Strictly star AJ Odudu and Louis Byrne collaborate for empowerment project

The creator of the inspirational I Can I Am And I Will movement praised Odudu for thriving in the face of adversity.

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If you've been keeping up with this year's series of Strictly Come Dancing, you'll know that AJ Odudu is setting fire to the stage with both her talent and personality. What is even more powerful is that she is doing so having faced a past of bullying and adversity. Celebrity empowerment hairdresser Louis Byrne has praised the Strictly star for overcoming ‘social and personal demons’ and thriving as ‘her authentic self.’

AJ Odudu
AJ Odudu

Having recently styled Odudu's hair, Byrne spoke at length with her as part of his I Can I Am And I Will movement, a project that fuses creativity with wellness and invites inspirational people to share their stories. The project's 12-week RE-Set plan aims to reconnect stylists with themselves, their colleagues and their clients.

I Can I Am And I Will

Best known for presenting Channel 5’s Big Brother’s Bit on the Side, Odudu grew up in Lancashire where she faced racism on a daily basis. Raised by a proud Nigerian family, with a mother who did the school run in traditional dress, she was encouraged to be proud of her heritage and so developed a strength that helped her move past the bullying. When the same racist comments began on social media years later, Odudu used her strength and resilience to overcome the ignorance and empower herself to achieve her dreams.

Louis Byrne
Louis Byrne

‘AJ’s spirit and conviction mirrors the mantra behind #ICIAIW which highlights the unique relationship between hairdresser and client that’s built solely on trust’ says Byrne. ‘We create a safe space to talk and offload, often in a reflective and supportive way. People sometimes share their innermost feelings with their stylists, and we harness that special relationship to discuss mental wellbeing and positive empowerment.’

During their conversation, Odudu championed self-acceptance – the ability to accept and celebrate your imperfections – and encouraged others to do the same. ‘I can build myself back up again after facing loads of rejections and failures’ she says. ‘I cock up loads and loads, but I’m really good at picking myself up and I draw huge amounts of confidence from that.’

AJ Odudu

Now starring on BBC1’s seasonal favourite Strictly Come Dancing, which is now on its 18th season, AJ has wowed judges with her confident performances together with dance partner Kai Widdrington. Topping the leaderboard on Week 1, judge Motsi Mabuse called her routine ‘the best dance of the evening’ with Anton Du Beke hailing her ‘completely brilliant.’ And despite admitting that she was ‘emotional’ after suffering with ‘self-doubt’ in the run up to Week 3’s dance, Odudu achieved her highest score of the series, confirming her ability to channel her inner confidence and bounce back from obstacles that come her way, in line with the #ICIAIW message.

Hotly tipped as one of the favourites to take the trophy, Byrne describes her as ‘an inspirational pillar of strength’ and ‘a truly empowering woman.’

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