EXCLUSIVE Gogglebox’s Amira and Amani: ‘We learnt English watching EastEnders’

‘People tell me I’ve got a potty mouth’

amani and amira

by heatworld |
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Gogglebox siblings Amira and Amani Rota are a gigantic breath of fresh air when they turn up at the heat studio for their first-ever interview and shoot. Both are delighted and grateful to be styled and have their make-up done, and over the moon just to be having the day off work. Similarly, we are chuffed to be chatting to them today after watching them watch telly over the past ten series, entertaining us with their hilarious hot takes (Amira) and expressive facial reactions (Amani).

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Amira is the older sister, given that she is super-confident and often bosses Amani around, but she’s not. At 26, Amira – a retail manager at Smyths Toys – is two years younger than Amani, 28, who works in customer service and is a little more reserved than her gregarious sibling, but no less warm or funny.

The pair live at home in London with their parents and three siblings, and despite their huge fan base, remain refreshingly grounded. Although, we’re left in no doubt that if they ever meet a certain Mr Martin Compston, they will lose their heads…

Amani and Amira
©heat Marco Vittur

So, how did Gogglebox come about?

Amira: It was my first day of uni and I was out shopping with my friends at Brent Cross shopping centre and these two guys – they must’ve been the casting producers – came up to me and were like, “So, we want you and your friends to join the show.”

Did you think “Uh-oh, stranger danger”…

Amira: Very much so! I literally accused them of trying to sell us on the black market, because there is no way someone would come up to you and say, “Would you like to be on a TV show?” You’d never think that in your wildest dreams.

You did the show with a friend at first …

Amira: Yeah, and then my friend didn’t want to continue, so they wanted my sister. But she was very hard to convince.

Amani: I was. My personality is not very out there. I didn’t have the confidence to do it to begin with, but then I got out of my comfort zone and said yes.

Amira: She had a whole 360 change!

That’s brilliant…

Amani: It’s been amazing, so I’m glad I said yes.

Amira: It’s a family affair now.

Will any other family members be making an appearance?

Amira: Oh my god, I think our dad would be hilarious on it.

Amani: Yeah, Dad would be funny.

Amira: He wouldn’t be up for it, because he’s a shy guy, but some of the comments he makes, I’m like, “They would love you.”

Do you watch the show?

Amani: Yeah, we do.

Amira: Sometimes I skip past our bits…

Amani: It’s too cringe. I’ll be like, “When did I say that?”

Have you ever regretted anything you’ve said?

Amira: Yeah, I think it was when we were watching Line Of Duty. Me and Amani had the hots for Martin Compston and we must’ve been like, “Oh my god, he’s yummy!”

Amani: For me, it’s just certain facial expressions I’ve made. I’ve been like, “Ewww, why?"

What do people say to you in the street?

Amira: People go, “You potty mouth, you!” That’s what I get a lot.

Amani: Yeah, they tell me I need to get my sister to behave!

Amira: The older viewers love it, they’re always saying, “So nice to see you on the show.”

Amani and Amira
Amani and Amira ©heat Marco Vittur

You went to the NTAs last year. What was that like?

Amira: Walking the red carpet was a crazy experience. Honestly, like nothing we’ve ever done before. I had to take caffeine pills just to hype myself up and help me feel a little bit more comfortable. Part of me was dreading it, in case I said or did anything wrong or fell over. But once we got there, it was all very nice and I felt more comfortable than I thought I would.

Who was the most famous person you saw?

Amani: Ant and Dec. First of all, the fact we were nominated for the same award as they were [The Bruce Forsyth Entertainment Award] and then the fact that they came up to us to say congratulations. I was like, “Oh my god, I’m actually seeing them!”

We’ve grown up watching them, so it was really weird.

Amira: Me and Amani were fangirling. The best part, though, was we were sitting opposite EastEnders, and Amani had Phil Mitchell [Steve McFadden] walk past her. She went, “Amira, I’m literally shaking. He’s scary in real life, too!”

Amani: [Laughs.] Yeah.

Amira: He’s just got that aura. You just know he’s going to come out, going [puts on a gruff voice], “What have you done?” Amani was going crazy.

Amani: It was so amazing to see the cast, because EastEnders was the first thing we watched when we came to this country [from Somalia].

Amira: Literally, on the first day we arrived, and we couldn’t even speak English, so we were like, “What is this?”

Amani: It’s the way we learnt English, watching EastEnders, so it was weird to see them.

Did you chat to any of the cast?

Amira: Yeah. Kim [Tameka Empson] is a regular at my shop, so I was like, “That’s my friend!” So, I went over to her and said, “Hey, introduce me.” And she introduced us to some of the cast members.

Amani: Kathy [Gillian Taylforth] looked amazing. We met Kat Slater [Jessie Wallace] and Alfie [Shane Richie], too.

Who else did you meet?

Amira: I’m a huge fan of Mo Gilligan, and he was there.

Amani: She managed to get a picture.

Amira: I’ve been a fan since I was 15, from his social media days, when he used to post videos. I told him, “I dragged my sisters to your show. I’m a huge fan.” He was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re from the ends. Come here then!” And we took a picture with him and Babatunde [Aléshé], so that was good.

Who’s your TV crush?

Amira: [Eyes lighting up] Martin Compston! Since we’ve watched Line Of Duty, I’ve become obsessed with him. We were watching so many shows after that, and I was like, “Yes, bring it on.”

Amani: I have loads. I love Tom Hardy and Michael B Jordan.

Amira: Amani’s like reaching for the sky, you know? [Amani cracks up.]

Amani: Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans… Someone I was glad we met was Bobby Brazier.

Amira: Oh my god, we love him. He’s so good-looking, and his dance moves – wow. I said to him, “I need to know your hair-curling routine.

Amira, Amani bobby

The Gogglebox Christmas party looked fun – who were you most excited to meet?

Amani: For me, it was the triple-T boys [Tristan, Twaine and Tremaine Plummer]. Pete and Soph [Sandiford], Steven [Lustig-Webb], as well. Who else was there?

Amira: Everyone. Mary [Killen] and Giles [Wood] were quite talkative, which I was surprised about. They were asking us a lot of questions, and I was like, “Oh my god, they’re talking to us!”

Amani: The Siddiquis.

Amira: Yeah. The dad is so sweet. He was doing his little boogie. It felt like we all knew each other.

What other shows would you like to go on? You joked about going on Love Is Blind…

Amira: My mum would probably be like, “That’s your last resort now.”

We come from a Somali household, so she’d love to marry us off in an experiment like that. She’d go, “Well, you’ve got no more choices. Come on!”

Amani: Yeah, she’d be like, “Just do it, just do it.”

Any other shows you would consider?

Amira: I’d love for us to do Survivor together.

Amani: Oh my god, I would not survive. [Giggles] Sorry, I couldn’t. I don’t like stuff like that.

Amira: I would pay good money to put Amani in there and see what she would be like in extreme measures.

Amani: I can’t handle things like that.

Amira: She’s a clean freak.

Amani: I can’t handle getting too dirty.

Amira: I’m the opposite, I like anything outdoorsy. Even when I’m on holiday, I’ll do extreme sports and stuff like that. Whereas she’s all about comfort, she’s a resort kinda girl.

Amani: All-inclusive!

Dynamic-wise, we’re sensing you’re opposites…

Amira: There’s a reason we don’t share a room. She likes to call me a pig, but I’m not, I can assure you, I just don’t like doing my laundry straight away when I come home. But she loves doing that. I take my clothes off and put them on my chair – I have a designated chair for the build-up of my laundry, which I will then do. But Amani doesn’t like that, so she takes the clothes and does it for me.

Amani: Yeah, I do her laundry.

Amira: She does it, folds it, and puts it away for me.

Amani: If I see something that isn’t done, I have to do it myself – that’s just how I am.

Result! Amira, do you ever take advantage of the fact that Amani will clean up after you?

Amira: I have to be honest with you, I do sometimes. “Oh, Amani, I was going to get to that!” Since she was little, she’s always been a clean freak. Her shower routine takes three hours.

Amani, what does Amira do that winds you up?

Amani: She can be very hectic. She’s doing too many things at once.

Amira: I can’t deny it. I’m always out and about, doing something.

If you have a tiff, does it make filming awkward?

Amira: If anything, filming the show has actually brought us closer together. I don’t want to be cringe, but it has.

Amani: Yeah, we actually don’t argue that often.

Amira: I work very different hours to her and we never see each other at home. When we’re filming it’s the most time we spend together in a whole week, and it’s a nice catch up. So, honestly, Gogglebox has bought us together and we learn new things about each other when we’re filming… That’s the most heart-warming thing you’ll get out of me! After this, it’s just brutal.

Gogglebox is on Channel 4 on Fridays at 9pm

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