Ashley Banjo opens up on family life – ‘Fatherhood the best thing in the world’
Life really is busy when you’re as in demand as Ashley Banjo. Leader of the dance troupe Diversity – who soared to fame after winning Britain’s Got Talent in 2009 – one of the Dancing On Ice judging panel and upcoming star of the new West End musical The Wizard Of Oz, he certainly knows a thing or two about time management.
It seems he also knows a fair bit about style, as the 34-year-old has dropped a summer edit with Peacocks – a collaboration he calls both “scary and exciting”, and a natural next step on from his dancing career.
The star, who received an MBE for services to dance in 2022, is also a new addition to Britain’s (unofficial) most eligible bachelor list, having announced his split from his wife Francesca back in December. However, his relationship status is something he’s rather tight-lipped about, so there’s no telling whether he’ll be wearing pieces from his new collection out on first dates!
What we do know is he takes his job as a dad very seriously. Ashley’s keen to educate his kids – daughter Rose, four, and son Micah, two – on the importance of putting trust in their own judgement rather than in others who “might not always offer the best advice”.
Here, we catch up with the star about parenting, finding his style, stripping naked in front of 2,000 people (spoiler: not a recurring nightmare) and Simon Cowell’s trousers…
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This is a new venture for you! Can you tell us a bit about your style?
I’m all about the fit. I love the idea of having very little in my wardrobe and having just three silhouettes, all of them similar but with subtle variations. I’ve always said that I prefer an edit rather than an entire wardrobe of clothes. I love great quality and great fits, I think the collection really reflects my style.
Fashion is quite a change from dancing…
Collaborating on a range is something I’ve always wanted to do and, being a dancer, movement and style go hand-in-hand. The edit reflects my creativity.
You’ve got some pretty famous friends, such as Prince Harry and Simon Cowell. Do you look to them for style advice?
Oh, no, definitely not. Actually, I say that but I do love a high-waisted trouser. Do you know what’s funny about it is now that I think about it, his look is really fashionable. The other day, I tucked my white T-shirt into my trousers, kind of giving a
bit of Grease, but now I think that look was actually ‘The Simon’.
Ha. Let’s not tell him he’s fashionable! Did you ever go through an awkward style phase as a teenager?
I’d really love to meet the person who didn’t go through an awkward style phase! I went through a stage of wearing the tightest jeans you could possibly imagine. Now, I look back and wonder when skinny jeans are going to make a return. The skinnies were their own pandemic, weren’t they?
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First date dressing – is this something you have to worry about?
[Laughs] Dressing is dressing. It is what it is. One thing I do is dress for the occasion. That sounds obvious, but if, for example, I know I’m going to go and sit at someone’s house on the sofa, that will influence what I’m wearing because I want to be comfy.
What’s been your most daunting project to date?
Of course, when I did The Real Full Monty. Being completely naked on stage in front of a live audience of 2,000 people, that was massively scary.
What about fatherhood, surely that’s daunting?
This is such a generic answer but it’s the truth; it’s [fatherhood] the best thing in the world. It’s the thing that drives you, it makes you proud, it makes you brave, it makes everything great. I love my kids so much.
Is there any wisdom you’re keen to impart on them as they grow up?
Yeah, definitely. I think, more than anything else, I want to teach them to realise that even if there are people around – authority, teachers, parents, adults – they’re not all going to be good or always give you good advice. I want to teach them to have self-worth and to trust their own instincts, and just to realise that not every single person who talks to them whether it be through social media or in life in general, is giving vibes.
It’s probably too early to tell if they have dance talent, but are they showing inklings of rhythm?
They show dance enjoyment [laughs]. I’d like to think I’ll be encouraging, so I wouldn’t tell them if they had no rhythm! But then, I wouldn’t tell them they were good if they weren’t, either.
What else is coming up for you?
I’m going to be in The Wizard Of Oz over the summer – it’ll be my West End debut. Then Diversity are off on our near 100-day UK tour at the end of the year.
Ashley Banjo: Approved is available online at peacocks.co.uk and in Peacocks stores. Prices start from £6
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