Big Brother: Leeds entrepreneur Sukhvinder Javeed on reality TV fame and launching SPHYNX Tequila
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As the influential social experiment show is revived by ITV, a new batch of contestants “from all walks of life” are preparing to enter the house in front of a live studio audience in Sunday’s launch episode.
It brings back memories for Sukhvinder Javeed, who arrived at the house with her husband Imran more than six years ago. Big Brother transformed the lives of the entrepreneurial Leeds couple, who have just launched a luxury tequila brand, SPHYNX.
“It’s an experience that I’ll always love and cherish,” Sukhvinder told the Yorkshire Evening Post. “It was a rollercoaster of emotions, but I got to share it with my best friend. It’s almost like a portal - once you’ve gone through it and you’re on the other side, life never looks the same again.”
Sukhvinder and Imran had a short but memorable stint on the Channel 5 series in 2017, leaving the house together in week two after Imran was eliminated in the public vote. The pair, who had been at the centre of several rows in the house, were met by cheers from the crowd gathered outside.
Sukhvinder said: “My top tip for the new contestants is to be yourself. Because people will see through you otherwise. People want to play the game, but authenticity matters.
“Nothing was scripted, I lost my s*** because I’m a mother, I’m a wife, I’m everything to everyone. Yeah, we lose our s*** sometimes. That’s normal. If you want to go on reality TV, be prepared to be real and show your true self. I don’t think you can go wrong for doing that.
“If you play a game and pretend to be someone else, everyone will know that you’re not being yourself. And you’ll look back and feel like you should have done it differently. You’ll never get that chance again, so enjoy it. I absolutely loved my experience. ”
Sukhvinder, who grew up by Potternewton Park, has been an entrepreneur from a young age, coming up with a wealth of ideas for new businesses before finding success with a comforter for breastfeeding mums and babies, Milkysnugz.
“I think that entrepreneurial spirit has always been there,” Suhvinder added. “I grew up in a working house, both my parents are immigrants and I’ve always known them to work. I guess the drive to do better and want better was always there, but I didn’t come from a business family background. I think it was just part of me.”
Sukhvinder and Imran met for the first time in primary school when they were eight years old. When they got together, their different backgrounds meant their relationship was initially frowned upon and they married in secret - welcoming their daughter Jasmine to the world when they were still teenagers.
Sukhvinder said: “The priority [at that time] was to figure out how to deal with a premature baby, pay the mortgage, dealing with postnatal depression that was undiagnosed - as well as navigating the new arena of having a young Sikh girl married to a Muslim boy.
“I was navigating so many things that inevitably, when you’re starting out and you’ve got to make your own fortunes, you end up just going to work - so your business ideas don’t really start functioning."
But in her early 30s, Sukhvinder found success with Milkysnugz and the business took her to China and across the world. The couple were later catapulted to reality TV fame, getting recognised in the street - which Sukhvinder admits she loves.
The 45-year-old said: “When I leave earth, I want everybody to know that I was here. We assign that to so many things, whether it’s the books that we publish, the TV shows we go on or the products that we sell.”
As the couple, who still live in Leeds, enjoyed their new life after Big Brother and the luxuries that came with it, they spotted a gap in the market for a high-end tequila brand.
Sukhvinder said: “When we went on to become reality TV famous, that took on a whole new life form of itself - and we started drinking nicer tequila than we had access to previously.
“One night we were drinking tequila and we decided we were going to launch a tequila brand, because we resonated with the drink, the culture and the backstory of where tequila came from.
“We wanted to create a bit of Mexico and change the way tequila was being drunk, because it was being drunk really incorrectly.”
SPHYNX has been years in the making - the pair travelled to the heartland of tequila production in Mexico to discover the authentic ways to enjoy the tipple. They’ve created four tequilas in their range - Blanco Tequila, Añejo Tequila, Añejo Cristalino and Extra Aged Añejo Black Oak.
“The response has been really positive,” Sukhvinder said. “It’s changing people’s conceptions of tequila.”
Her advice for those wanting to follow in her footsteps and build their own business from scratch?
“Not to sound like Nike, but just do it,” Sukhvinder said. “It’s a question that so many people ask, but so many people already know the answer to.
“We live in a world where if you are scared to do something, there’s a platform where there’s another human being who feels just like you, who was a little bit braver and has shared that experience. We’re all scared - ultimately we all want to be liked and most of us want to make a difference. The best advice I can give is to start - and stick at it.”