Skip to content

From ‘A Little Bit of Action’ songstress Nadia Almada becoming one of the first openly trans women on television to Courtney Act shattering gender norms with her charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent, Big Brother memorably blazed a trail for LGBTQIA+ representation in the UK. There’s also lesbian ex-nun Anna Nolan, Brian Dowling succeeding Davina McCall as host and Luke Anderson becoming the series’ first-ever trans male champion. And while not explicitly queer, Tiffany Polland’s “old maiden shoes” sermon and “David is dead!” controversy still permeates the minds of all living LGBT’s (me).

“We didn’t realise how progressive [Big Brother] was, so I’m glad that we’re bringing that back to screens at a time where we there’s so much confusion [around LGBTQIA+ issues],” AJ Odudu tells GAY TIMES. The Blackburn icon, who previously hosted Big Brother’s Little Bit on the Side, is set to co-host the highly-anticipated reboot with Will Best, which she hails as one of the most “diverse and interesting” seasons in the show’s history.

While AJ is introduced to the cast at the same time as the audience, she promises this season will “offer the diversity and the stories” that the public have been gagging to see: “The beauty of this show is that it’s open to everyone. You don’t need to be able to bake, sing, be young, be single, be hot. You can literally be anyone from any walk of life, but just be interesting.”

Premiering 8 October (tomorrow!) on ITV1, ITV2 and ITVX, Big Brother will boast a “contemporary new look” and, once again, “the public plays a crucial role, voting throughout the series and ultimately determining the winner.” The regular series will be followed by Big Brother: Late & Live, where the co-hosts reflect on the episode in front of a live studio audience and celebrity guests.

Here, AJ Odudu chats with GT about this exciting new era for Big Brother, how the original series was “groundbreaking” for LGBTQIA+ visibility and the legendary stars that she wants to see on the inevitable Celebrity Big Brother reboot (we’re manifesting!).

AJ Odudu! How are things?

It’s hectic times! Obviously, I’m so excited gearing up for Big Brother. I feel like we’ve talked about it for ages and now it’s here, it’s upon us. Life is happening at the same time. I just got back from pilates, I’m ready to be tight and right for the launch. So yeah, a lot is happening!

‘What does life look like for a Big Brother host ahead of the launch?’ was my next question, but you’ve provided me with my answer: boring!

Do you know what I mean? It’s so funny, actually, I recently went to Vogue World and it was the crème de la crème of fashion. I’m being greeted down the red carpet by Edward Enninful and Anna Wintour and rubbing shoulders with Leonardo DiCaprio. I’m having breakfast the next day at The Savoy with Ncuti Gatwa and Saffron Hocking. Then, I immediately get back to my flat and someone is drilling into my wall. There’s pandemonium happening and I’ve still gotta put on my weekly wash, load and unload the dishwasher. It’s very that at the moment. I’m taking it all in me stride and I’m loving it.

Let’s talk Big Brother and the premiere. It’s not being filmed live, which was met with a bit of mixed response online. Why was the decision made to pre-record the entrances?

That is all that is being recorded, and it’s because the world has changed. Everyone’s attention span is a bit… We hate to admit it, but our attention span is so hard to capture these days that the powers-that-be decided to get right in the thick of things. Everything else, you’re gonna have to wait and see. We’re in a brand new location. It’s a brand new house. There’s a lot of differences, but of course we’re gonna retain the sensibilities of the show that we all know and love. I’m excited to step into the TV and put my own mark on such a special show.

AJ, I can’t express how excited I am?!

Babe, I swear down me and Will saw the Big Brother house and I could’ve burst into tears on the spot. I had goosebumps immediately and couldn’t stop screaming. You’re gonna love it. It looks epic, genuinely. I feel like it’s the best the house has ever looked, and I watched all the previous series so that’s saying a lot.

I’m slightly concerned over how drastically this new season will take over my life. There was one year where I was unhealthily obsessed with a contestant called Dale, at a time when I was coming into my sexuality, and I would just sit there watching him on the live feed. I was not okay.

Babe, you’re preaching to the choir because when I found out that ITV were bringing back the live streaming on ITVX, I was like, ‘That’s it. That’s where I’ll be.’ Your girl ain’t gonna sleep! I would watch and watch and watch and then the bird noises would come in, wouldn’t they? I’m ready to become completely obsessed and I hope everyone else does too. It’s a social experiment for housemates entering the building, but it’s also a way for us to have snapshots into the lives and minds of people we wouldn’t normally meet walking down the street. Also, it is that escapism, and lord knows we need it.

The later seasons of Big Brother were criticised for casting a lot of wannabe stars and influencers rather than normal people like Terry from Tesco and Linda from LIDL. Has that feedback been taken into consideration for this reboot?

I will be meeting the housemates at exactly the same time the viewer meets them. As soon as they pull up I’m like, ‘Hello person I’ve never met before.’ But, there were a couple things I said in the meetings: ‘Listen, it’s got to be stripped back and we have to get the real deal. We need real people that are not looking for fame or a clothing brand deal. They’re just looking for an experience.’ I have been told from the powers-that-be that this is the most diverse, interesting set of housemates there has ever been before. The beauty of this show is that it’s open to everyone. You don’t need to be able to bake, sing, be young, be single, be hot. You can literally be anyone from any walk of life, but just be interesting. Everyone gets to have the Big Brother experience, so it’s going to be the most accessible house there’s ever been.

With the rise of social media, it feels like everyone wants to be famous and, as a result, they censor themselves on reality television in fear of backlash. Honestly, The Traitors gave me hope…

You just mentioned a show that I was absolutely obsessed with. I remember seeing Claudia Winkleman shortly after she filmed it and I said, ‘That is epic. Will there ever be a celeb one? I want to be on if there is!’ What a cool game to play and they absolutely nailed it. I’m sure that the Big Brother team will do the same as they’ve been casting this show for many, many months. The applications came in thick and fast. But, I’m speculating too! I have no idea who will walk through those doors, but I will be glued.

I want to discuss the elimination process with you, because Davina used to get some shit out of these people. She got the drama! Will this new version be similar or toned down slightly?

Like I said, the world has changed and we’ve all learned so much. We’re all aware of the sensitivities of others and, as a presenter, I feel like my job in those situations is to get the juicy tea whilst maintaining someone’s dignity. As long as me and Will have respect for the housemates, then you will get all your burning questions answered, for sure. The great thing about being a Northerner is that you can get away with pushing it just a bit further while still sounding friendly and harmless.

That’s the same thing with being gay. I can push people a little bit more…

Exactly! And sometimes things are better left unsaid, but the facial expressions and the body language, you’re gonna know it. Do you know what I mean?


We just did it! Your laugh just said everything it needed to say.

What is your earliest memory of Big Brother?

Big Brother 1, of course! It made me excited to go to school on a Monday morning to get the gossip. These weren’t times where you could just ping someone a WhatsApp message. These were the days of 12p text messages and MSN. You weren’t texting willy-nilly! I just remember Big Brother 1 being the talk of Blackburn town. My favourite housemate back then was Darren [Ramsay]. I loved his relationship with the chickens. He had one called Marjorie and a plastic baby called Wanita. I wrote on the back of my school diary, ‘If I ever have a baby girl, I’m gonna call her Wanita.’ It really shaped my life back then. I was also obsessed with the first-ever iconic villain, Nasty Nick. His crime? Writing names on a piece of paper. How dare he! But, I loved it. Those were my earliest, fondest memories of Big Brother and it just got better and better. I remember when Allison Hammond was in there with Adele Roberts and Jade Goody. It’s bananas that these were just a bunch of normal people. You really can’t judge a book by its cover, can you?

Big Brother was historic for its LGBTQIA+ representation…

Brian Dowling was the first openly gay person that I personally had ever seen on screen, and he owned his sexuality and personality. He was truly celebrated, not only by himself, but by the people around him. Growing up in Blackburn, I was definitely not exposed to openly gay men or women, so that was a real eye-opener for me. Obviously, he went on to win it and become a main show host himself. That went down in history. Who else was doing what he was doing back then? In that same vein, Nadia Almada, the first trans person ever on Big Brother. Again, she owned herself and was celebrated by the housemates and viewing public. You don’t realise how groundbreaking Big Brother is when you consider all of the conversations we as a society are having around the trans community and gender identity. That’s only starting to take shape now, when Nadia was on [TV] like 20 years ago? We didn’t realise how progressive it was, so I’m glad that we’re bringing that back to screens at a time where we there’s so much confusion. Hopefully, Big Brother can offer the diversity and the stories that we want to see.

We also had Luke Anderson, a trans man who won, as well as Drag Race star Courtney Act. I’m hoping that now, during a time where LGBTQIA+ people are constantly vilified, particularly trans people, that the potential LGBTQIA+ housemates are protected, somehow.

There was Cameron Cole as well, who won in 2018. He felt comfortable enough with the housemates to come out, and the poor boy was trembling. Every time I watch that clip I burst into tears. You’re right, we’re all learning constantly and we don’t know how anyone is going to react. TikTok wasn’t around and Twitter wasn’t at its height. Social media wasn’t what it is now, so I hope that everyone is kind and understanding whether they agree with the viewpoints of others or not. This is an opportunity for us to learn from each individual.

If Celebrity Big Brother were to come back – we’re manifesting here! – which celebs would you like to see?

Babe, how iconic would Cardi B be in the Big Brother house? I feel like the American stars who aren’t massively familiar with the format are great, because they never know what they let themselves in for. Do you remember when Sylvester Stallone’s mum came in and she didn’t have a clue what was going on? Tayce and Bimini from RuPaul’s Drag Race would be great, someone who’s going to bring the drama and looks, as well as the warmth. I like watching people uplift one another, so a bit of positive vibes and telling it how it is. I can’t wait for our new housemates to make many more of those spectacular moments.

Big Brother: The Launch airs Sunday 8th October at 9pm on ITV1, ITV2 and ITVX