Ajay Rochester is back! Having spent the last nine years in the US, the former Biggest Loser host has swapped the bright lights of LA for the South African jungle on I'm A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!
"I needed to start over," Ajay says about why she relocated to Hollywood in 2010 with her now-19-year-old autistic son Kai.
After avoiding a criminal conviction involving Centrelink fraud, feuding with former TBL co-star Michelle Bridges and struggling with weight gain, Ajay says she hit rock bottom.
"When I first came here [to LA] I was a mess," she tells Woman's Day.
Ajay, 49, hopes to raise money for her chosen charity, 4 ASD Kids, for children with autism spectrum disorder.
Hi Ajay! It's been a while. What are you up to these days?
I'm working out of LA, casting and producing shows. I've found my favourite profession!
Sounds like fun. Given you've stepped behind the scenes, what made you sign up for I'm A Celeb and a return to the spotlight?
Honestly I have dreamed about doing this show before it even came to Australia… It's a real pinch me moment. I've been a fan since it started in the UK. I've watched every episode of every season in England and Australia.
How do you think Aussies will react to seeing you back on their TVs?
I imagine people will be like, "Is she still alive?! She didn't die of a heart attack yet?!" Maybe the younger people will be like "Who the heck is she?!"
I hope people are happy, though. Hopefully people who do know me and my work are happy to see me. For those who don't, hopefully they'll be open to getting to know me.
Who will you miss the most during your time in the jungle?
My dog! Asperger's kids are not typically affectionate… I can count the hugs I've had from Kai on one hand. So I get all my hugs and cuddles from my dog. I'll also miss my phone and wine.
Who is the one celebrity you'd hate to see in the jungle?
Michelle Bridges! If she walked in I'd get a fork and stab myself. I'd prefer Satan.
Have you spoken at all since your falling out back in 2007?
Not a word! I guess I welcome an opportunity where we could have an adult conversation… But I refuse to base my self-worth on whether or not she hates me. I'd honestly rather lie in a pit of snakes than be locked in a coffin with her.
WATCH: Shannan Ponton slams Commando and Michelle Bridges for alliance on The Biggest Loser. Post continues...
Where are you at with your health journey? It's been a big part of your life…
I'm failing miserably right now, I'm so fat! A year-and-a-half ago I broke my foot and tore a ligament in my knee.
I wish it was a really great party story, but there was an earthquake and I slipped down a staircase twice in two weeks, so I haven't been able to go to the gym. It's so bad I'm ashamed, but I'm going to use this jungle diet for my betterment.
Beans and rice will surely be a great place to start…
I've never publicly admitted this to anyone, but when I walked the Great Wall of China with Olivia Newton-John in 2008, I drank the water in the hope of getting a tapeworm.
I actually brought home a bottle of tap water, so I could keep losing weight. It didn't work.
All I wanted was a tapeworm. Ripped off!
Are you open to finding love in the jungle?
In a hot second! I haven't actually had sex or been in a relationship for 10 years, it's so bad. I don't know what to do any more. It's going to be like I'm 18 years old again. I've become a born-again virgin.
What's the biggest misconception people have about you?
That I'm a b--ch! I'm just not the person I've been painted in Australia. And it really breaks my heart because Australia is my home. I just want to come home and be welcomed home.
What's one thing that would make you say: "I'm a celebrity... get me out of here"?
I'm not going to leave unless they drag me out by the ankles or I have a crown on my head. I'm not saying I'm going to win… it's usually a footballer or Australia's sweetheart who wins… so I'm very realistic about that. But I will never say "I'm a celebrity… get me out of here!" Even if I have to choke on a spider's butt!
Ajay has raised her son Kai, who was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome as a baby, largely as a single mother, and she says he's a big part of why she's doing the show.
"Kai's been living with me until now, but he's just returned to Australia to work," Ajay says.
"Because we're on a visa, he can't legally work [in America]. We need green cards. They cost about $12,000! What sort of mother has that in her back pocket?"
She says the show has already been a welcome opportunity to change Kai's life.
"The beautiful thing about this show is that it will enable us to get a green card. It will allow him to live here," she says.
"I'd become a resident and he as a dependent would become a resident and it would allow him to work. Getting a job is a big thing for him!"
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