing the tent with David Schwimmer and Gemma Collins on Bake Off to hosting The Big Interiors Battle and covering Eurovision live from Liverpool, AJ has become a familiar face on British TV. “I’m so buzzing about all the things I’m doing,” she says, her eyes reflecting both excitement and awe. Her journey from a struggling student to conquering light entertainment has been a remarkable one.
Born Onatejiro Odudu in Blackburn to Nigerian parents, AJ, the sixth of eight children, always dreamt of being on television. However, her path was far from easy. Lacking contacts and financial support, AJ juggled part-time jobs, hustled for work experience, and endured nine-hour Megabus rides to London. Her charismatic personality, ambition, and unwavering self-belief were her driving forces.
AJ’s mother, a cleaner, instilled in her the belief that nothing was beyond her reach. Despite facing the challenges of an industry still predominantly pale, stale, and middle-class, AJ’s determination remained unshaken. Money was scarce, but her faith in herself and her dreams was abundant.
In 2009, AJ transitioned from a reporter at BBC Radio Lancashire to her first on-camera role, co-hosting a teenage advice series on BBC Two. The road to success had its bumps, and the much-anticipated breakthrough in 2013 as the presenter of Big Brother’s Bit on the Side was short-lived. AJ’s replacement left her questioning and searching for answers.
Refusing to settle for a plan B, AJ, along with her photographer friend Tony, vowed not to succumb to a full-time job trap. Despite working odd jobs and navigating the uncertainties of the industry, she never lost sight of her goal. In 2015, a call from 4Music marked a turning point, leading to a steady stream of opportunities. In 2019, AJ achieved a personal milestone by buying her flat in southeast London.
Now a reality TV sensation, AJ Odudu’s star continues to rise. Invitations to prestigious events fill her inbox, showcasing her vibrant and accessible wardrobe. Her distinctive style, nicknamed “Slay-J” on Instagram, blends exuberance with accessibility. The Lancashire lass who once rotated outfits with friends and sisters now effortlessly commands attention on red carpets worldwide.
From a humble perspective of Blackburn town centre’s Posh shop to becoming a style icon, AJ’s journey is a testament to her resilience and authenticity. The 2024 vision board includes hosting The Brits and landing a makeup campaign, showcasing her belief in manifesting dreams.
At 35, AJ Odudu has triumphed over hardships and barriers, setting her own boundaries and embracing the excitement of limitless potential. As she confidently declares, “I’m not defined by my class or my race. I’m setting the boundaries myself, and that’s exciting. With makeup, fashion, everything, I just think, ‘Why not? Just have a go.'” It’s a sentiment that echoes the unwavering encouragement of her immigrant mother, a cleaner who believed in the limitless possibilities for her daughter.