The VICE Interview: Mr Motivator
Talking homelessness, love and warm apple pie with the fitness guru the nation grew up with.
This is the VICE Interview. Each week we ask a different famous and/or interesting person the same set of questions in a bid to peek deep into his or her psyche.
The words "Mr Motivator" transport you back to sick days off school with a structured routine of GMTV followed by Trisha for "education". For the best part of 10 years, Mr Motivator was ITV's resident fitness instructor. Jamaican-born Mr M (real name Derrick Evans) was catapulted to success after a spell of menial jobs including cleaning Littlewoods toilets and a brief spell of homelessness. Since his big break on morning telly in the early 1990s, Mr M has released a succession of workout videos, forayed into the world of motivational speaking and, more recently, dedicated his name and time to men's health charities. Last month, Derrick was appointed ambassador for Mo Running, after three years of involvement with the men's charity, Movember. We gave him a VICE grilling to find out what life is like outside of the multi-coloured lycra.
VICE: Why are you passionate about men's health?
Mr Motivator: You can never take your health for granted, it should be a bit like brushing your teeth. As close as I can to my birthday, I go and have a regular check up. My message is all about having fun, looking in the mirror and liking what you see. Anything that has a positive message behind it is something I would like to get involved with and get behind. Mo Running is about cheering everyone along and doing a warm-up.
I got involved with Movember last year to promote men to go to the doctors and look after their help. With black men, there's always a pressure – going to the doctors is the last straw. Maybe it's a historical thing, it is rather strange that when you do feel ill you think, oh it's just a sniffle, oh it's just nothing. But these are all warning signs that you need to check yourself – women do it, we should do the same thing. Men don't want to hear the bad news if there is bad news but I always find that the not knowing is the worst.
Would your parents be proud of your career?
If my parents were alive, I think they would want me to be helping to do something with my hands – carpentry or something like that. They came from the realm of being farm workers and labourers so it's natural that you want your child to go down that route rather than getting an education. Both of my parents are no longer alive, they died in the 80s and unfortunately, they never saw the success I garnered on GMTV.
What was your worst phase?
I was 21 when I moved to London and I had to look after my first daughter on my own. I couldn't manage very well as a single parent, so we went to the homeless family unit in Finsbury Park and eventually we were given a B&B with six or eight other families. It was horrific – the noise, the cleanliness, the lack of electricity it was not a place to look after a child. After a long while, the council were able to give me a flat to stay in but that wasn't great either because it was in really horrid area and also very run down – you'd get all the rats coming in. Good did come out of it – it was very grounding for me and made me who I am today and now I understand what it's like having to survive everyday. I remember going into the Job Centre and the young lady behind was so rude to me in the way she spoke to me. I looked at her and said, "I will NEVER come back here," and I never did.
Then went on working for Tescos, cleaning toilets in Littlewoods, anything, really. Eventually you get that break. Fitness came to me in about '83 and it was like one of those lightbulb moments. But it wasn't easy and I didn't have a chip on my shoulder – the world doesn't owe you anything.
I only read autobiographies
How many books have you actually read and finished?
I only read autobiographies because it's uplifting to see how other people make in in spite of the odds. The best story for me was Mandela's. What he went through and then came out the other end. Mr Branson and his story of how he set up Virgin and what he had to do with that is interesting, but it's nothing like being incarcerated and having your freedom taken away.
How many people have been in love with you?
I've lost count. Hundreds of thousands. Especially these days. The love that I get from the public is so great – no matter where I go there is love and a smile. I'm talking about men coming up and kissing me. Putting their beard on my cheek – it happens all the while. They grew up with you. I treat 20,000 people in workouts and they all give their kids to me to hold and ask me to speak on the phone to their loved ones.
One of the messages I came across yesterday was inspirational – from a squadron soldier, saying all the men in the camp love me and they would like for me to come along because they grew up with me and it would make it easier for them when they go into combat.
Have you ever experienced true fear?
In Jamaica six years ago, a group of men broke into our home wielding guns and knives and robbed us. We calmly let them go about their business. My wife was very clever and managed to hide her wedding ring in her mouth. Our youngest daughter was affected for quite a while after the event, but the mere fact you're here today means there's good to come.
What's the nicest thing you own?
I'm not into cars, not into jewellery. The most functional thing I have is probably our home in Jamaica – lots of space, lots of greenery and it's good for zip-lining and playgrounds.
Finish this sentence: The problem with young people today is...
Not enough parents are out there to make sure that they get proper parenting and that they turn into responsible, loving adults. Too many young people are having children and so young children are not getting the parental guidelines they need. There should be lessons and courses into how to be parents. The breakdown in the family comes about because the grandparents are no longer talking to grandparents. Kids are having kids – how can they be good parents if they're kids themselves?
I tell my children, always have a kindly word to say because things will come back round to bite you in the butt. Or, it could come back round and give you a great, big cuddle. Wait around to find out how someone is – just be patient.
What would your last supper be?
Awww man, that's tough. Smoked salmon and boiled or roast potatoes; loads and loads of broccoli and cauliflower and string beans and some mushroom sauce. Oh my goodness. Afterwards? I would have apple crumble and custard. Or apple pie and custard... oh baby.
I don't drink but if I do, I'll very occasionally have a glass of Baileys or a bit of whiskey and maybe some ice cream. With Baileys you've got to have some vanilla ice cream – and only ever one glass. We smell it and we normally fall about laughing!
If you were a wrestler, what song would you step into the ring to?
"Ain't No Stopping Us Now". Yes, I like that message; you can achieve anything you want to achieve.
What was your proudest moment?
I did a video a few years back for the MS Trust. I didn't realise that you can wake up tomorrow morning and all of a sudden you can't move a muscle. We auditioned a load of people who had different levels of MS. We had an incredible response from people, that taught me a great lesson and it was very interesting.
Can drugs make you truly happy?
No. I think you have to get emotionally happy and like yourself. Or, if not, it comes from sharing it with someone else and looking after that, nurturing it. That should be the only drug you have every day.
What's the grossest injury you've ever had?
I was doing a show for a gymnastics show once, training with an Olympic coach and an international gymnast. I was in a lot of pain with all the stretching and all the hoops and I ended up over rotating on a vault and dislocated my knee. I had an operation on my knee and it's still not right to this day – there's still some scar tissue left. I need a lot of massage and stuff like that.
Which would you give up – sex or kissing?
When you get older, one of those things disappears or doesn't happen as regularly as it should, which is the sex aspect. But the kissing and cuddling is far more important. To be honest, I think it means more than sex. Sex is sex – it lasts for 10 seconds and that's the end of it. Kissing and cuddling and that touching; the touching of noses and the brush of a hand on someone's shoulder as you walk by... that moment cannot be repeated. Sex you can do whenever you like, with whoever you like.
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