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Sixty Seconds with Ashley Banjo

■ The Diversity star and dancing judge, 31, on Peter Andre, Black Lives Matter and welcoming his second child during lockdown

What’s made you get behind Pura eco baby wipes? No pun intended…

I’m being a bit more reflective about the environment. I’ve never valued being outside and having a lovely garden so much. Any little changes I can make to help, a bit more recycling here and using less plastic there — and what’s great with the wipes is they’re plastic-free and biodegradable so I feel a little bit better about going through the millions you go through with babies.

How else have you changed since you’ve become a parent?

I value small moments more because I’m quite bigger picture-focused and driven, I’m one of those people. Sitting on the grass for an afternoon felt wasteful to me before I was a dad. But now, sitting in the front garden with the kids for three hours seems like the best thing to do.

You’ve had two children in the space of a year…

Having a baby at the beginning of lockdown, when there’s no family on board and the world changed, you think, ‘Whoa!’ All of a sudden you can’t go out, everything is different. Mum and Dad couldn’t see Micah or hold him so that was tough. You find yourself getting really emotional and sentimental — family is everything.

Lockdown pal: Peter Andre

You’ve said you’ve had some dark times during lockdown…

Yeah, definitely. I think people found it more shocking coming from me because I’m always positive. One thing I’ll always be is as honest as I can be and I think you’re actually quite lucky if you went through lockdown without a negative patch. Whether it’s your job, health or general anxiety — for me it was more about the fact the world was changing and I couldn’t control that. The entertainment industry has been hit massively hard because we make a living from big groups. My dance group are all my friends and family. I’ve always led the company so it’s tough to have to furlough them and not know what’s going to happen in the next year. I normally work 7am to 10pm days but all of a sudden I was doing full daddy care. It was this crazy dichotomy of family life and work life that everyone goes through but when you have a new baby, it’s heightened. I’m sure everyone had those moments but I said it out loud mainly to help other people.

Were you in the middle of something when lockdown happened?

Lockdown was announced the day Diversity were supposed to be performing in the Excel and I think the very room we were going to be performing in was turned in to the Nightingale Hospital. I don’t think we realised what we had before, the ability to do what we wanted when we wanted. I’ve never not known being in a group. I think this is about Diversity’s 23rd year of essentially being a group of professional friends so it’s tough not being together.

You’ve been very busy on TikTok, though!

I like Instagram and I’m on that a lot as well but that’s slightly more produced, in a way. I like TikTok because it allows creativity and a realness. The shots aren’t all perfect and it’s about real people and real humour, and you can just be a bit of a nerd.

You did a very powerful Black Lives Matter post — do you feel the movement is finally making a difference?

I feel that because the world was slower, it allowed people to see this massive injustice that happened. It opened their eyes to the wider problem. The first time I started to post about it, it became an unintentional point of debate because people misunderstand the fact that you’re saying no other lives matter and it’s completely the opposite. I think people forget there are mixed-race people in the world. I have a white mum and a black dad who I love equally. It makes no sense to value life because of the colour of your skin. I am literally half and half, and I have kids now who have mixed heritage as well. It’s been a really eye-opening moment in history.

Skates on? Ashley isn’t sure if Dancing On Ice will happen

Are you worried about Dancing On Ice not going ahead?

I don’t know what will happen but technically by then we could have locked down enough that the virus has next to disappeared and everyone feels a lot safer so we go ahead as normal. It could be that there’s another spike that comes right around Christmas time when we’re supposed to go in to production and we have to be in lockdown. I am anxious about the future but you have to hope for the best.

Who of your TV friends have you been staying in touch with?

I feel like I’ve made more of an effort to respond more or reach out, or actually have chats with people. Celebs-wise, let me have a look at my DMs. I love Tom Read Wilson and have good chats with Peter Andre, Oti Mabuse and Alesha Dixon. There are loads but those are a couple straight off the top of the list!

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