August 17, 2022

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Born Peter James Andrea in Harrow, London, in 1973, and raised in Sydney, Australia, Andre...

Born Peter James Andrea in Harrow, London, in 1973, and raised in Sydney, Australia, Andre is one of the quintessential 90s pop stars. After winning the TV talent show New Faces in Australia aged 16, he signed to a record label and launched his career in the UK, finding fame with the breakout hit Mysterious Girl and the accompanying video in which Andre body-rolls in a pair of jeans in the tropical sea.
After two No 1 singles, Andre retreated from the limelight before appearing on I’m a Celebrity … in 2004. On the show he met model and entrepreneur Katie Price, whom he married in 2005 and divorced in 2009. After a decade of reality TV, with multiple fly-on-the-wall franchises, Peter now lives in Surrey with his wife, NHS doctor Emily MacDonagh, and children. He is the co-founder of the “no guilt” health and fitness app #itsfine, available via Apple App Store and Google Play.
Back in 1996, I was under the impression that proper fashion came in the form of incredibly baggy clothes. Instead of wearing tight stuff that showed off all my hard work training, I’d wear things that made me look completely shapeless. Like this “sauna suit” – it was my outfit for the Top of the Pops Weekend festival at Wembley Arena. I couldn’t bear the heat of it on my skin, so it would inevitably come off mid-song.

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Growing up, I used to study live footage of Prince and Michael Jackson; when I did my own shows I made sure to use similar lighting as I loved how it contoured their faces. Ironically, the night I did this gig Michael Jackson was playing Wembley Stadium and some of his dancers later told me that to try to make him laugh they put posters up around the venue with his face stuck on to photos of my shirtless body.
As for my wet-look hair, I used this gel called Dark and Lovely. I’d buy massive tubs of it from a shop in Fulham in London when I lived there in the 90s. My apartment was right above PJ and Duncan’s. They used to bang their brooms on the ceiling late at night because I had parties all the time. This was before they became Ant and Dec, before they were TV gods, and had just done Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble. We were in competition with each other. But how life changed! Years later I remember seeing them heading off to the afterparties while I was the one going back home because I was over it.
At the start of my career I had noticed guys like Marky Mark and Jean-Claude Van Damme were taking their tops off, and I wanted to do the same thing for pop. It was already happening in places like the UK with Take That, but my label wasn’t into it – they thought Aussies wouldn’t get it. My parents weren’t too keen either. When I was offered a deal aged 16, my mum was absolutely petrified – she said: “No, no, no, please no!” And I see why: they’re Jehovah’s Witnesses and were concerned my life would be all sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. I never took drugs, but I liked to party, had lots of girlfriends and made taking my shirt off my trademark.

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At the peak of my pop powers, I had an arrogance I regret. I can see how it happened: I was No 1 and the hysteria was crazy

Throughout my life I’ve been accepted and rejected for my appearance. As a kid, I felt isolated because I was Greek and a “greasy wog”, as the kids and teachers used to call me. I took a lot of beatings for looking different; some were with fists and some were with stones. The knife that was pulled on me never went all the way in, but it certainly scared me enough to know that things could be over very quickly.
What happened when I became famous and started attracting girls was another problem. The 90s were very image-based and no one knew me as a person, so I used to walk down the street and get called a wanker. Men would shout at me: “Who the f- do you think you are? If you look at my girl, I’ll kill you.” I don’t hold any grudges because I understand how it must have looked at the time: who is this guy walking around with his shirt off? Thankfully, as the years have gone on I’ve become a family man and do more interviews; people can now see that I’m not actually a little shit.
At the peak of my pop powers I was polite to people, but I think I had a sense of arrogance that I now regret. I can kind of see how it happened: I was No 1 and the hysteria from the fans was crazy. I went from being a shy kid to having this huge confidence, touring the world and travelling to incredible places. We shot the video for Mysterious Girl on the Phi Phi Islands in Thailand; we arrived, set up the speakers, blasted out the song and shot footage of the local people dancing. I ended up going out with the girl in the video – a Swiss Thai model called Champagne X, who was a big star at the time – for a year and a half. She was such a sweet person, and it was only distance that made us break up.
I’ve definitely got a complex emotional attachment to food. I don’t know if I’d consider it a disorder, but from the age of 15 until I was nearly 30, I watched everything I ate. I used to eat egg whites, protein powders, creatine and amino acids. I would get up in the morning and do sit-ups and push-ups before I even went downstairs. These days if I don’t have my double espresso I can’t even talk, let alone do a sit-up! But when you’re so focused on your ambitions you’ll do whatever it takes, sometimes to your own detriment.

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Then I had a funny few years in my 30s when I came out of the I’m a Celebrity … jungle and put on 3st. I fell into ex-footballer syndrome: I had the attitude of: “I don’t care. I’ve been training all my life, I don’t want to be told what to eat.” I needed a break. But I didn’t like how that made me feel either. I tried every fad diet to lose the weight: Atkins, Keto, no fat, no carbs, and all of it did the same thing. All of it made me lose weight, put it back on and then some. When I hit 40, everything changed. I found a balance, the one we are always told about, but that seems so hard to achieve. I generally eat healthily, but some days I do want to have a doughnut with my coffee. Am I as ripped as I was? No, but I’m not in bad shape for my age.
That doesn’t mean I’d have the confidence to take my shirt off now though. The problem with being so motivated to have such a ripped body when I was young was that I built a rod for my own back. Even though I am decades older, I still think: “Oh no, keep your clothes on, people will just compare your body to the body in your younger photos.” You’ll never see me walking around a beach with my top off. Or on stage. Maybe for a laugh, but it’s unlikely.
During that first part of my career I was on top of the world, but I recognise how fragile fame can be, what a vulnerable position you’re put in. You can easily believe your own hype and go either of two ways: off the rails and completely lose the plot; or have the moment, step away from it, come back and enjoy it the second time. Or the third time. Which is where I’m at now.

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