With her natural sense of humour and infectious laugh. From becoming a regular panellist on Loose Women to winning the Celebrity MasterChef Christmas special and hitting the Strictly dance floor, her feet have barely touched the ground.
The transformation from stand-up to TV favourite has been overwhelming for Judi, who admits, “I feel I’m just sort of holding it together. If I did sit down and think about everything, I’d have to take a week off just to cry tears of joy!”
But the mum of two, who has a 12-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter from a past relationship, says it hasn’t been without its struggles. Balancing her new-found fame and busy workload with her personal life has been hard, and as a single parent and the sole breadwinner, she is often plagued with “mum guilt” about leaving her kids to go to work.\
“I don’t know the difference, because I’ve never had the experience of a two-parent household. But I can definitely say that as a single parent, it’s pretty tough, because you worry about the time you’re working, and the fact there is someone else with your kids,” she admits. “But we have such a loving family and they are given so much support, so in that sense I’m really lucky.”
She laughingly admits her children aren’t at all fazed by her job in television.
“They watch me on the TV and they encourage me. But when I come home and shut the door, and I’m giving them cuddles in bed, or I’ve shouted at them to tidy up their room, they don’t see me as famous at all. I’m just Mum.”
Despite her manic schedule, Judi says she has enjoyed the financial security that has come with her telly career. Doing stand-up comedy hasn’t always been the most lucrative of jobs, and at one point she was supplementing her income with a zero-hours contract job in the run-up to Christmas, just to feed her kids. The experience has made her particularly money savvy these days, although the fear of not being able to pay her bills has never quite left her.
“No matter what stage of life I’m at, I think I’ll always worry about money. It’s just a different worry now. It’s gone from ‘Can I pay my bills?’ to ‘How much is my tax?’ As a single parent, my priority is being educated about money, and trying to do the same for my children, because nothing is guaranteed. So if you have money, nurture it and invest. Be smart and equip yourself. I like to plan how to get through the hard times if they come.”
Judi first hit people’s radars with her debut comedy show Laughter Is Healing in 2011, and got her first taste of comedy in 2009, while studying for a Masters in social work at the Tavistock Institute. She performed a set in front of her classmates, in which she revealed the funny side of caring for her mother, who died in 2009 from dementia, and realised she had a natural talent for stand-up comedy.
In 2020, her TV career took off when she was offered a regular slot on Loose Women – a job she says is “joyful and fulfilling, and doesn’t feel like work at all”. With the daytime chat show significantly raising her profile, Strictly Come Dancing producers came knocking, and Judi snapped up the chance to put her best foot forward on the BBC show.
Although she was the fifth contestant to be sent home, and she missed a week after catching Covid, she says that being taught how to dance by her professional partner Graziano Di Prima was one of her major highlights of the past year.
Open, honest and unfiltered, Judi is an easy person to warm to, and even over our Zoom call, she has a relaxed presence in front of the camera. So it’s a surprise when she confesses that she’s had to overcome shyness to get to where she is today.
Believe it or not, I was a shy girl,” she says. “If you were in my inner circle or part of my family, you would see my real personality, but otherwise I was quite awkward. Being a performer, I learned how to go into professional mode, but I still have moments when I have to look in a mirror, remember who I am, what my gift is, and get on with it. None of us is perfect, and that’s OK.”
Body confidence is something Judi has struggled with over the years – not only when she was a teenager and found it hard to find fashionable clothes that fit, but also after having her two children, when she lost confidence in how she looked.
“Being happy with my appearance is something I’ve had to learn over time. When I was younger, I was always the friend who couldn’t get certain clothes. And after I had children, I lost my fashion sense because it was all about the kids, kids, kids. My body shape changed and I wasn’t sure any more how I fit into clothes. Now I’ve started to dress how I want to feel – vibrant, bright and joyful. That’s how I want other people to feel, too.”
This outlook on fashion has inspired Judi’s new clothing collection with Very. Aimed at curvy women from sizes 14 to 28, every print, colour and fabric has Judi’s vivacious stamp on it – from a pink power suit to statement monochrome dresses. Judi is passionate about getting rid of shapeless clothes and celebrating every type of body.
“It’s not about big baggy T-shirts – us girls with curves want to show them. These clothes will make women feel that they’re showing their best self and enhancing all the amazing, unique bits about their bodies.
“I want to move away from this label of ‘plus size’ – I don’t know who invented it, because really the average size of a woman in the UK is around a 16. These designs enhance things like your bust, back, arms, thighs and bum. You won’t feel you have to compromise how you want to look because you can’t find clothes that fit those areas.”
Judi hopes her body positivity is something that will rub off on her children, especially her daughter, who is approaching 17.
“I’m conscious I’ve got a daughter who will look at me and either feel inspired or worried because I’m hiding this or that, or not feeling confident. You’ve got to be careful what you say and how you present yourself.”
Both her kids are growing up fast. With her daughter now at college and showing a flair for art, and her son a gifted musician (he plays the drums) and sportsman, Judi admits that her weekends aren’t her own – she’s a glorified taxi service to and from her son’s various sports events.
As for her own ambitions, Judi is pretty happy with her life right now, but after trying her hand at acting in the second series of BBC drama Noughts + Crosses , she’d like to explore other roles in the future.
“Hollywood, if you want me, I’m here,” she laughs. “I would definitely love to perform in all areas, to travel and do things in different countries too, and I’d love to have a go at movies. Let’s expand the Judi Love brand internationally!”