Five minutes with... Anna Richardson

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WHAT CAN YOU TELL US AHEAD OF THE UPCOMING FIFTH SERIES?

Even though this is hard to believe, we've managed to go even bigger and better than before. In terms of casting, we have - for the first time ever - a celebrity! I can't say who, but they're not a picker, they're a

body! We also have a chap with HIV, who is coming on the show to say, 'Look, I want to remove the stigma. It's not a death sentence, you can still date and be perfectly happy'. And we've got - get your head around this one - a trans female who was born into a strict Muslim family.

 

A VARIED BUNCH. ANYONE ELSE OF NOTE?

We have a straight girl who thinks she might now like to try and be a lesbian; she's a lesbian virgin and goes out on an all-female date for the first time. We have Judith, a 57-year-old Christian, who for the first time, is looking to find a man other than God. And then we have got a young guy who is 23 and a virgin, desperate to get a girlfriend and desperate to lose his virginity. So, who better to help him pick a girlfriend than his mum? He brings her onto the show to help him pick!

 

NAKED ATTRACTION REMAINS SO POPULAR. WHAT DOES IT DO SO WELL IN COMPARISON TO OTHER DATING SHOWS?

I think people watch the show and say, 'This is so diverse'. You've got fat, you've got thin, you've got old, you've got young, you've got trans, you've got gay... it reflects everyone. First Dates is the other dating show that really ticks the box when it comes to diversity, so I love that show. But when you look at other reality dating shows, they tend to focus on perfection, youth, beauty, everything that is really transient and fake in the world. We're as real as real can be, and that's why cross-generationally, people really enjoy it.

 

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY THE OVERARCHING MESSAGE IS?

I think for people watching, and when I watch it as a viewer, it's about acceptance. We will all see our own body shape reflected in at least one of those people there, that's why it makes us feel better about ourselves. Even though it's controversial, it's also really celebrated, because as well as being about nakedness, it's about inclusion.

 

WOULD YOU HAVE THE COURAGE TO STAND IN ONE OF THE PODS?

Someone said to me, 'If you were younger, if you were single, if you weren't well known...', and I was a bit like, 'So, if I was an entirely different person, would I do the show?' As a 49-year-old, I probably wouldn't - just because of my generation. I'm a confident person, but I don't think I would have the nuts to do it. If I was 20 and living as part of this generation that's all about Instagram and social media, maybe I would. But no, I am very happy in my Spanx.

 

HAS YOUR BODY CONFIDENCE GROWN WITH AGE?

I know it's a cliche, but you know when you speak to old people, they go, 'Well as you get older, you just care less' and you think, 'Yeah whatever!' You really do. I am comfortable in my own skin; I know what I like, I know who I am, and I know what I want. And so, I am a lot more accepting. It's interesting, the world, when you get to your late 40s. You start going through menopause and your body changes - I suppose, like childbirth, it's just another stage in life when you have to try and understand and embrace your body.

 

YOU'VE BEEN QUITE OPEN ABOUT YOUR OWN LIFE OVER THE YEARS - DO YOU FIND YOURSELF CRAVING PRIVACY NOW?

A little bit. I am open about my life, but the scrutiny on relationships and children and family, sometimes you feel a bit protective and think, 'Hang on a minute. I don't want to always talk about what's going on in my private life'. So maybe, as I get a little bit older, I'm a little bit more boundaried.

 

YOU'RE OFTEN THE ONE DISHING OUT ADVICE, BUT WHO DO YOU TURN TO WHEN YOU'RE IN NEED OF HELP?

I have a really good psychotherapist, who I have known for years. She's literally been helping me through various life stages for 15 years, so we know each other really well. There's lots going on in my life at the moment - there's family issues and my dad's not particularly well - so I talk to her quite a lot about my worries. I fully believe that everybody should have a psychotherapist or a counsellor on speed dial. It's like going to the hairdresser.

 

YOUR BRILLIANT WORK WITH MINDBOX OFFERS SUPPORT TO THOSE SUFFERING WITH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES. HAVE YOU NOTICED A SHIFT IN SOCIETY WHEN IT COMES TO AID AND UNDERSTANDING?

It's not changing quickly enough for my liking. Even though the government has pledged changes in funding, and even though everybody is all over social media and you've got the royals doing Heads Together and all the rest of it, there's a lot of chatter. Everybody has jumped on the bandwagon, and they're bringing out books about depression or happiness or podcasts, but there's a real lack of effective change and help for people. So, I don't think we've got there yet. We need more action, more funding and more visibility.

 

Naked Attraction is on Channel 4

Woman's Way