Derrick Evans aka ‘Mr Motivator’ is a legendary fitness icon, who burst onto breakfast TV in the early 90s, transfixing viewers with his simple routines, infectious smile and eye-popping range of psychedelic leotards…
He became a beloved part of breakfast for millions, who tuned in to his segment on GMTV in order to get moving, and (of course), motivated.
Today, the 70-year-old, who grew up in Leicester, is still as bright and motivated as ever, as he chats to Pukaar about his recent MBE, inspiring attitude to life and plans for the year ahead…
Born to a single mum in Jamaica, Derrick Errol Evans moved to Leicester with his adoptive parents at the age of 10. His mum gave him away when he was just three-months old, and he enjoyed growing up in the city.
Despite currently living in Manchester, Leicester is a place which holds extremely fond memories for the star, who attended St Peter’s Primary School and later, Moat Boys.
“Because I spent my formative years in Leicester, I still refer to it as a kind of home,” he said.
“Those years, between the age of 5 and 16, are where you get your grounding – the experience which sets you up for the rest of your life really, so it was a really important time for me.
“I was in the local Boy’s Brigade for about ten years (the 8th Leicester) and it was here where I learned everything about gymnastics and about life really – how to be respectful to adults and stuff like that. It gave me a great grounding for the years ahead, and I look back on it with great fondness,” he added.
Despite enjoying good times in Leicester, Derrick moved away to London at the age of 21 in order to pursue “new opportunities” – and his ultimate goal of teaching fitness on TV.
He could never have imagined the level of success he’d go on to achieve as ‘Mr Motivator’ however, although it was something which definitely didn’t come easy…
With a young daughter in tow, Derrick took odd jobs for over a decade in order to make ends meet. He worked on building sites, stacked shelves and even cleaned toilets before his big break finally arrived in 1993.
The icon even experienced bouts of homelessness as he set about trying to achieve his ambitions, and he was met with racism as he tried to get a foot in the door of the business.
“I got told ‘it will never work – a black man doing fitness on television.’ However, I still believed it would and I never gave up,” he told Pukaar.
“I just kept knocking on doors, until eventually I came to one that opened up and let me in.
“The price of success is perseverance, and I think it’s waiting around the corner for everyone. The difference is that some give up too early,” he mused, before offering more motivational advice.
“Whatever you do, just keep working away and never, ever give up. I don’t think any of us should wait for our ship to come in, we should get up and swim out to it…”
Perseverance has certainly paid off for Derrick, who has enjoyed over three decades of success as ‘Mr Motivator’. It was something which was cemented last year when he received an MBE for his services to health and fitness.
During the Covid-19 lockdown, Derrick ran online home exercises and hosted a week-long workout with actress Linda Lusardi to raise money for Age UK’s Emergency Coronavirus Appeal.
As he embarks on his 70th year, the fitness guru has no intention of slowing down, and is keen to keep on making his own unique, and very colourful contribution to society.
Last year, he even made his drag debut, after agreeing to take part in ITV’s ‘Queen for a Night’.
For one night only, ‘Mr Motivator’ became ‘Proteina Turner’, as part of a highly entertaining turn on the show.
“Listen, at my age, as far as I’m concerned you should just be crazy – be silly, be weird, be whatever because life’s too short to be anything but happy,” he said when asked about the experience.
“Just because you get to my age, doesn’t mean that you should hang your boots up and stop pushing boundaries – far from it!
“I’m busier than I’ve ever been and training harder than ever,” he revealed.
“I still do at least one – if not two sessions a day… A life without exercise is like a river without water and I’ve still got plenty more years in me yet. 114 here I come!”
This year, Derrick is planning to focus on his charity efforts, as he works to highlight the issue of bed poverty and a way to address this through the repurposing of discarded mattresses across the country.
He is also planning to keep doing what he does best – motivating people and passing on his incredible zest for life.
“Who would have thought that a child who gets given away at three months and was once running around barefoot in Jamaica would be where I am today?” he said looking back on his career.
“Anything is possible, if you keep hope alive, work hard, be considerate, kind and of course, healthy. If you do all that, amazing things are sure to happen in your life.”
By Louise Steel