The new hosts of the Kiss breakfast show represent Diversity in more ways than one.
Jordan Banjo and Perri Kiely are joining the world of 4am alarms and triple espressos more than a decade after finding fame as part of Diversity, the dance group who won Britain’s Got Talent in 2009.
But the pair are also starting their new presenting gig at a time when the radio industry is asking itself questions about how to improve racial diversity both on and off air.
The double meaning, it’s fair to say, occasionally causes confusion.
“It’s funny, every time someone asks how we can see more diversity, I’m like, ‘Well, we’re going on tour’,” laughs Jordan. “The word just has different meaning to me.”
The duo may be taking on the R&B and dance station’s most prestigious slot, but this isn’t a rushed response to the Black Lives Matter movement. The pair have been hosting a weekend show on Kiss for the last 18 months.
“I grew up listening to Kiss, and that’s not an exaggeration. Genuinely, that’s what I knew,” says Jordan. “I obviously remember listening to Rickie, Melvin and Charlie.
“And it seems so weird to have started on the station a year-and-a-half ago and be stepping into such huge shoes. But I think me and Pel are used to challenges, in every aspect of what we do.”
Rickie, Melvin and Charlie hosted Kiss breakfast for 10 years, eventually leaving for BBC Radio 1 in 2018. Tom Green and Daisy Maskell have been presenting since their departure.
Jordan and Perri will be hoping to entice listeners to a new era of Kiss breakfast with their natural chemistry – something that can be hard to manufacture on TV and radio.
But Jordan and Perri knew each other growing up, and have worked together in Diversity for well over a decade. Their instinctive knowledge of whose turn it is to speak or what the other is about to say is a definite advantage.
“We’re literally best friends, but I don’t feel like we get in front of a camera or behind the mic and then change,” notes Perri. “I feel like it is literally just us. The reason I feel like it comes across so naturally is because it is so natural.
“The moment we finish a job, we probably go home in the same car, I probably go to Jordan’s house, we go to the studio and train, it’s not like we finish work and then go our separate ways. We’ve always lived that way.”
The pair have previously fronted several TV and radio shows – both together and apart. Jordan’s credits include co-hosting BBC One’s The Greatest Dancer with Alesha Dixon, which is nominated for a Bafta this weekend.
Furthermore, they’ve each been contestants on various reality or talent shows – with Perri notably finishing second on Dancing on Ice earlier this year.
But even with experience and rapport, increasing a show’s listenership is no easy task. Radio has a habitual audience, with breakfast shows built into the morning routine of millions. It can be hard to tempt listeners to switch stations.
Added to which, listening figures for Kiss breakfast have dropped recently. Rickie, Melvin and Charlie attracted 2.09m listeners in their last three months (according to industry body Rajar), but that has fallen in the most recent quarter to 1.4m.
It all adds extra pressure on Jordan and Perri to get things back up to previous levels. But, Jordan says: “I don’t think we landed the job because they want us to think about the Rajars. We go on there, we’re just ourselves, and we’ve only ever had positive feedback with regards to our show.
“We’re not going to go on there as radio experts, we started a couple of years ago, and that is what it is. What we can bring is our chemistry, our friendship and hope people can relate to that. So I think for me and Pel, to be anxious or nervous or something like that, all that would do is hinder our job.”
Roy Martin, the managing editor of the leading industry website Radio Today, notes that the pair’s appeal to young audiences could be just what Kiss needs.
“Launching a new breakfast show is never an easy task – listeners don’t like change so the programme needs to be of significant difference to pull a bigger crowd,” he tells BBC News. “And this one is certainly different from Tom and Daisy.
“Having Jordan Banjo and Perri Kiely head up the breakfast show on a national ‘youth’ station is a wise move for Kiss and one which will likely prove successful in the long term.”
Perri in particular could be instrumental in attracting younger listeners. The 24-year-old has built a large following on TikTok, where he currently has 1.4m followers.
Their transition to breakfast radio follows a widespread movement in media to improve ethnic minority representation, following the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I can’t speak for the industry in its entirety, but obviously we’re heavily linked with Bauer [parent company of Kiss],” says Jordan, “and when the Black Lives Matter movement came back into the spotlight, I couldn’t say anything apart from how proud I was.”
He explains management encouraged all staff to speak openly about how they felt within the workplace. “And it wasn’t just applying to me and Pel because we’re mixed race or black presenters, there’s a whole host of people at Kiss and everyone was speaking up.
“Bauer are doing so much, whether it be with training courses or working with charities. It’s easy to say more needs to be done… but I feel like it’s also good to acknowledge at the moment that people are doing stuff. People are making radical changes, and that’s something to be grateful for.”
Perri points out: “The entire station is influenced by black culture, and everyone takes so much inspiration from it. I’m excited just to carry on and talk about it and not feel like we’re doing something wrong. Now more than ever, it’s a time to really show people that it isn’t just a trend.”
Of course, the challenge that faces all breakfast presenters is waking up ridiculously early – the breakfast show begins at 6am. But, Jordan points out, having kids has prepared him well for the early starts.
“If I see anything past half five I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is a lay-in’,” he says. “For this, we’ll probably have to be leaving the house about 4am, because me and Pel both live quite far out of central London.”
“I can’t lie, I’m a bit worried for it,” says Perri. “You know what’s scaring me? Obviously radio isn’t our only job, we’re still part of Diversity, and there’s so many times when I’ll be working really late nights with Ash [Ashley Banjo, Diversity creator], working on the show and choreographing, and we don’t even go home some nights.”
That isn’t a problem for Jordan, however, who notes: “The only time I stay up later than 9pm is if Love Island is on.”
Kiss Breakfast with Jordan and Perri launches on Monday, 3 August.