Shirley Ballas: Strictly judge stopped eating to appear ‘slender’ next to Darcey Bussell

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Shirley Ballas, 60, has spoken candidly about the struggles with her weight as the professional dancer admitted she felt driven to become “super-thin”. The head judge joined Strictly Come Dancing in 2017.

The small-screen star explained that upon joining the judging panel she began to compare herself to former Strictly judge Darcey Bussell, 51.

The ballroom dancer hadn’t worked in television and was relatively unknown, so didn’t want viewers thinking she was a “fuddy duddy”.

The Strictly judge has since opened about her past insecurities and her “admiration” for Darcey.

“I always had a very curvy shape,” Shirley explained. “To get super thin as I did on Strictly and drop down to a size six, it was hard work.”

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She continued: “It was almost not eating. I cannot and will not do that to myself again. It was in my own head.

“I was going on with this most beautiful woman who I always admired, Darcey Bussell, and she was so slender and tall, so graceful.

“She seemed everything I wasn’t.”

Although Darcey, who left the show in 2018, was “lovely and really encouraging”, Shirley dropped to a size six as she nearly stopped eating.

Shirley commented: “So I took those extra steps to make sure the dress was hanging right, the makeup was right, the hair was right.

“I didn’t want anyone to think, ‘Oh here’s a woman in her late 50s’ or a fuddy duddy. I didn’t want that feeling.”

Shirley is now happy with her body image and has struggled less in recent years with her weight.

She also opened up about the bullying she’d received from “men at the top” when she first embarked on her career.

It first happened, Shirley recalled, as a young child and it “intensified from when I was about 50.”

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Elsewhere, Shirley had to pull out of an appearance on Strictly’s spin-off show It Takes Two earlier this week.

The head judge was expected to join her co-star Motsi Mabuse to offer their perspectives on the couple’s performances this weekend as the final gets ever closer.

The pair have been left amazed by the efforts the contestants have made this year, but their critique has been somewhat more specific recently as the competition gains more momentum.

Unfortunately, Shirley was unable to make her scheduled appearance.

Zoe told viewers: “Shirley was going to be here but she is stuck in traffic. She’s absolutely gutted not to be here.

“We would Zoom her in. We send her love and we will get her on the show as soon as we can,” the presenter continued.

Following Zoe’s announcement live on air, this meant the head judge did not make it to the studio and therefore she failed to make her appearance.

Strictly Come Dancing continues tonight on BBC One at 7.25pm.

Additional reporting by Mark Reynolds.

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