Secrets of Strictly Come Dancing judges revealed

They are the experts who sort the fab-u-lous from the frightful and give Strictly as much sparkle as that coveted glitter ball trophy.

Head judge Shirley Ballas, acid-tongued Craig Revel Horwood, class act Dame Darcey Bussell and flamboyant Bruno Tonioli can make or break the celebrity dancers.

But what are the judges really like behind that famous desk?

From revealing who ‘breaks wind’ during the show, why Darcey took up ballet as a child and the bizarre thing it’s claimed Shirley did when applying for the role, we reveal some secrets of the Strictly judges with this year’s final just a day away.

* Strictly Come Dan­­cing, BBC1, tomorrow, 6.30pm.


Mr Nasty has reduced many a celeb to tears with his deadpan, withering put-downs since the show began in 2004.

But one person who knows the cuddlier side of Craig, 53, is his partner, horticulturalist Jonathan Myring, 31. They’ve been dating since February and it’s serious. Craig said: “I can see marriage in the future.”

Craig’s childhood was darkened by his late dad’s heavy drinking. Philip Revel Horwood, a former lieutenant in the Royal Australian Navy, took out a life insurance policy on Craig in case he died of AIDS and was jailed in 1989 after going on a boozy rampage with two guns – nearly shooting a son-in-law in the process.

Craig’s love life has had more ups, downs and sharp turns than a tango. As a young man he was bisexual before marrying Jane, who left him for another man. He fell in love with a man and has been gay ever since.

He was also in a relationship with a sugar daddy who paid for his dance lessons. Craig said: “It was this man who was 43 and I was 17.

“He said I will pay for your classes but you come away with me and we do the dirty.” Craig also lived with Britain’s Got Talent puppeteer Damon Scott for three years before an acrimonious split.

His TV and choreography work rakes in more than £300,000 a year and he has a £1.5million mansion in Hampshire.

Off screen he is just as loose-lipped.

In his book Tales From the Dance he claims Darcey farts during Strictly.


Darcey, 49, was born was born Marnie Mercedes Darcey Pemberton Crittle in London. Her parents divorced when she was three and her father played no role in her life. Darcy’s mother Andrea married Australian dentist Phillip Bussell who adopted Darcey.

Diagnosed with dyslexia is a child, Darcey was bullied at school. She took up ballet because her mum hoped it would ease her clumsiness. Darcey says: “I was a clumsy child, energetic and knocking into things. I’d spill things and get food down me, so Mum never wanted me in there.

“If I said I’d help, she’d draw breath. It was a reason she sent me to ballet classes – to control my clumsiness. And to sort out my bendy legs.”

Darcey won her first principal role aged 18 at Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet, wearing a Lycra one-piece costume with two stars on each buttock and one at the crotch. She became the youngest ever principal dancer at the Royal Ballet aged 20, and spent her career there before hanging up her ballet shoes in 2007.

Darcey, who joined the show in 2013, is married to Australian businessman Angus Forbes and they have two daughters Phoebe, 17, and 14-year-old Zoe.

The family are renting a home as they recently demolished an entire 1920s house in West London apart from one wall and are rebuilding it into a £5m mansion.

Like Craig, Darcey has suffered pain from dancing injuries and had a hip resurfacing operation in 2015 which she says gave her a new lease of life. She joked: “If anything it’s made it easier, I’m bionic now. In airport security I do go off.”


Head judge Shirley, 58, has been in the hot seat for two years since Len Goodman retired.

Raised by her mum Audrey after her dad walked out, she grew up on a council estate in Wallasey, Merseyside.

She started dancing at the age of two, going on to win countless titles and the nickname The Queen of Latin.

Shirley first wed at 18, but the marriage to dance partner Sammy Stopford only lasted five years.

In her 20s she married dancer Corky Ballas and they were together for 22 years before divorcing. Their son Mark was a dancer on US hit Dancing With the Stars.

Just days before Shirley, 58, started her new £250,000 Strictly job, Corky gave an interview describing their relationship’s daily rows and bust-ups.

Shirley, who is single, has been mocked by Craig Revel Horwood, who claimed she flashed her boobs to impress BBC bosses when applying for the Strictly job. He joked: “Her boobs were like La BaZooKa things hanging out. They sewed all that up.

“Then they had to push them down… and they’re fake.”

Shirley’s brother David took his life 15 years ago after battling depression and she raised his daughter Mary as her own.


Bruno’s extravagant moves and colourful metaphors are a highlight of Strictly.

Having worked as a dancer and choreographer for Tina Turner, Sting, Sir Elton John, Duran Duran, The Rolling Stones and Boy George, his CV is like a who’s who of showbiz.

Bruno, 61, is still in hot demand. He picks up £500,000 on top of his £250,000 Strictly fee for judging the US version of the show, Dancing with the Stars. He is so famous in America that he has been made into a Sesame Street puppet.

Bruno grew up in Italy with his bus driver dad Werther and his mum Fulvia, who stitched car upholstery. His sexuality was never discussed in his strict Catholic home and Bruno left Italy at 18 to join a dance troupe in Paris before making London his home.

He is less talkative off camera and says: “The Bruno you see now is nothing like the guy everyone sees on the show. I can go a week sometimes without talking to anybody – anybody.

“And my favourite holidays are the ones I spend on my own.

“Bruno the judge is a persona that has developed over the years and is related to what Strictly is – it’s glam, it’s energetic. It is one side to my personality. But we all have different sides to us.”

He has a partner of six years, Jason Schanne, but says: “I always sleep on my own.

“I can’t sleep with somebody else. Always separate bedrooms, bathrooms and closets. I’m very individual and I want my own space.”

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