“Are you sure this is a good idea?”
That’s what Diversity star Jordan Banjo, 28, asked big brother Ashley, 32, as they planned their routine for their big return to Britain’s Got Talent in 2020, 11 years on from winning the show.
The powerful, emotive performance was choreography set to music and poetry, describing how the world had changed amid the pandemic.
It was the same year George Floyd was murdered by a police officer kneeling on his neck, and Black Lives Matter protests marched across the world.
The harrowing incident was directly depicted in Diversity’s routine, as well as nods to other societal ills including consumerism and capitalism.
The message of the routine was a positive one, thanking the NHS for its tireless work in the pandemic and noting how, in some ways, Covid-19 could change the world for the better.
But not everyone saw it that way.
Guy Levy/REX/Shutterstock for BAFTA)
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The routine sparked 24,500 complaints to Ofcom, becoming the second most complained about TV moment in the last decade – second only to Roxanne Pallett’s “punchgate” on Celebrity Big Brother.
Diversity’s members were inundated with racist abuse and death threats over the routine.
But, poignantly, they never responded to the hate with anything other than messages of hope and thanks to their supporters – who outweighed the vicious minority.
And they recently won the BAFTA for Must-See Moment, recognised for their contribution and the cultural impact it had.
Asked if the outcry changed his perception of the British public, Jordan replied: “It did, it did change it, but only for the better.”
He continued: “Initially it was like, ‘Woah, what the hell is going on?’ It was a bit of a shock to the system.
“Before, if you’d asked us what the most controversial thing we had done was, we would say when Perri did a backflip one time!” he laughed.
“We didn’t do much outside Diversity, and we didn’t do anything that seemed that personal.
David Parry/PA Wire)
“And when you take a stance, whatever side you’re on, you’ve got to expect some sort of reaction.
“Before we did it, personally, I said to Ashley, ‘Are you sure this is a good idea?'” he revealed.
‘Some people are going to say stuff.’
“And I expected it to be some stuff on Twitter, I didn’t expect it to be on newspaper articles, breakfast TV, everywhere you turn.
“But when you’re involved it always seems much bigger than it is, because it’s all you hear about – they had an opinion, they tweeted it and forgot about it.
“But when you’ve got hundreds of thousands of them over a couple of weeks, for us, it’s day in day out, and it was a barrage at first.
“And it changed us for the positive – there was such an amazing reaction, we won the BAFTA, all that positivity came from it, and it showed that while there was a negative reaction, that was the minority.
“And the majority of people are on the right side of the debate.”
David Parry/PA Wire)
Jordan and brother Ashley took part in Old El Paso’s Slam Dunk Mess Free Challenge this week.
For every dunk scored, Old El Paso donated ten products to charity, FareShare which works to tackle food poverty in the UK.
And for each entry shared on social media with #MessFreeChallenge, a further 20 products were also donated.
“It’s always fun to have a bit of a challenge against Ash and have him challenge me,” said Jordan.
“But to be involved in something that’s fun, but also you are doing something incredible, you’re donating to FareShare, you’re helping people, especially after the 12 to 18 months that we’ve had.
“If you can do something to help people that’s also a lot of fun, and I am working with my older brother, it’s an all round yes for me, I couldn’t wait to get involved,” he added.
Asked who does the cooking in his house he shares with fiancé Naomi Courts and their children, Mayowa ‘Mimi’ Angel, two, and Cassius, three, Jordan said: “It’s about equal now.
“At one point it used to be my partner, it used to be Nay, but when we had kids I was like, ‘I don’t want to be completely useless!
“I thought, I need to actually learn how to do something, so I learnt a few simple recipes and I’ve been cracking them out with my own twist – which is basically whether I put ketchup on it or not!”
Jordan and Naomi are set to wed next August, having been forced to delay their wedding twice due to the pandemic – but Jordan sees it as a “blessing in disguise”.
“If we had got married when we planned to, it would have been one of us changing nappies while saying our vows!” he laughed.
“I am really excited, I get dragged on to zoom calls every other day talking about what shade of pink do I like for a napkin!” he added.
It has not been an easy couple of years for Jordan and Naomi.
Shortly after Mimi was born, Naomi developed sepsis after complications in labour, and doctors almost put her in a medically-induced coma, as she came close to death twice.
“It was a really scary time,” said Jordan.
“That put things into perspective a bit more,” he added, explaining it made him realise he needed to spend more time at home rather than focusing most of his energy on working.
“I was at rehearsal when Nay rang me, and she said, ‘I don’t feel good,’ and I said, ‘I’ll come home,'” he said.
“She told me not to but I came home anyway because I didn’t think she sounded well, and when I arrived she was unconscious on the floor, Cass was sat down watching TV but Mimi was on the changing mat.
“We have got an overweight Chihuahua who was sat on Nay’s head, and I was like, ‘Well you’re definitely not helping!'” he laughed.
“The doctor said, ‘You really need to be careful,’ and it reinforced I needed to be home more and be around the kids.”
Being a dad is everything to Jordan, and he says above all else, his kids give him hope.
“In the past few weeks, with the world opening up again, I haven’t seen the kids quite as much, and when I come back to them, even if it’s an hour or two before bed, I always take Cass up to bed and I’ll be with him for about half an hour,” he said.
“I try to do the same thing with Mimi but she just jumps on my head and doesn’t listen to me, so that doesn’t go well!
“I will talk to Cass about his day, and it sounds silly and so obvious, but when you are a kid, the little things are your entire day.
“What was good today? Daddy came home from work.”
He continued: “You can make such a positive addition to someone’s day just by saying something nice, a smile, a high-five, acknowledging something.
“It’s the little things I am focusing on at the moment, to make each day a bit better.”
And Jordan’s children are the best of friends with their cousins – Ashley’s two children Rosie, two, and Micah, one, who he shares with long-term partner, dancer Francesca Abbott.
“I will get a FaceTime call from Ashley’s wife, Chess, every other day if we haven’t seen them,” Jordan said.
“And it will be Rosie, the eldest, she will be shouting: ‘Mimi! Cass!’ She doesn’t want to know about me – she looks right through me!
“They are very close. Cassius and Rosie play together and run around all the time, they love it.”
He chuckled: “Mimi is a bit more independent, yesterday she was sat in the dog cage for half an hour on her own.”
Asked if they are exhibiting any dancing talent yet, Jordan said: “Cassius is like his mum, he loves to dance – Can’t quite do it, zero rhythm, but loves to dance.
“Mimi is a bit more like me, she can dance but she is laid back about it – so we have got one of each!”
Asked if he ever could have imagined as a child he and Ashley would be living the lives they are now, Jordan replied: “Definitely not.
“I was quite a…. let’s call it ‘free’ teenager. I didn’t know what I was going to do or where I was going to end up,” he explained.
“When we were kids, I didn’t think we would be in the position we are now,” he added.
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