AJ Odudu has opened up about the “horrendous” racism she faced growing up in the UK.
The 35-year-old currently hosts the Big Brother reboot alongside Will Best, and are reportedly gearing up for the series final on Friday, November 17.
The star has now revealed the horrible abuse she faced as a youngster.
The presenter appeared on Gyles Brandreth‘s Rosebud podcast and told the host that she experienced discrimination in her community from as early as nine-years-old.
When the star was asked if there were many other people of Nigerian heritage who grew up in her hometown of Blackburn, AJ said: “No, nobody, it was me, my brothers and sisters, and my first cousins.”
“In reception, those were the first times, when I was about five, six, that I thought ‘I stand out here’.”
The star continued: “That was when people started touching my hair and saying ‘why does your hair feel like this and why are the palms of your hands white, but nowhere else is white?’, I found that really confusing.”
“I remember going home and saying ‘Mum, why is that the case, what is going on here?’ That is when my mum started to teach me about Nigeria and say ‘there’s loads of people that look like you, they’re just not in this country’.”
AJ revealed that she never felt good about being the only Nigerian in her class and told the host that she “hated any attention” on her.
“I was taller than everyone, my hair was bigger than everyone’s, my skin was darker than everyone’s, my voice even was deeper than everybody’s voice. Kids pick at these things and you can’t do anything about it,” AJ explained.
“I was just like ‘I’ve just got to get through the school day and get back home to my brothers and sisters’.”
The Big Brother presenter then revealed that as she got older people became more unkind – particularly by children’s parents.
AJ began: “I remember thinking the first time that I thought ‘maybe it’s not the children, maybe it’s the parents that influences’, because I used to play with this girl at school called Lianne.”
“As kids we’d hold hands in the playground and share our lunches, and then I’ll never forget, she said ‘right, you’ve got to let go of my hand soon’.”
“I said ‘yeah, sure’ and we were like playing all the way to the school gates and she said ‘No, let go’.”
“And she ran off to her dad, who I then heard tell her off for speaking to me,” the former Strictly Come Dancing star said.
“And I couldn’t believe it. I was like ‘she’s not allowed to play with me, but it’s not that she doesn’t want to, it’s because her dad doesn’t want her to do that’.”
The star explained the extent of the racism she was subjected to – even recalling having “dogs set on me because of the colour of my skin.”
“I remember somebody throwing a banana out of a car window and it hitting me on the head. I remember those things,” AJ added.