By Emma Dooney
Strictly Come Dancing star John Whaite has revealed the upsetting reason he was reluctant to work with Johannes Radebe, admitting that the South African pro dancer wasn't always his choice of partner.
The Great British Bake Off champion initially asked the ITV reality show to assign him a female partner, fearing that he would be subject to abuse if he were to compete with a man.
John and professional dancer Johannes Radebe delighted viewers after stepping out as Strictly Come Dancing's first same-sex male couple in September, and have continued to impress with their high-scoring performances and infectious energy. Their knockout choreography on the floor has placed them as the second favorite at the bookies to win, with Eastenders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis tipped to be crowned the ultimate champion.
Now reigning as one of Strictly's most popular couples, it might surprise you to know that John and Johannes' partnership didn't get off to the smoothest part. The 32-year-old chef has revealed he rejected the offer to work with Johannes at first, after growing "anxious" over the risk of backlash to an LGBTQ+ partnership.
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"I was honored, of course, because not only had I wanted to do Strictly ever since I saw it when I was a little boy… but also, as soon as I found out, I felt a little bit anxious,” he told Attitude magazine. "I think as gay people, we have to choose the places we go to, we have to choose the people we speak to, who we even look at, because we have been conditioned to kind of expect hate and flack."
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John, who is the second Strictly contestant to compete in an LGBTQ+ pairing after Nicola Adams and Katya Jones became the show's first-ever same-sex partnership in 2020, went on, "I knew that it was an important thing to do, that it was hopefully going to change the way TV is, change the way that children feel when they watch TV—it’s massive—but I was expecting to get a lot of hate, like sliding into the DMs and saying, ‘You’re disgusting’ and that kind of thing."
Terrified of the homophobic backlash, he asked Strictly producers for a female partner instead. He changed his mind, however, after realizing it would be a mistake to turn down the opportunity to represent the LGBTQ+ community.
"A month before we were partnered up, I [thought], actually, I want it to be Johannes; it has to be Johannes because it’s such an important thing for both of us, it would be wrong for it to be anyone but Johannes," he said.
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