In Chill Chat, Bustle sits down with stars to chat about all things wellness, from relaxation rituals to their hacks for getting a good night’s sleep. Here, Anna Richardson talks therapy toolkits, getting into nature, and putting on her agony aunt hat for her new podcast, It Can’t Just Be Me.
Every day looks vastly different for Anna Richardson. Perhaps best known as the brilliantly matter-of-fact host of Naked Attraction — a long-running dating show in which contestants get their bits out before heading off on a first date — the broadcaster is network TV’s much-needed friendly sex-ed expert. And it’s a role she’s happy to have — but wants you to know there’s more to her programs than the nudity.
“Over and above, Naked Attraction is about acceptance,” Richardson tells Bustle. “Before that show, nobody had shown naked trans people who were happy to come on television, take their clothes off, and go: ‘This is what I look like, accept me.’”
Though the recently debuted Naked Education isn’t exactly intended as a spin-off, Richardson says the show is similarly focused on “accepting and celebrating our bodies, and the difference between ours and other people’s.”
Ahead of her new advice-based podcast It Can’t Just Be Me, Richardson shares her grounding self-care routine.
Do you have any go-to rituals you turn to in hectic times?
I have had a lot of psychotherapy over my life — in the past, I’ve suffered a lot with anxiety and depression. I had a period where I was extremely anxious, and I became quite agoraphobic — I had to just stop work.
My therapist at the time said to me, “You get yourself in that car, you get your ass across town, and you come and see me.” That started a journey of me realizing that I needed a toolkit to help me in difficult times. I have regular psychotherapy as needed. When I split up from my partner, I hit a massive life crisis and I had to plunder my toolkit. I needed to place some people around me. I needed to do daily mindfulness meditation to really stay grounded. I also decided to train as a cognitive hypnotherapist, which has given me a real toolbelt of techniques I can use if I’m feeling overwhelmed.
What do you like to do to relax?
I co-own a dog, so getting outside for a dog walk and being in nature is very important to me. And because I work in broadcasting, I’m really, really interested and passionate about film, television, podcasting, and radio. A lot of my relaxation comes from listening to things and watching things. It might look to other people like I’m just sitting on the sofa, but I find that really relaxing.
You’re putting on your agony aunt hat for your new podcast It Can’t Just Be Me, which is all about giving advice and the idea that we’re never really alone in our struggles. Who would be your dream agony aunt?
Paul O’Grady, God rest his soul. He was always really lovely. I first met him in 1989, in Manchester, when he was Lily Savage. I remember bumping into him in the reception of BBC North, and just saying, “Oh, my God, you are just so amazing.” I think that Paul O’Grady — and Lily Savage — would have had a thing or two to say about our problems.
An episode of the podcast deals with the subject of coming out later in life, a topic close to your own heart. [Richardson was previously in a relationship with fellow broadcaster Sue Perkins until 2021.] How were those conversations?
We had Dr. Ranj on, who has such an interesting story. He’s Sikh and was very much encouraged to get married, settle down, and have a family. He fell in love with a woman and got married, but something was missing. Ultimately, their marriage ended, and he subsequently came out as queer. It was really interesting to hear his take on the spectrum of queerness and homosexuality.
A big part of your career is built on talking very openly and educationally about sex and taking the shame and secrecy out of it as a topic. What was sex education like for you growing up?
We’re talking mid-’80s, and I went to an all-girls boarding school — so you can imagine that there were no condoms or cucumbers. I remember there was a plastic model in biology of a naked woman, and she was sort of cut in half, and you could take bits of her out, and there was an awful lot of conversation about how babies are made — nothing about how to have a healthy relationship or how to have healthy sex. It was just very biological and woeful. That’s why, no doubt, I ended up being pregnant as a student. There was very little support at the time.
We have to touch on Naked Attraction. Did any contestants leave a lasting impact on you?
There’s been a couple of standout memories. Who can forget Judith, the church-going lady who brought her Casio organ with her and played “The Lord Is My Shepherd” while asking men to strip? She was wonderful. Also Brian, who had never had a date and had never had sex with a lady. He decided to come on Naked Attraction, was hit by six vulvas, and basically almost fainted. We had to stop recording and let him recover.
You’re surrounded by a lot of naked people day to day. Does picturing people without any clothes on help you deal with stage fright, or are you completely desensitized to it?
I have seen so many vulvas, boobs, testicles, willies — you name it. It’s biology at the end of the day and it really doesn’t matter. I am quite desensitized to it, but I do have a bit of a funny tick — when I’m talking to people and I’m bored, I can look at them and I’m able to imagine what they look like without their clothes on. At parties, I’ll be nodding along and thinking: “I imagine that you’re probably circumcised.” I’ve got a superpower where I can kind of undress people.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.