There are a tonne of people behind the scenes at Omaze who work tirelessly to bring fabulous houses to our community and raise millions each year for charities across the UK.
But some of those faces are a little more well-known than others. In fact, some aren’t behind the scenes at all, they’re in front of the camera. That’s right, we’re talking about our incredible Omaze presenting team.
And leading our posse of pro presenters is one face (and voice) our community have come to know and love over the past three years: Jo Pickard.
We sat down with Jo to get a sneak peek behind the camera and to get some answers to the questions we know our community has been desperate to ask.
So if you’re ready, let’s spill the tea!
Jo, let’s kick things off with a pretty big question: what’s your story?
Well, I grew up above a pub, on the North Yorkshire Moors, in a tiny village, living an outdoor life as a kid. From the age of five I was obsessed with becoming an actress, performing shows behind my dad’s back to the customers in the pub. So it was no surprise that, when I was old enough, I went to University to study acting and dance. After graduating I worked on a few TV shows in Yorkshire, did a one-woman show, then ran away to London to be a star! You know, it’s not as easy as it seems in the movies. I got some nice breaks, with a part in Jed Mecurio’s ‘Bodies’ with Max Beasley and Patrick Balaldi, and then fate led me into presenting.
“I ran away to London to be a star! You know, it’s not as easy as it seems in the movies”
I was helping a friend out on the tour of Pop Idol and the presenter didn’t show up. My friend just turned to me and said “on stage, now”, and I've never looked back. I just loved it. That moment of being able to be yourself on stage, connect to the audience and entertain was infectious, and I was hooked.
Presenting has taken me around the globe several times: I have presented Volvo Ocean Race, London 2012 Olympics, Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics, Carfest with Chris Evans and Taste of London, to name a few.
I now live back in North Yorkshire on a potato farm with my wonderful husband and two dogs. I have two fantastic stepdaughters and a brand new grandson. And I work in a fab voice over studio where I voice the adverts for Omaze, gaming and animation characters.
Wow, what a story! So sport, voice-overs, acting and now, Omaze — how did that happen?
I presented the social media footage for Southampton Boat Show and worked with the production company, Transmission. We hit it off straight away, they’re such a talented team and over the ten days we worked so well together.
So when Transmission were brought in to produce the first ad for Omaze, I was on their list of presenters put forward for the job. Gosh, funny to think It was initially just one day, in Cheshire, in the freezing cold. But I truly believe that what is for you won’t go past you if you work hard. And I've never looked back.
Now, it’s really funny because Mike (VP of Marketing for Omaze and all-round legend) said to me on the second house shoot I did, “Oh, so you're the face of Omaze now.” And that’s quite a strange concept to get your head around. But the community are so omazing and I just feel like I get so much support from them, which makes it a great experience. I think we've all grown together and it’s not about ‘me’, it's about ‘we’; it's about changing the lives of our winners and the charities we support and that's what's important.
“I truly believe that what is for you won’t go past you if you work hard. And I've never looked back.”
Well it is great to know the community love goes both ways! Is there anything else you love about working for Omaze? What’s the best bit?
It’s all about charities for me, it's just amazing changing people's lives. And whilst I really love giving the prizes away, the best day for me is when we reveal how much we have raised. It's just so emotional because it means so much. People that work in the charity sector work so hard and they do it because their heart is entirely fixed on that charity and doing everything they can to support it. And the fact that we can do what we do with no risk for them just makes a massive difference to so many people’s lives.
Agreed. And you can tell it means so much to you every time. Are there any that have struck a cord personally?
British Heart Foundation had a really big impact on me. Just as Omaze had partnered with them the first time, we had to rush my dad into hospital because of pains in his chest and he had to have a pacemaker fitted.
It was just so close to home when it all happened that when we raised a million pounds for British Heart Foundation, for me, it was really huge because the research they have funded has saved so many people’s lives, my dad being one of them.
What a coincidence. And what an incredible charity. So, what about the winner side — has there been a memorable winner moment for you?
Ian (Cheshire House Grand Prize Winner) — his story was so moving and to change somebody's life who’d had a really hard time, that was one of the best moments of my whole career.
“That was one of the best moments of my whole career.“
A very deserving winner! Ok, so to switch lanes a little: we all think being in front of the camera at the reveals and tours is glam, but is it really?
Haha not always. For instance, when it's ridiculously cold and we're filming outside, we must try and hide my breath from impacting the shot. And so to achieve that, the team give me ice cubes to suck before I say my line. Sounds crazy, but it works.
Then there’s Marbella, where it was so hot we may as well have been on the sun. It was beating down at midday and to balance the light the teams used two huge lights facing me for about 45 minutes. All I can say is, the poor makeup artist had a hard job that day.
Oh no! Definitely not all glam. But I’m guessing there’s lots to love behind the scenes too?
Oh absolutely. I think for me, my favourite bits involve the camaraderie of the team. We've all got such a strong working relationship and you know; we're friends now. We've worked together for so long; we go through so much together and we’re emotionally connected to what it is that we're doing. They're amazing times when you work hard and get that real sense of achievement and that moment with each other. When you realise that, as a team, you've created something really special.
“I think that's why we've been able to create such a good community, because people can see that the content we create and the work we do has our whole hearts in it.”
I remember walking away from giving Ian the first house and Adam, Lee, Mike and Anoushka around the corner were just overcome with emotion. I still get in the car sometimes after and I'll be shaking, especially when we’ve revealed the amount raised to the charity and they've just been so emotional.
I think that's why we've been able to create such a good community, because people can see that the content we create and the work we do has our whole hearts in it.
So true. One incredible team. And the ambassadors are a part of that wider team too, right? Is there a charity ambassador you just really clicked with?
Matty Lee, he's so natural, personable and funny. He's like a brother. Nathan Sykes was great, he’s a ball of happiness. And Ronan Keating was just such a nice man. He walked in without anybody, no team or anything, and ten minutes earlier he’d been live on the radio across the road.
Esther Rantzen was also very funny. Oh they've all honestly been great.
Ok Jo, I think it’s time for some quick-fire questions.
First up, any nicknames we should know about?
Jomaze — Thanks Mike, that’s my fav.
And Primetime Pickard, which started when one of my best mates messaged me saying "Alright, Primetime Pickard, just seen you on the telly!”
Favourite Omaze house?
If I have got to say one, my favourite house is the first Lake District house. It just ticks every box for me.
Vacay or staycay?
Vacay! I'm all about the sun. I travel a lot in the UK and I always have done with work, so I kind of staycay when I’m working as I always have a day where I'm not doing something so I can have a little look around.
Night or morning person?
Morning, all about the morning.
City or beach break?
History or art museum?
History. But I do love art. Both?
Coffee or tea?
Tea — I’m an Earl Grey girl all the way.
Sweet or savoury?
Savoury all the way. Starters and cheese boards, yes please. 🤤
Cats or dogs?
Dogs. I have two, Babes and Hendricks. They are like my children. Babes is a fox red lab, she's got a curly haired back, half a tail and carries socks around everywhere. And Hendrix was supposed to be a Labrador, but it didn't work out — he's got a beard, is a forever puppy and gives the best hugs.
Awesome, thanks Jo; I think that’s a wrap! I guess we’ll see you on Primetime soon!
We hope we’ve answered a few of your questions on ‘who is the Omaze lady?’ and why she loves working for Omaze.
And if you’ve not already, check out our latest Omaze Million Pound House Draw for your chance to win.