HEAD GIRL: ‘SENDING DANCERS HOME ON STRICTLY MAKES MY HEART HEAVY'
OK! UK|October 25, 2021
HEAD JUDGE SHIRLEY BALLAS ON COPING WITH SOCIAL MEDIA TROLLING AND HER FAVOURITE EVER STRICTLY PERFORMANCES
ANNA POINTER
A former professional dancer who has attained fame and glory all over the world, Shirley Ballas knows exactly what she’s talking about as Strictly Come Dancing’s head judge. The 61-year-old, dubbed “The Queen of Latin”, has been dancing since she was seven, and by the age of 21 had won a host of world titles.

With a 40-year career under her belt, Shirley landed Strictly’s coveted judging role after the departure of Len Goodman in 2017. This series, she presides over fellow judges Motsi Mabuse, Craig Revel-Horwood and Anton Du Beke.

Shirley, who has also appeared on US show Dancing With The Stars and is a frequent guest on ITV’s Loose Women, has had a dramatic personal life too – which she documents in new autobiography Behind The Sequins. The book recounts her often heartbreaking journey in which she left home at 14, tragically lost her brother to suicide and came through two broken marriages.

Known for her warm and open nature, Shirley has often joked about her love life – once quipping that she “collects husbands” like Elizabeth Taylor. She was married at 18 to dancer Sammy Stopford, then to dancer Corky Ballas in 1985. She met current beau Danny Taylor, 47, when they both starred in a production of Jack And The Beanstalk in 2018. And with recent speculation that she could be gearing up for marriage number three, it seems Shirley has found true happiness with the actor.

We caught up with the dame of the dancefloor at the Cheltenham Literature Festival to find out how she’s finally dealt with past demons – and what she really thinks of her Strictly co-stars…

First things first, Shirley, is your new book Behind The Sequins aimed at showing Strictly viewers the real you?

Yes, people see all the glitz and glamour on TV and they don’t really understand the person behind it. Nobody knew who I was when I first got the job at 57, so this is really about getting to know who I am.

It’s an incredibly honest exploration of your ups and downs, isn’t it?

Well, it’s been a life of swimming upstream. It certainly wasn’t an easy road – coming from a housing estate and being raised by a single mother. I remember fighting for everything we ever got. I was aware from a very young age how much my mother struggled. I remember sitting there aged five, listening to her crying because it was difficult to make ends meet.

Did you find it hard revisiting such painful memories?

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