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Top 10 Scandals on Strictly Come Dancing

VO: Ashley Bowman WRITTEN BY: Marc Turner
Get ready to dance up a storm. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 scandals on “Strictly Come Dancing”. For this list we’re looking at the most shocking and controversial moments to arise from the BBC’s popular dancing show. Special thanks to our user WordToTheWes for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 Scandals on Strictly Come Dancing


Get ready to dance up a storm. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 scandals on “Strictly Come Dancing”.

For this list we’re looking at the most shocking and controversial moments to arise from the BBC’s popular dancing show.

#10: Arlene Phillips Gets the Chop

Arlene Phillips had been a judge for five years on Strictly before she was surprisingly given the boot in 2009. The move prompted accusations of ageism against the BBC, especially when Arlene was replaced by previous winner Alesha Dixon – who’s 36 years younger. In response, the Beeb claimed it axed Arlene because she lacked a clear role on the judging panel, but many viewers were left sceptical. And the issue was even raised in the House of Commons, with equalities minister Harriet Harman calling the decision “absolutely shocking”.

#9: John Sergeant’s Unlikely Success

There can’t be many contestants who’ve withdrawn from a show because they were worried about winning it – but that’s what journalist John Sergeant did in series six. Cruelly nicknamed “The Dancing Pig” due to his lack of talent, Sergeant was nevertheless spared several times by the voting public while more capable dancers were sent home. Eventually Sergeant voluntarily pulled out of the competition, saying the prospect of him winning was “a joke too far”. Afterwards, there were rumours the BBC considered changing its voting rules to prevent something similar happening again.

#8: The Pay Gap

In 2014, Ola Jordan sparked controversy when she suggested the professional dancers on the show weren’t paid enough. Dancers work a full week and reportedly earn a minimum of £30,000 a year, yet their judging colleagues make five times as such for a single night’s effort. Bruno Tonioli once dismissed Jordan’s complaint in typically colourful fashion, reportedly saying: “If you don’t like it, stop moaning and fuck off.” Unsurprisingly, Bruno’s response hardly resolved the issue, and insiders claim that in 2018 the dancers were still unsatisfied, and were threatening to group together and strike.

#7: Allegations of Racism

When Anthony Ogogo was voted out in series thirteen, he didn’t go quietly. First, he implied the BBC was biased towards its own stars, claiming he’d known he wouldn’t go far because he wasn’t a “BBC face” – although he had also previously admitted that he couldn’t dance. More controversially though, he complained about being partnered with Oti Mabuse, saying he’d expected the show to “spread the minorities around”. Mabuse herself went further, alleging she’d been paired with Ogogo because the BBC didn’t want a black person to win.

#6: Abuse Claims

The celebrities and their dancing partners don’t always get on, but none have clashed more bitterly than Fern Britton and Artem Chigvintsev. At the end of Fern’s time on the show in 2012, she said she wouldn’t have swapped Artem for anyone, but later claimed the Russian dancer had made their time together “grim”. She alleged Artem would occasionally kick and shove her, and once told her to “Go home before I kill you”. The dancer, though, denied the allegations, saying he has always treated Fern with care and respect.

#5: The Strictly Curse

Strictly has famously been responsible for the break-up of many contestants’ relationships in a phenomenon that has become widely known as the “Strictly curse”. From Rachel Riley’s pairing with Pasha Kovalev, to the series one rumours around Natasha Kaplinsky and Brendan Cole. Perhaps the most high-profile of these affairs occurred in 2013, though. After appearing in series eleven, former rugby player Ben Cohen split from wife Abby Blayney to begin a romance with dancer Kristina Rihanoff. Years later, though, and Ben and Kristina are still together, and welcomed their first child in 2016.

#4: Anton Du Beke’s Racist Comments

In series seven, pro dancer Anton Du Beke sparked outrage after using racial slurs against actress Laila Rouass. When they first met, Anton reportedly asked Rouass if she was a terrorist, then later used racial slurs when speaking to her after she went for a spray tan. Du Beke claimed his comments were just backstage banter, but Rouass was rumoured to have been left in tears – although she later accepted Anton’s apology. Initially, host Bruce Forsyth stood up for Du Beke, saying the dancer has done nothing wrong, before subsequently having to backtrack on his comments, too.

#3: It’s All Fixed

After leaving Strictly in 2015, Ola Jordan also implied the show was rigged, saying some celebrities were regularly over- or under-scored by the judges. Unsurprisingly the BBC dismissed her claims, but other allegations of bias have surfaced over the years, with Jamelia once suggesting she only lost out to Peter Andre in a dance-off because the BBC staged a standing ovation for her opponent. Former dancer James Jordan also thought Andre received preferential treatment that year because he was frequently chosen to open or close the show.

#2: Doping Allegations

Professional dancing is a hugely competitive discipline, and performers are occasionally accused of taking illegal steps to give themselves an edge. It’s a scandal that not even “Strictly” could escape. As part of a Sunday Times investigation in 2016, a London doctor was filmed bragging about prescribing performance-enhancing drugs to over 100 professional athletes. Two Strictly dancers were included in that number, though neither their names nor the drugs concerned were ever revealed by Dr Bonar. Ultimately, the Sunday Times was unable to corroborate his allegations, so the BBC declined to comment due to lack of evidence.

#1: The Drunken Kiss

The “Strictly curse” struck again in 2018 when comedian Seann Walsh and partner Katya Jones were filmed kissing on a night out. In the aftermath, Walsh was publicly dumped by his girlfriend Rebecca Humphries, and accused of aggressive and controlling behaviour. In another strand to the scandal, Katya’s husband Neil is also a pro-dancer on “Strictly”. The pair swiftly apologised but resisted suggestions that they should quit the show. And so, in one final scandalous twist, their next routine was reportedly changed from the rumba to a Charleston because it was “less sexy”… And, when they scored highly, some viewers alleged that they’d received preferential treatment from the judges.
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