The star opens up about her Strictly adventure, staying in shape, and learning to live without her late husband Paul Daniels
“I won’t rule out finding love again”
She’s been lighting up S our screens on Strictly, admitting on the show that she was missing her late husband, Paul Daniels, and that he would have “encouraged” her to enjoy the experience.
And, 18 months after Debbie Mcgee tragically lost Paul to a brain tumour, the former magician’s assistant admits that she is tentatively open to the idea of finding new love.
Debbie, 58, says, “None of us want to be alone. I’m trying to let life take me where I’m meant to go. But you have to meet the person you want to go out with, don’t you?
“I’m content with my life as it is at the moment. My grief is getting better – the good days are outnumbering the bad.
“I don’t know whether I will meet someone again. I’m just taking it one day at a time and trying to enjoy every moment on Strictly. What will be will be."
The star reveals it’s her dance partner and “great mate,” Italian-born Giovanni Pernice, 27, who has been her rock throughout her time on the show.
Debbie says, “Giovanni has been so understanding for a guy of his age. He’s so protective of me. Sometimes if I talk or think about Paul, the floodgates open, and he will give me a hug and be upset for me.”
Debbie, who toured the world as a ballet dancer in her twenties, is the oldest celebrity in this year’s line-up, and been wowing the judges with her energetic routines, which she puts down to her active lifestyle. Already a trim size 8, she admits she’s been feeling the effects of the show’s notoriously gruelling rehearsals.
Debbie says, “Age is just a number! “I have to eat two meals every evening at the moment because I’m burning so many calories training for the show. I’m still about 3lbs lighter than I was when I started! I’ve always been fit, and do an 8am Ashtanga yoga or Pilates class at my local gym three or four times a week. Exercise makes you feel happier. They say that if you feel depressed, you should do something active, because if you slob around, you won’t be able to get to sleep as you haven’t achieved anything during the day.
“I don’t think my ballet training has helped me on Strictly; it’s my yoga. It keeps you supple and strong and Pilates maintains your core.
“I’m in it to win it – you don’t go into show business if you’re not a high achiever. I give 100 per cent to every job I do, I just hope I’m good enough to win.”
FRIEND FOR LIFE
Strictly is renowned for its backstage romances, and this year has been no different as fellow contestant and former Emmerdale actress Gemma Atkinson, 32, has been linked to pro dancer Gorka Marquez, 27. And Debbie is adamant they would make a perfect pair.
She says, “I keep hearing all these rumours and have seen them at the studio, but we’re always being whisked away to do filming. I know them both individually and they are just delightful people, so I am sure they’d make a great couple.”
For her, she admits she has found a friend for life in Giovanni, saying, “The fact that we get on so well has made Strictly really special. Every day is different. It’s so much better than I could ever have dreamed. Everybody is just so lovely.”
But Debbie reveals that her Strictly experience is tinged with sadness as it
reminds her of how much she misses her husband of 28 years, who also competed in the show in 2010. The pair married in 1988, a decade after first meeting when they worked together on one of Paul’s magic shows. Paul – who was 20 years her senior – died in March last year aged 77, less than five weeks after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Debbie says, “I’ve had a couple of days where I’ve felt really exhausted and it’s made me feel very emotional. It’s pushed me through the mill, and I miss Paul much more.
“He would have loved seeing me on the show so much that I’ve been near to tears a lot more than I have since I first lost him. In those first few months, I cried at the drop of a hat, but I had come through that. Strictly has given me fantastic highs, but it’s been an emotional path as well.”
“Paul would have loved me doing this at my age. He never held me back and always wanted me to follow my dreams. After Strictly I’m doing panto, as I always like to have the next project lined up.
She adds, “Since Paul died, I haven’t stopped working. My feet don’t touch the ground. I always try to seize the moment and not focus on the negative and that has really helped me through losing him. I live my life thinking, ‘I’m never going to get this minute again, so make the most of it.’”
Strictly Come Dancing is on Saturdays and Sundays on BBC One
‘I do get upset, but Paul would be so proud of me’