Bal­las blasts back... Don’t ANY­ONE tell me how to do my job

The Mail on Sunday - - News - By Katie Hind

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 i ndus­try, i nclud­ing 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 male­dom­i­nated 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 dist raught 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?’

SENT HOME: JLS star As­ton Mer­ry­gold

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