Strictly Come Dancing head judge Shirley Ballas has opened up about her tough time in the dance industry and how she felt “pressured” to leave after being “bullied by men” for years.
The 63-year-old BBC star, who has been a judge on the show since 2017, spoke candidly about being told she was “too fat” and even “revolting” during her dance career.
Speaking to Radio Times, she admitted that she “felt pressure” to look a certain way during her time on the dance floor.
“When I began representing my country, I felt the pressure,” she confirmed. “It wasn’t like it is today where everybody’s got to walk on an eggshell to tell you something!
“Back then, they told you, ‘You’re too fat’ or ‘You’ve got jiggly legs’. I went back to dancing six weeks after having my baby.
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“I got told: ‘I marked you third because I refuse to look at the stretch marks on your
back. I find it revolting.’
“I just accepted it, moved on and did what I needed to do – for me, it was character building,” Shirley admitted.
Speaking about landing her Strictly gig, the star went on to reveal that it was her son, Dancing with the Stars professional Mark Ballas, who suggested she apply.
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“I got the job in 2017,” she said. “For many years before that, I’d been bullied by men at the top of the dance industry.
“The work was declining and I felt pressurised to leave the industry. My son suggested I try for Uncle Lenny’s job on the BBC.
“Len [Goodman] was my teacher and has known my son since before he was born,” she said of the late star.
“I said, ‘Nobody is going to take a 57-year-old woman with no TV experience on a beautiful show like that.’
“I did two auditions – one was diabolical, the other I smashed – and Strictly gave me the opportunity.”
Shirley will return to our screens this week, as she joins fellow judges Anton Du Beke, Motsi Mabuse and Craig Revel Horwood for a Blackpool week special.
Strictly Come Dancing continues this Saturday at 6.40pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.
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