Curtis Pritchard knows all about brotherly love and banter. He and AJ – the baby-faced former Strictly professional dancer – are clearly a tight team but simply can’t resist teasing each other.
"God bless AJ, with his height he looks about 12 and I look 50 – I don’t know how that worked out," jokes Curtis, 24, who’s enjoying the same fame as his elder brother, 25, since taking part in Love Island last year.
"AJ’s got the most perfect skin, the most perfectly structured face and body. I mean the guy’s like a waxwork! As you can tell I take the mick out of him all the time, absolutely. It’s my job as his kid brother!"
Apart from their difference in size – Curtis is 6ft 3 and AJ is 5ft 7 – the pair, who are only 15 months apart in age, have lots in common.
They’re both dancers – Curtis appeared in Dancing With The Stars in Ireland and was a hit as the receptionist greeting contestants in the last series of The Greatest Dancer – and both have a huge social media following, although Curtis currently outstrips his brother with around 1.5 million followers to AJ’s 600k-plus.
The brothers have also teamed up for their own show – a UK tour, AJ Live 2020 – currently postponed because of the pandemic.
"It was fantastic working together for the first time and audiences seemed to love the dancing, our chat and comic routines. We do have such a unique bond and we’ve done everything together for most of our lives," says Curtis.
"We’ve both been involved in dancing, loved extreme sports like snowboarding from a young age, and always been there for one another. Don’t get me wrong, of course we drive each other absolutely insane at times and are fiercely competitive, but we’re best friends and love each other.
"We feel very lucky to be able to say that, as we didn’t realise until we talked about our bond how often siblings don’t get on as well as us."
There is one area though – Curtis’ weight – where brotherly teasing is off-limits.
He’s battled with it since around age 14, had periods where he alternated between crash-dieting and binge-eating, and experienced being ‘fat-shamed’* on social media when he came out of Love Island weighing two stone heavier.
"AJ would never call me ‘fat’ or make jokes about that. Sometimes in the past, he might have nudged me and said, ‘Do you really need to eat that?’, but that’s about it," says Curtis who is a WW (formerly Weight Watchers) ambassador.
"AJ knows how hurt I felt when I was fat-shamed. It was horrible at the time and shouldn’t happen to people. But now, after eight months with WW, I feel like a totally different person mentally, physically and emotionally," he says proudly.
"You need to feel you look good as a performer and I’ve always been aware that I can be fractionally bigger than other dancers. I was definitely bigger than the guys on Love Island who were gym freaks – all respect to them!"
His new lifestyle and "ditching my bad relationship with food for healthy habits" has changed all that and boosted his self-confidence.
Recently, he joined in one of the WW Live Virtual Workshops, organised since the lockdown restrictions on social mixing.
"Hearing other people’s inspiring stories and getting their tips and advice is brilliant," Curtis enthuses. "WW is all about community and supporting one another – so important in these times anyway – and there was such a strong sense of that in the workshop."
Currently, he’s self-isolating with AJ in Cheshire at their parents’ home. Their father, Adrian, an ex-world champion dancer, runs a dance school, and their mother Debi is a personal trainer. They’ve been joined by AJ’s girlfriend, fellow dancer Abbie Quinnen.
"It’s great fun trying out moves and routines and we work so well as a family, but as the weeks have gone on we are starting to get on each other’s nerves a bit," Curtis admits affectionately.
The family home is where he convalesced after knee surgery following an unprovoked assault on him and his brother in a nightclub in December 2018.
"That experience brought us even closer together as a family," he says quietly. "I stood in front of AJ to protect him from getting hurt and then I was knocked out and AJ dragged me clear. The injury could have cost me my dancing career but thanks to wonderful treatment by the NHS, I have full mobility back."
A session on an exercise bike to help his knee is part of his daily workout, and he says meditation really helps his mental wellbeing.
"I figure if your mind is messy then you’ll find it harder to keep your life in order," he says. "Meditation really helps me and it’s been a great help during isolation. It sets me up for the day ahead. I do it for about five minutes at least a couple of times a week. I imagine walking down a corridor in my brain, putting all my thoughts into different folders and filing them in a cabinet."
While Love Island didn’t bring him love – he recently split from Maura Higgins whom he dated on the show – he’s philosophical. "Everybody in the world strives for love and I’ll look again. It’s not put me off," he vows.
"Someone gave me this brilliant advice about love, which could be applied to work as well. They said love is a bit like gambling, if you only give a bit to it, you’re only going to get a little bit back. But if you invest in it, give everything and gamble big, then you have the chance to win big and achieve everything that you want."
Dancing remains a fundamental part of his life: "It will always be the passion that drives my life. It’s in my soul, my heart and my body. It’s given me the dedication, motivation and discipline to get me to where I am now," he says.
Clearly, he’s relishing working with his brother and admits his dream is that one day the pair have their own TV show – but this charming man, who describes himself as "light-hearted, outgoing and bubbly with a tendency to put others’ needs before my own" – has his feet firmly on the ground.
"AJ and I are just two young lads who love to work and love to work hard," he says. "Whatever we do and whatever we put our minds to, we give it our all.
"We’re very young still and hopefully there’s a bright road ahead of us –we’re just enjoying the journey and are happy to wait and see what happens."
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