Top of my Santa list is a… man!
Strictly head judge Shirley Ballas reveals what she’s wishing for this year
Shirley, 58, lives between England and LA. She has a grown-up son, Mark, 32, a musician and dancer on the US version of Strictly, Dancing
With The Stars. She also acted
as guardian to Dancing With
The Stars siblings Derek and Julianne Hough, who lived with her in England in the 1990s.
MY PERFECT CHRISTMAS
I’ve spent a lot of Christmases in different places. I did many with my ex-husband, Corky, and his family in Houston, we’ve done Christmas at Mark’s, at mine, and at my mum’s. Each place is different, but I think it depends on the people you’re with, not the place. So for me, it doesn’t make any difference where I am, as long as I’m surrounded by people that care about each other and want to get into the festive spirit with an eggnog.
This year, I’m going to be in Liverpool for Christmas because
I’m in pantomime there. [Shirley’s in Jack And The Beanstalk at the Empire Theatre.] I only get Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off, but it’ll probably be me, my mum [Audrey, 81], my
Auntie Barbara and my Uncle Norman celebrating together. My mum will either make dinner or we’ll go to a hotel so she doesn’t have to do any work, and we’ll come back for a nice Christmas pudding at Mum’s. It’s my first time appearing in panto and I get to wear a crown and shiny shoes –
I’m going to be as glitzy as the Strictly glitterball trophy.
When I was young, my mum would put two cotton pillowcases at the end of our beds – one each for David [Shirley’s brother] and I. We’d wake up and they’d be packed full with all sorts of different toys. Then Mum would cook us a lovely dinner for late afternoon and the three of us would sit there together – I have fond memories of that. She’d do roast beef or beef Wellington with Yorkshire pudding, sprouts, carrots and cauli, roast potatoes slow cooked in the oven and mashed potatoes with her home-made gravy tipped all over it. Then she’ll do a nice treacle sponge pudding with lots of custard. You’d have to waddle away from the table. That’s the sign of a good Christmas. Nothing comes close to my mum’s roast dinners. We always had a tree and crackers from Marks & Spencer – she had to have the
M&S crackers, although my brother would always work his way through the box before we even sat down! My best-ever present was a pair of dancing shoes – and a Tiny Tears doll with a high chair. I’d take that doll everywhere with me. Since then, some of my best gifts have been from Mark, Derek and Julianne. I have a lovely heart ring from Mark, a diamond ring from Derek and a nice necklace from Julianne, which I can wear all year round. I don’t really take them off because they mean something, and they took the
‘I’m going to be as glitzy as the Strictly glitterball trophy’
‘My mum and I were the only ones up dancing! I was with all the 80-year-olds and we had a blast!’
time to pick them for me. Mum always gives me a new pair of Christmassy pyjamas. I must be the only girl that has about 100 pairs. Every colour, every style. Onesies, zips, buttons, silky, not silky, flannel, velour, you name it. I like to think I’m good at buying gifts. If I’m unsure, a cashmere scarf with a hat and gloves always goes down well. I try to do my shopping early, but it’s always a rush. I love writing cards. I understand that not everyone has the budget to buy presents, but cards are lovely. They’re really important to me, and I keep all the ones I’m given. I do personalised Christmas cards with a nice message of what the year’s meant to me or why that person is included in my life – nobody gets the same one. With a card, you can read it over and over again. I do about 50 for close friends and family, but my standard cards still have a paragraph in there, too.
Peace, tranquillity and happiness are at the top of my Christmas list this year. And maybe to find myself that
man that’s eluding me! I’m going to put it on my wish list for Santa Claus. I’d like a man older than me, kind, caring, understanding, sweet and who makes me laugh. And fun! I’d also like health and happiness for my family, and for my son to call me every day, which he does pretty much, more or less. I don’t know whether he feels it’s his duty or I just crack him up with all my stories – it’s a bit like Coronation Street, he can’t wait to tune in!
This will be my dog Charlie’s first Christmas. He’ll be the star of the show, and spoilt rotten. I got him last year from a rescue home. He’s a Lhasa apso and he’s gorgeous. He’ll be getting all sorts – he loves soft toys and teddy bears. He’s a rascal. I brought him to the UK from LA to be with my mum, but he’s a handful,
stealing her toast, eating her sweets and leaving the wrappers everywhere!
I watch Scrooge every year – it’s
my favourite festive film. To watch a personality change to being loving and kind at the end and wanting to share his bounties – I think it’s really important to share and try to include people. I love The Sound Of Music, too, it’s such a classic. I must’ve watched it 5,000 times. And I love all Christmas music, especially White Christmas. I always watch the Queen’s speech on Christmas Day. I love the royal family. I watch The Crown, I watch everything they do in real life, and if they’re on the front cover of anything, I buy it. I love Meghan, and Princess Diana’s and Charles’ boys. I’ve been a royalist all my life. I think they’re a magnificent family.
We always keep Christmas to just family, but it’ll always be tinged with so much sadness because my brother,
David, died over the Christmas period in 2003. [David took his own life after battling depression, aged 44.] Last year, my mum and I put up a tree, baubles, and got a little bit more in the spirit of things, but it will always feel strange to have Christmas without David.
MY PERFECT NEW YEAR
I always make New Year’s resolutions and hope that everyone can be kind and bring the world together with love and compassion. Spreading kindness and doing your small part to make the world a better place, also the world using less plastic – it’ll be those types of things that I’ll be wishing for, so nothing too much for myself. Maybe except that man that’s eluding me. You never know! I keep putting you on my wish list, darling, wherever you are!
I’m the most boring person you’ll ever come across when it comes to New Year’s Eve. Last year, I went with my Auntie Barbara, Uncle Norman, my mum and all their friends to some club that had about half a dozen people in it. They’d made lovely sandwiches and pork pies and my mum and I were the only ones up dancing. So I was with all the 80-year-olds and we had a blast! This year, I’ll be doing panto on New Year’s Eve, so I’ll be looking for somewhere to go in Liverpool after.
The best thing about returning to Strictly is that I understand how the show works now. Of course, the cast is amazing and I love the time I spend with the judges. We get together at least twice a week, and engage with each other, so we all put our best foot forward and make a show the whole country can really enjoy.
Last year at Strictly, I got wine for the cameramen and for the man who gave me aspirin when I got a headache. I got Quality Street tins for the band. I think even a card, a tin of sweets or a candle makes people feel like you’ve thought about them, because they thought about me all season. I got all the judges a nice card; some wine and sweets, too. I think it’s just finding the time to make someone smile – people like to be thought of. Craig Revel Horwood gave me the push to do panto. He said I was just the type of person who’d love it. I told him I hadn’t done any stage work, but he told me to trust him and have a go. On Strictly, I’ve seen some great rhythm from the contestants! Sometimes when people get nervous, their personality becomes larger than life, but in actual fact, they’re terrified. I monitor everyone backstage to see who’s cocky or who’s humble, but it’ll all come down to this at the end – how strong of character they are.
Now that Robbie Williams is on The X Factor, I’m going to have to make sure my mum tunes into Strictly. She’s a huge Robbie fan! You can always watch it on catch-up, I suppose, but I hope people watch Strictly first.
• Strictly Come Dancing is on BBC One on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Shirley stars as Mother Nature in Jack And The Beanstalk at the Liverpool Empire from Friday 14 December.
‘Craig told me to trust him and have a go at panto – he said I’d love it’