After five years presenting Channel 4’s Naked Attraction, there’s not much that makes Anna Richardson blush.
“I am absolutely passionate about bodies,” declares Richardson, 51. “I’m passionate about bodies, I’m passionate about image, I am not embarrassed at all about nudity. I think it’s a conversation we need to embrace in this country.”
So, teaming up with Currys recently on their ‘manscaping’ campaign was a natural fit for the Shropshire-born telly host and writer. After a survey found 62% of men were using their beard trimmers to preen their pubic hair, they hosted a live ‘Below the Belt’ event on safe manscaping, alongside advice on checking for testicular lumps and bumps in support of men’s health charity, Movember.
Talking about these topics makes total sense to Richardson, who was previously in a relationship with former Bake Off presenter and comedy star Sue Perkins (the couple reportedly split last summer after seven years together). “If this is a trend that’s going on, which it is, then how do you do it correctly, safely, and while you’re at it, how can you check yourself for cancer and cysts and all the rest of it? Believe me, I see it all the time on Naked Attraction…”
It would be easy to dismiss the dating show Richardson’s fronted since 2016 – which sees her and a clothed contestant discuss a line-up of naked bodies before they pick one to go on a date with – as just a load of bare bits. But Richardson says working on the series has been “the greatest teacher” for her.
“On the surface, it can seem like a funny entertainment show, and it’s quirky and out there and there’s lots of laughs to be had. But when you scratch the surface, it’s actually a factual entertainment show. It’s educational and it’s about supporting body positivity and identity and that’s the reason I do it. I’ve also been really taken aback by how embracing people are of their own bodies,” she adds. “It’s wonderful to see people being so accepting of themselves, and that goes across the range of fat, thin, disability, trans, the lot.”
Richardson, who has previously talked about experiencing her own share of body-confidence struggles and fluctuating weight, admits she’s “very worried” about the impact the pandemic is having on these things.
“I think, what we are experiencing, not only with the pandemic, but an epidemic in terms of mental health, an epidemic in terms of how our emotional health affects our body image, currently we’re going in two split directions,” she reflects – explaining that on the one hand there’s increasing “concern around young people having eating disorders”.
At the other end of the scale, meanwhile, there are many people who might be “becoming quite unhealthy, because let’s face it, we’re lonely, we’re isolated, we’re not necessarily eating properly, we’re far more comfortable in our joggers and elasticated pants, sitting in front of Zoom where nobody can see you from the waist down. It’s not simple”, Richardson adds. “We are in the middle of a very difficult time.”
In terms of her own wellbeing, it’s all about taking the physical and the emotional into account. “Your emotional health always affects your physical health,” says Richardson, who is also a trained cognitive hypnotherapist and co-runs online mental wellbeing resource Mindbox (mind-box.co.uk), which offers a range of programmes for things like stress and anxiety. “So, first off, I would say be very, very aware of your emotional health. That then feeds into supporting our physical health.”
She is redoing her qualification – “just out of interest, because I find psychology and the mind fascinating” – and has embraced these things in her own life too. “I have regular psychotherapy so that I keep myself in tip-top form in terms of any triggers that come up, particularly over the pandemic. I am also part of a meditation class online, which is again very stabling in terms of keeping you present and as calm as possible in a mad world. I’m very interested in energy healing as well,” Richardson adds. “It sounds mad, but I know a very good energy healer in London who is like a shaman really, I do a lot of work with her.”
The presenter splits her time between London and the Peak District, which provides lots of opportunity for getting out in nature and mixing up her fitness regime. “If I’m in London, I try and hit my three classes a week if I can. There’s a trainer who at 9am on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday gets a group of local mums and women together and, come hell or high water, rain or shine, he puts a class on in the local park, and we do an hour of HIIT training and weight training.
“I’ve started tennis lessons as well, with an amazing local female teacher, so I’m learning to properly play tennis. And if I’m in the Peak District, I’ve got a rescue dog called Tiggy and I’m a big fan of doing a lot of hill-walking and being outdoors as much I possibly can. One of the most important things I’ve discovered is my dog has just been the absolute love of my life, basically. She is my spiritual companion. She forces me to get up out of bed and walking, forces me to nurture,” says Richardson. “And it’s true, having that holistic approach, the spiritual, the physical, the mental, is everything.”