Strictly en­joy­ing her­self

Irish Examiner - - Arts -

DEBBIE McGee doesn’t walk. She glides.At least that’s what it looks like a s she makes her way across the room to talk all things Strictly Come Danc­ing.

It’s the first in a se­ries of chats with her about the pop­u­lar BBC One danc­ing show, which this week­end will see the pro­fes­sion­als and their celebrity part­ners take to the dance floor at the pres­ti­gious Black­pool Tower ball­room.

At 59, McGee is the old­est celebrity com­peti­tor in this year’s crop of fa­mous faces. Not that you’d know that by watch­ing her on the dance floor. So far she’s waltzed all over the other com­peti­tors like Mol­lie King — who is 29 years her ju­nior — and scored the first 40 of the se­ries for her tango with Gio­vanni Per­nice.

She’s in phe­nom­e­nal shape phys­i­cally, which she puts down to a healthy life­style fu­elled by yoga and pi­lates.

“Be­cause I’ve al­ways been in show­busi­ness and had to be on stage in slinky dresses, I’ve al­ways liked eat­ing, and the only way I can eat ev­ery­thing I want, is to ex­er­cise,” she ex­plains mat­ter-of-factly.

“But I’ve never been a gym girl. I did go to the gym for a cou­ple of years and it’s the only time I ever got in­jured!”

McGee rose to fame along­side her late husband, ma­gi­cian Paul Daniels. The pair were mar­ried for more than 25 years un­til his death in March last year. On April 1 this year, she shared a pic­ture of them on their wed­ding day on Twit­ter, writ­ing along­side it: “29 years ago today”.

In 2010, Daniels him­self donned a tuxedo and com­peted in Strictly.

“It changes week by week,” she says ex­plain­ing that a re­cent stint of pub­lic­ity for a Chan­nel 5 pro­gramme talk­ing about her late husband stirred up mem­o­ries.

“I had a re­ally emo­tional pre­vi­ous two weeks to this, be­cause there was a big trib­ute to Paul on Chan­nel 5 and I had to do a lot of in­ter­views re­call­ing Paul, and so it got to me... I know how much he would just love it.

“But be­cause he also did the show and lots of peo­ple on the show got to know him, his pres­ence is kind of around and I think emo­tion­ally it’s got to me more than I thought it would, is how I could de­scribe it.”

Her flex­i­bil­ity and danc­ing prow­ess aside, McGee also grabbed head­lines fol­low­ing her first dance on Strictly which saw her lock­ing lips with 27year-old Per­nice as their rou­tine ended.

Days af­ter the kiss, McGee told ITV’s This Morn­ing that Daniels would have “loved” the kiss, adding: “And the fact that I caused, or ap­peared to have caused, this furore with the kiss on Satur­day night... he just loved show­busi­ness, and that re­ally was show­biz.”

She laughs when asked about the head­lines sug­gest­ing their friend­ship could have a ro­man­tic edge.

A few weeks later when we catch up McGee, she also brushes off any sug­ges­tion she has be­come the ob­ject of af­fec­tion to younger ad­mir­ers.

“If I have, I haven’t no­ticed it. This pro­gramme takes over your life. I don’t see any­body, I haven’t been go­ing out be­cause it’s so ex­haust­ing. No­body knows who they are at­tracted to or who is go­ing to ask you out, so I have no idea!” she says.

With the Black­pool Strictly spec­tac­u­lar loom­ing, McGee says she has no idea what to ex­pect from it, but adds: “I’ve got but­ter­flies like I’m go­ing to a teenage prom.”

The pres­sure is on for all of the cou­ples and McGee says mak­ing it to that stage of the com­pe­ti­tion is a nice way of giv­ing back some­thing to the pro­fes­sional dancers who work tire­lessly along­side them.

Af­ter Strictly, McGee will be in a panto in York, and has also made a BBC Two pro­gramme, The

Pil­grim­age, which saw her take on the gru­elling long dis­tance trek of the Camino de San­ti­ago in Spain.

McGee says the ad­ven­ture, which saw her take on the epic jour­ney, was good prac­tise for Strictly.

Strictly Come Danc­ing airs on BBC One on Satur­day at 6.45pm

Debbie McGee and Gio­vanni Per­nice on Strictly Come Danc­ing.

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