I’m A Celebrity star Naughty Boy details the heart-wrenching reason why cooking has become a way for him to connect with his beloved mum amid her dementia battle
I’m A Celeb ’s explosive Ricegate row may have seemed like a trivial fight between campmates – one liked it cooked one way, the other, another.
But there’s a heartbreaking reason why tensions between Frankie Bridge and music producer Naughty Boy reached quite such a boiling point.
As for Watford-born Naughty Boy, cooking isn’t just cooking – it’s the one way he’s found to connect with his dementia-stricken mum, to bring back a rare glimpse or glimmer of her old self.
And now everything about the way he cooks, is the way his mum Zahida, 66, did it, before the cruel disease made it impossible – hence to criticise him, is to criticise her.
He told us before the jungle: “Cooking for the family was a big part of her life, it was her whole life. Even when I moved out she used to cook for me and send me food parcels and all that.
“And now she can’t do it any more. So I moved in with her, as a primary carer, and I decided to teach myself so I could make those same meals for her. It’s become a coping mechanism for me. I cook for her every day.
“I’ll take it to her and say: ‘Is it like how you used to make it?’
“When she says ‘Yes’, that’s heartwrenching.”
It’s one of the ‘glimpses’ he hopes for. He previously said: “As long as I get a few glimpses a day of who Mum really is, that reminds me that she’s still there”.
He added to the Mirror: “She also told me as a small boy I used to stand in the corner of the kitchen watching her for hours and that I cook with my hands and the heart is just like she did.
“Since the dementia particularly, all she wants to watch is cooking shows.”
Naughty Boy, real name Shahid Khan, 36, has worked with some of the biggest names in music from best friend Emelie Sande to Ella Eyre, Cheryl, Paloma Faith, Tom Walker and, none other than Beyonce, who rang him directly to ask him to produce her 2015 smash Runnin’ (Lose It All).
He was working on his second album as a performer when in 2017 his mum Zahida suffered a huge stroke that left her in a coma.
She woke, but was not the same. Naughty, immediately put everything on hold to move in with her.
Two years later she was diagnosed with vascular dementia.
“It’s important to have priorities,” said Naughty. “I wanted mum to feel like she was my priority. For two years I pushed the album aside and I’m glad I did that.”
The emotional toll of being away from his mum on I’m A Celeb no doubt added to his devastation when he lost two successive challenges, while in the show’s jail, The Clink, earlier this week.
On Tuesday viewers saw him doubt if he could forgive the main camp for nominating him, and feared they saw him as a weak link.
This lack of confidence also explains his kneejerk reaction when Frankie implied he didn’t belong in the main camp, saying “‘You’re just coming into our camp and this was just what we did…’
He snapped back: “No, this is our camp. That’s wrong what you just said.”
It’s not the first time he’s had a hang up about not being accepted.
Naughty’s dad Barkat, a former taxi driver, and mum were originally from Pakistan. He spent two years at school there and later started Business and Marketing at London Metropolitan University.
However he didn’t feel he fitted in as his secret passion was for music. While doing day jobs at a takeaway and hospital, he won a £5,000 loan from The Prince’s Trust followed by £44,000 win on 2005’s Deal or No Deal, hosted by 2019 I’m A Celeb campmate Noel Edmonds.
He launched his studio in the back garden and four years later was in the charts with big names like Chipmunk.
Now an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust and British Asian Trust, he now knows Prince Charles, and credits him with boosting his self belief.
“I will forever be grateful to the Prince because that loan gave me confidence that I needed,” he explains “Knowing someone believed in me was amazing.
“Now I pay that forward. The most talented people often don’t believe they’re talented.
“I feel so blessed I’ve been privileged enough to work with some of the greatest voices in the world – because after all I’m just a boy from Watford.”
His humbleness explains why he also wants to cement a legacy, but in a surprising way.
He said: “Imagine having your song at someone’s wedding. That’s the ultimate, because you’re a part of that something special. I want to make songs that last a lifetime, not just follow the cool trend.”
With a flash of his more familiar bravado, he adds: “Because I’m cool enough as it is.”