‘Emotional journey’ Shirley Ballas opens up about being ‘bullied’ in the dance industry

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Strictly Come Dancing’s head judge Shirley Ballas appeared on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen this weekend. The star chatted to host Matt Tebbutt about her favourite dishes, while also discussing her autobiography Behind the Sequins. She revealed the book details the ups and downs of her career and recalls some bullying she experienced in the dance industry.

Matt began by asking the Strictly star about her experience writing the book and looking back on challenging parts of her life.

He questioned: “Is it very difficult when you’re kind of, not reliving, unpacking all those memories and those parts of your life, to put it in a book?

“I mean, is that quite difficult? Because then it’s all out there, and it’s open, and they may be memories that you’ve shut away,” the TV chef said.

Shirley replied: “Well, when I got asked to do it the very first year I was on Strictly I said ‘no’.

“Second year, ‘no’, third year, ‘no’, and then we went into lockdown and they asked me again.

“I thought if ever was the right time to readdress some of these issues that I had, that followed me around in my life, now is time to open Pandora’s Box.

“So, I thought I would do it during lockdown,” she explained.

Shirley revealed that writing the book was a “very emotional journey”, but insisted she was glad she did it.

The dancer confessed she was lucky to have support around her while she wrote the autobiography.

She commented: “Fortunately I had my boyfriend and of course, he learned everything about me.

“I’m glad I did it because I think it will help people. It’s not just a book about my journey,” she said.

Shirley explained how she often receives kind comments from fans who say they’ve experienced similar things to her in their own lives.

“At 61 to be still standing after being bullied in my own industry as a strong female, is something I’m quite proud of,” the Strictly star remarked.

Speaking about Shirley’s life and career, Matt commented: “It’s sort of been very complicated.”

Shirley agreed: “It’s a very, very complicated journey. There’s ups and downs, twists, turns, tragedies, bullying.

“You know, everything that there is to go with life. It wasn’t a simple journey for sure,” she added.

Matt noted he’d heard rumours that Shirley’s book could soon be turned into a Broadway show.

“I’ve been asked,” Shirley confessed, adding that she’s “delighted” at the prospect.

“The sheer fact they are considering it to be a Broadway musical is beyond my wildest dreams,” she said.

Saturday Kitchen airs Saturdays at 10am on BBC One.

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