“I’m really sorry,” begins Chico, ringing back after missing our calls, “I was in the middle of something, but I thought it was one of those – you know those people that call you up about accidents and stuff?” The former X Factor quarter-finalist hasn’t been in an accident that wasn’t his fault. “God forbid, no. I feel absolutely brilliant, I’m on top of the world at the moment, and now I’m talking to you so it’s a good day.”
During his time on X Factor’s second series, “everyone thought I was just clowning around and didn’t take me too seriously. But the fact of the matter is I achieved the impossible.” He was the first contestant to perform an original song in the live shows, ‘It’s Chico Time’, which replaced Madonna’s ‘Sorry’ at the top of the UK singles chart. “How far a person can come through self-belief and hard work is absolutely amazing.”
The 49-year-old’s passion for music combines with that of exercise for Block Fit – an infusion of dance, combat, HIIT, yoga-inspired moves and meditation. A property in Dubai, he says, led to him being conned out of his life savings. “Every penny I’ve ever worked for was taken away from me. They say desperation is the mother of all invention; I thought: ‘what am I going to do now? I’m back to zero.’” Then he reckoned he’d be rich if he’d had a pound for every time he’d told somebody how to get a six-pack and “an idea was born: four workouts in one class.” Inspired by Bruce Lee (“he took the best of everything and put it together”) and using his own music in classes, “we’re one of the biggest fitness brands in the country, and hopefully soon the world.”
So into health and fitness, did he feel a sense of injustice at his stoke in 2018? “No. I tell you what, everything happens for a reason. The universe is corrective, never vindictive. It gives you what you need, not what you want, because what you want is not necessarily good for you. What do I mean by that?” he resumes (sometimes we don’t have to ask the questions). “We’ve all got a mission in this life. When you’re far away from that mission, the universe kind of slaps you, gives you something to wake you up, bring you back into alignment with that mission.” The near-death experience, he says, wholly fixed his mind on the greater goals; his charity work (he is a patron of Rainbow Child Foundation), his fitness and health (he’s also now teetotal), and leaving behind a legacy.
It’s one of three major “wakeup calls” that have happened in his life, the first being when he was nearly paralysed in South Africa, and the second the aforementioned financial loss. “Clearly it wasn’t Chico Time,” he says of the stroke, hopefully the finally universe-slap. “I’m obviously here for a reason, to be given three chances to go out there and do what I need to do. Without these things I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.”
On top of motivational speaking, music gigs, Block Fit and writing a self-help book, he’s got a vidcast planned. Based on his catchphrase, it welcomes experts in various fields “to enlighten and help people from a positive mental attitude point of view. Whenever I’ve got a new person to speak to, it’ll be like, ‘hey, next week tune in, it’s gonna be ‘Madonna Time!’”
Fingers crossed she doesn’t bear a grudge.
Chico plays Fi.Fest Music Festival 3 July 2021