Top of my Santa list is a… man!

Strictly head judge Shirley Bal­las re­veals what she’s wish­ing for this year

Prima (UK) - - Contents -

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.


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.


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’

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