Ballas blasts back... Don’t ANYONE tell me how to do my job
SHE has courted controversy ever since taking the most coveted job in ballroom.
But today Strictly Come Dancing’s head judge Shirley Ballas hits back at her critics in a fiercely defiant interview – her first since taking the show’s hotseat.
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, the outspoken dancing queen said she stands by her decisions, after being vilified by some fans for sending home one of the favourites, JLS star Aston Merrygold, last week.
And she discloses that, until recently, she had a toyboy lover 25 years her junior.
Speaking about the controversy sparked by choosing singer Mollie King over Aston, she said: ‘I judge with no fear or favour, but it has been a very tough week and I really don’t like to see somebody go home.
‘But I entirely stand by my decision and that will never change. Don’t anyone tell me how to do my job – I’ve been doing this since I was 16.
‘The BBC has very clear rules: you have to judge on that performance, not past ones – and Mollie was the best dancer.
‘My question to viewers is, “Did you vote?” You have to vote. Take Ruth Langsford – she’s getting fours from judges but she is not in the bottom two because people are voting for her.’
Shirley previously shocked viewers with a tense standoff with pro Brendan Cole, after she dared to mark down his Top Gun-themed tango. After Shirley, 57, criticised his performance, Brendan leapt in to aggressively contradict her, and the pair ended up glowering at each other in silent fury. But she insists she won’t be changing her approach, despite fellow judge Craig Revel Horwood criticising her analysis as ‘too technical’. ‘No way!’ she says. ‘I will judge on technical ability. I don’t think about whether I upset someone, I’m doing my job. I won’t be some plastic dummy.’ Her style is very different from that of her predecessor, the avuncular Len Goodman. But perhaps she has been toughened by her experiences of the darker side of the industry, including what she describes as a lifetime of sexist bullying. ‘People at the top of the industry have given me a difficult time for many, many years,’ she admits. ‘My industry is a male-dominated one. But I’m still standing. It’s a difficult place to be if you’re a woman.’
Shirley is well connected both professionally and personally, but a month ago she was left distraught when Corky Ballas, whom she divorced in 2007, revealed she had seduced him while she was still married to her first husband, Sammy Stopford.
She says: ‘He’s the father of my son so I have to forgive him but I don’t know why he would do that. It was a shocker.’
Shirley’s most recent boyfriend, Yegor Novikov, is 25 years her junior. They split two years ago but she says: ‘Yes, he’s younger. So what? It seems OK for a man to have a younger girlfriend but not OK for a woman to have a younger boyfriend. That doesn’t seem right, does it?’
DEFIANT: Strictly head judge Shirley Ballas on the dancefloor
SENT HOME: JLS star Aston Merrygold