Ed. Edward. Ed Russell. But never Eddie. “I’m fine with whatever you call me, but just not that,” says Edward Russell while laughing and shaking his head. “Maybe it’s just my perception, but Eddie sounds a bit too childish. I don’t think I’ll be taken seriously.”
Understandable. After all, despite sporting a five o’clock shadow, the good-looking 32-year-old, who started his career as a model, still has a baby face. Coupled with his bright smile and youthful off-duty dressing (today, he is in a casual white t-shirt, dark blue jeans and a dark green overshirt), he can pass off as someone much younger. He also loves accessorising, and is often seen with multiple rings and bracelets that he layers.
In addition to this, he has amassed quite an enviable collection of sneakers, some of which are limited editions that he purchased online from popular reseller collector sites, such as StockX. “The problem, as some of my friends tell me, is that I wear my sneakers. And with some of these limited-edition ones, such as the Off-White pairs, they immediately lose their resale value once they’re worn. But I buy them because I like them and I want to wear them; not just display them,” he says in his British-accented English, expounding on his sneaker obsession with childlike enthusiasm.
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His boyish charms belie an introspective personality that has helped him navigate the entertainment industry to where he is today. After seven years as a television presenter on the now-discontinued cable channel FOX Sports Asia, Russell joined Class 95 last November as the newest addition to its stable of radio deejays. Three short months later, he found himself hosting his own show called “Afternoons with Edward Russell”. “Obviously, it was very sad when the channel was discontinued in Asia, but I think I’m very lucky to have been given this opportunity to continue doing what I do, only on a different platform,” he says.
The first time Russell stepped into the radio studio, though, he was overwhelmed. “There were many buttons on the panel, and it felt slightly intimidating,” says the radio deejay, who had to get used to working alone. “As a [former] presenter on television, I’m used to having 15 to 20 other people in the studio working on everything else, from the lights to the sound. All I had to worry about was reading the script, saying what I needed to say, and bouncing off ideas and vibes with pundits and sporting experts.”
With radio, he shares, he is responsible for everything. “There are times when you’re live on radio and you’re also doing Facebook Live or taking contest calls at the same time. So there’s a lot going on and everything is very new,” he admits. “Basically, if anything goes wrong on air, it’s on me.”
For three hours on weekdays, between 2pm and 5pm, which is the time slot for his show, Russell is alone in the studio with no other human to interact with. He quickly learned that to successfully carry a show on radio, he needed to be a bit more open about himself—something that took some getting used to.
“With my broadcasting career on television, who I am didn’t really matter to people because they want to know about sports, and they want to hear what the experts and commentators have to say about the game. So I got used to disengaging who I am in real life from the person you see on TV,” he recalls. “For radio, it’s very different. People tune in because they want to hear about you and your take on certain topics or news. It was a bit of a culture shock at first and something I had to kind of adjust my mind to doing.”
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After being on air for eight months now, he says he has finally found his rhythm. To Russell, giving small insights into his life and what he’s up to has helped him engage more with the audience. This is especially important as the listeners cannot see his face; and it makes him more relatable, he adds.
Being a constant on the radio has somewhat made him more approachable. The increase in popularity comes with the territory, he says, and the validation that he is doing alright on-air comes from meeting Grab or taxi drivers who instantly recognise him from his voice. “I don’t use a different name when I book my rides. When I get into the car and say hello to them, they instantly know it’s me. They then tell me how they enjoy listening to my show. It’s a great feeling, I’m not going to lie,” he says, with a grin that lights up his face.
But being the somewhat public figure he is today was not something that Russell had always planned for. In fact, being in the industry was something he had, as he puts it, fallen into unexpectedly when he moved to Singapore almost a decade ago.
Born and raised in London, to a British father and a Singaporean mother, the elder of two siblings spent much of his younger life not knowing what he wanted to do. He moved to Perth, Australia, with his family when he was 15, and completed his secondary and tertiary education there. Academically inclined, he graduated with a double degree—a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in marketing, management and human resource, as well as a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English, French and European Studies—from the University of Western Australia. He then went on to complete a postgraduate degree in English and European Film Studies.
“You’d think that after all that, I’d know what I wanted to do with my life. I did not,” he says with a laugh. “But what I did know was that after all that studying, I wanted to get out of Australia and travel.”
While on holiday in Singapore, he was introduced to a booker from home-grown modelling agency Carrie Models, and he parlayed his good looks to be a model on the roster. Says Russell, who counts Harry Styles, Jacob Elordi and Shawn Mendes as some of his style inspirations: “It definitely was not easy because it was kind of self-confidence bashing right from the very start. But it was great in that it totally opened up my eyes to a whole new experience.”
While his stint as a model was very short (he realised quickly that it was not for him), Russell shares that he learned how to be resilient and more “front-facing”. Though maintaining his looks and physique was a major part of the modelling scene, he also learned how to talk to clients and be personable off and on camera.
His big break after leaving modelling came when he received a call from a producer who wanted him to test for a new sports programme on a new cable channel. That was for FOX Sports Asia in 2015 and it was to be his career-defining moment.
His time there also allowed him to meet some of the sporting world’s icons, including Formula 1’s Lewis Hamilton, whom he says is a “really friendly and cool guy”. One of his career highlights was commentating on the Wimbledon tournaments, where he met tennis greats Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams. “It was surreal at first,” he shares, “because Wimbledon was always the thing I used to watch on TV growing up, and then to interview these athletes, in the same room as other legendary sports commentators such as former tennis legend Tim Henman, was a dream.”
Does he miss reporting on sports now that he is a radio deejay? Not really, he says. This year is a busy one for sports, and he still gets invited to do sports TV broadcasts and commentate on big sporting events, such as the recent Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam. Later this month, he will also be commentating on the Commonwealth Games.
On radio, he gets to share his love of sports with listeners, especially when it comes to football matches—something he did not get to do on FOX Sports Asia because it did not have the rights to cover the different leagues. As he puts it: “It’s much more fun and engaging to do it on air now because you get to share your opinions and then get the listeners to chime in with theirs. They send in WhatsApp messages or Facebook comments to [continue the discussion] with you and I think that’s great. It’s less lonely—even if I’m still the only person in the studio.”
Photographer: Wee Khim
Stylist: Jeffrey Yan
Producer: Cindy Ow
Makeup and hair: Aung Apichai using Dolce&Gabbana Beauty and Kevin.Murphy
Photographer’s assistant: Alwin Oh
Special thanks to Enclave
- Edward Russell