Tear­ful Ash­ley: I don’t feel wanted on Strictly

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - COMMENT - By Katie Hind [email protected]­sun­day.ie

IT HAS been a clas­sic Strictly bat­tle: the hand­some housewives’ favourite ver­sus the glam­orous Amer­i­can ac­cused of hav­ing an un­fair ad­van­tage over her co-stars.

But while it might make good tele­vi­sion, the com­pe­ti­tion be­tween YouTube star Joe Sugg and Ash­ley Roberts has left the pop star in floods of tears, the MoS can re­veal.

Ash­ley, who per­formed a paso doble and Amer­i­can smooth last night, has be­come con­vinced view­ers of the hit BBC show have re­jected her on the brink of the fi­nal, telling friends: ‘They don’t want me here.’

The singer, who found her­self in the dance-off last week de­spite be­ing sec­ond on the leader­board, has suf­fered in the weekly vote, with ob­servers say­ing her years of pro­fes­sional dance ex­pe­ri­ence have turned the pub­lic against her.

The judges heaped praise on her quick­step rou­tine with part­ner Pasha Ko­valev last week and voted

‘BBC bosses knew all about her dance past’

to save her and in­stead send home Ca­su­alty ac­tor Charles Venn.

‘Ash­ley feels she is not wanted on the show and it is ter­ri­bly sad for her,’ said a source close to singer.

‘She is par­tic­u­larly upset be­cause she wasn’t the one who went to the BBC, beg­ging to be signed up for Strictly.

‘They ap­proached her, know­ing full well what she had done in the past. This has been so sad for Ash­ley. Imag­ine go­ing to work when peo­ple don’t want you there.’

Friends of Ash­ley, 37, a mem­ber of US band the Pussy­cat Dolls in the 2000s, in­sist she is ‘work­ing her butt off’ in train­ing seven hours a day in a bid to sur­vive this week­end’s semi-fi­nal and have a chance to lift the cov­eted glit­ter­ball tro­phy next week.

Mean­while, Pasha is said to be dis­traught at the pub­lic at­tacks she has re­ceived, with view­ers back­ing rel­a­tive un­known Joe to win.

Ash­ley is not the only cur­rent Strictly con­tes­tant with pro­fes­sional dance ex­pe­ri­ence. Ac­cord­ing to the CV of for­mer Steps star Fay Tozer, she is trained in 12 types of dance, in­clud­ing Bol­ly­wood, tap, jazz, bur­lesque, folk and salsa.

Fay is also a fully trained chore­og­ra­pher, yet she has not suf­fered the same back­lash.

Pre­vi­ous Strictly con­tes­tants have been crit­i­cised for hav­ing show­biz dance ex­pe­ri­ence. For­mer S Club star Rachel Stevens and tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter Caro­line Flack, who trained at the Sylvia Young per­form­ing arts school, both faced claims of an un­fair ad­van­tage.

Yet the pub­lic’s re­ac­tion to Ash­ley – who six years ago was run­ner up on ITV’s I’m A Celebrity – has been so harsh that host Tess Daly last week called on the pub­lic to ‘cut her some slack’, de­scrib­ing her as ‘an ab­so­lute sweet­heart’.

YouTube vlog­ger Joe Sugg, 26, is cur­rently the book­ies’ favourite to lift the tro­phy. Joe is worth £3mil­lion and has more than eight mil­lion sub­scribers on YouTube. His part­ner is Dianne Buswell, with whom he is ru­moured to be hav­ing a re­la­tion­ship.

Last week, Ash­ley de­scribed re­ceiv­ing a call in July from Strictly’s celebrity booker Ste­fa­nia Alek­sander, and be­ing ‘so chuffed to be asked to take part’.

‘When I got asked to do Strictly, I re­mem­ber my heart feel­ing like it was go­ing to burst,’ she said. ‘I was so ex­cited and so un­be­liev­ably grate­ful to have been given the op­por­tu­nity to be a part of such an amaz­ing show.

‘I knew I was prob­a­bly go­ing to get some back­lash, but this is a brand new skill for me.

‘The ball­room and Latin world is so dif­fer­ent in how they carry their bod­ies, how they trans­fer their weight, whereas with hip hop and jazz you al­most get to come up with the cre­ative move­ment your­self.

‘Ball­room is very spe­cific, so it’s very chal­leng­ing. Strictly has given me the op­por­tu­nity to learn so many new things, to chal­lenge my­self con­stantly, to keep show­ing up again and again, up­ping my game each week, and to be able to per­form again is such a gift.’

Ash­ley had hoped Strictly would pro­vide a happy end­ing to what has been a har­row­ing year. In March, her fa­ther Pat took his own life, aged 69, fol­low­ing a long bat­tle with men­tal health is­sues. The call from Strictly came while she was still griev­ing and she ac­cepted the in­vi­ta­tion im­me­di­ately.

‘This has been a very tur­bu­lent year for me, and be­ing a part of Strictly has been heal­ing on many lev­els,’ she ex­plained.

‘I of­ten find it hard to be vul­ner­a­ble and share my highs and lows. I’ve al­ways learned how to keep go­ing, chin up and stay on my game.’

DRAMA ON THE DANCEFLOOR: Ash­ley and Pasha’s paso doble last night

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