Judi Love: ‘Working in a hairdresser was the best education’
I lived in my own world as a kid. I sang Whitney Houston songs to imagined crowds. While watching films, I’d pretend to be the star of my own movie. Something in me wanted to entertain, but there was no representation. I never thought there was a space for this chubby working-class West Indian girl in Leyton to be on screen.
Getting drunk at school was my wildest teenage moment. It was the last day before exams – we got wasted on our break and came back for the final class. I’m not sure where the booze came from, but we partied hard, playing music. The teachers had no idea what to do.
Working in an Afro hairdresser from 14 was the best education. Through customers and colleagues I was exposed to adult life – breakups, breakdowns, unexpected pregnancies… It opened my eyes to sisterhood and the power of community. Plus, I got my hair done for free.
Believe it or not I was shy for a long time. I worked at the council into my 30s and during team meetings I’d be petrified of even introducing myself. Then a friend asked me to MC her wedding – she saw something in me. It helped me find my confidence, even if that quiet little girl is still deep inside.
I’m awful with names, I blame my dyslexia. There’ve been so many awkward moments, but I’ve learned to work wonders with a simple “Hey, babe!”
I didn’t get into comedy until I hit 30. Life was happening – I had children, I was paying bills. But I didn’t feel satisfied. Making people laugh filled my soul – comedy got me through the hard times. When I gave it a go at an open-mic night, something clicked, even if I nearly threw up backstage.
Meeting Whoopi Goldberg was a pinch-me moment. I’m her biggest fan; she’s the woman I’ve always looked up to. Then I got the call to interview her – she’d asked for me specifically. I still can’t believe we sat together and she knows I exist. Thankfully, I didn’t forget her name.
A guy once said: “You’d be wifey material if you were a little bit smaller.” You can guess what I replied. The body positivity movement has empowered us, yes, but too many people still believe that if you’re a big girl, you don’t have self-discipline, self-respect or self-love. In fact I’ve got plenty of all three, thanks.
There’s so much I love about being a mum. Snuggling with the kids on the sofa. Dressing up in matching outfits. Seeing my face in theirs. Holding my daughter’s foot. Making them get the remote even if it’s closer to me – just because I can.
Talk to your elders, whether family or total strangers. I take every opportunity: at events, on the bus, in the corner shop. Always start that conversation – there’s so much joy, pain and wisdom to be found in listening. You’ll regret it if you don’t once these people pass.
A few years ago I dreamed of being on Loose Women, today I’m a regular, and about to do my first national tour. I can’t put what that means to me into words. So much that felt impossible is happening – it’s such a gift.
I’d have a lot to say to my teenage self: “Take care of your body, starting now; work harder at school; Tyrone is not the one.” Mostly, though, I’d tell her, “Girl, never forget you are enough.”
Judi Love’s debut UK tour, The One Like, starts 18 March (judilove.co.uk/events)