STRICTLY Come Dancing returns to our screens with a new look – as head judge Shirley Ballas reveals she, too, may fancy a facelift.
The BBC1 show’s new series will launch with strict social-distancing measures to protect against Covid-19.
But Shirley, who turned 60 in lockdown, is not letting troubled times leave her down in the mouth. Quite the opposite — she is not ruling out a nip and tuck.
She said: “If I wanted a little lift or something because it makes me feel good about what I’m doing then, yes, I would consider it.
“It’s OK for a 25-year-old to say, ‘Oh what did you do?’ But when you reach 60 and there’s so many things out there, there’s laser-lifting or peeling of the face . . .
“My friend Robin, who’s 60 in the US, just had this acid face thing and her skin looks amazing.
“I’m not sure I’d have the confidence to do that but there’s so many things out there, so why not?
“I had a little Botox but don’t look like I’ve been in a wind tunnel.”
Chatting on Zoom from her home in South London, she points under her chin and adds: “I’d have a mini-facelift, just this bit here. I’m suddenly 60.
“Your skin gets more wrinkled on your hands, your neck starts to go and your bum starts to sag, you take your bra off and the titties fall to your knees.
“You get up every morning, there’s another lump and bump and you think, ‘Where did that come from?’”
When I tell Shirley she doesn’t need a facelift, she replies: “I appreciate that but I am old enough to be your mother.”
Age wouldn’t stop her bagging her dream job, though — as she revealed: “I want a role on Coronation Street, dear — to be the dance teacher on The Street.
“I’ve written to the producers and they’re having a chat. I would go there and play holy havoc. I’d bring the dance curse.
“When the theme music comes on, the hairs on my arms stand on end. It’s been a favourite since I was a child. I’d love to teach Ken Barlow cha-cha-cha, and a bit of rumba with Steve McDonald.”
For now, though, Strictly is her focus and she is thrilled the show will go on — especially after singer HRVY, 21, tested positive for Covid on day one of reporting for duties earlier this month and had to isolate. Thankfully, he has since been given the all-clear and allowed to return.
Shirley said: “They took action immediately. But even before that I thought, ‘Pantomime has been cancelled’, and another job I had got cancelled, all my teaching got cancelled, all my competitions got cancelled, so I thought, ‘Strictly will be next’.”
Happily, not so. Of the safety measures, she said: “The way the dancers have bubbled, it’s extraordinary. I love the way the ballroom has been dressed. You feel you’re in some French high-class place where you’ve gone for a nice dinner. It’s quiet seating and there’s this fabulous show going on around you.”
Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman will again be hosts for the BBC1 mega-hit. But for the first time there will be just three judges for most of the run — Shirley, Motsi Mabuse and Craig Revel Horwood, all sat at socially distanced desks.
Bruno Tonioli is prioritising a stint on US sister show Dancing With The Stars.
Shirley said: “I do miss my Bruno and his flailing. But you do what you do, to the best of your ability — lift the energy a little. All being well, he’ll be back when Dancing With The Stars is finished, about four weeks before the end of our show.
“But perhaps it’ll give the other judges a chance to chat!”
One talking point is Strictly’s first same-sex couple, former Olympic boxing champ Nicola Adams and pro dancer Katya Jones. And Shirley doesn’t mince her words when I suggest some dinosaurs will not welcome the innovation.
She said: “This is about movement to music, quality of technique, synchronisation, co-ordination. It’s about the dance.
“Go back to the Roman times, do some studying. Watch how they used to have men dancing together or women dancing together.
“It’s not a big deal. It will be a breath of fresh air. For everyone that switches off, there’ll be some-one new who switches on.”
When I ask why some would get offended, she added: “Who knows? Some people feel it should be a man and a woman, then there’ll be other people all for equality.
“There’s no right or wrong, every-body has their feelings. If people are offended, they can switch off for that one dance.”
In an interview last year with The Sun, Shirley’s predecessor Len Goodman, labelling himself a “traditionalist”, thought it wrong to have a same-sex couple.
Shirley said: “I love Len but I disagree totally. What is Len, 76? You have to change with the times. Everything should be more about equality. We’re going in that beautiful flow upstream.”
Meanwhile, as we chat, we are confused by what Tier 2 lockdown means for us as Londoners. So I ask what she would do if she was Prime Minister.
Shirley replies: “I’d stand in that Cabinet and have everybody agree, because there’s mixed messages and they aren’t clear, even for the most educated.
“How am I supposed to understand Tier One, Tier Two, Tier Three?”
Instead, she proposes: “‘You can go here and do that, and please support restaurants but don’t go home and kill your granny’, that type of thing.
“I’d hope I would get everybody on the same page, with less egos.”
- Behind The Sequins, by Shirley Ballas, is out now (BBC Books, £20).
READY TO LAUNCH
TONIGHT’s launch dance by last year’s champs will demonstrate more than anything the lengths Strictly bosses have gone to in order to make their show Covid-secure.
Pro dancer Oti Mabuse, 30, and former Emmerdale star Kelvin Fletcher, 36, will perform a socially distanced routine because, like all contestants in this year’s series, she is living with her partner in a bubble.
Everyone involved in the show is also having regular Covid tests, the judges will sit at distanced desks rather than the usual single bench and the studio band will be smaller than normal so its members do not get too close. The audience will be sitting around small tables in a sort of jazz-club style.
But show bosses have warned that if the Covid crisis deepens, the current series could yet be halted.
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