Strictly’s Kai and Nadiya reveal exact moment they fell in love – live on TV

Strictly Come Dancing power couple Nadiya Bychkova and Kai Widdrington are the epitome of old-school glamour. And it’s traditional values that are laying the foundations for their new romance, which is already so solid they’re set to launch their own nationwide tour, Once Upon A Time, inspired by their love story next month.

“Marriage is important to me,” says Nadiya on the couple’s first exclusive joint photoshoot. “One day I would like to be a wife, and extend my family.”

“It’s a future I want, too, absolutely,” confirms Kai. “I would love to be a dad and one day be a husband and have a family. Ultimately, we’re not trying to start a family right now, but we are trying to create that family feeling among us and that’s important.”

Ukrainian-born Nadiya, 33, found love with her Strictly co-star Kai, 27, from Southampton, during his first stint on the BBC show in 2021. Headlines about their fledgling relationship were so intense that the couple were forced to go out on dates in disguise.

Among the gossip were the now predictable rumours of romance with their dancing partners, news presenter Dan Walker and TV presenter AJ Odudu, all while Nadiya was privately dealing with the breakdown of her engagement to Slovenian footballer Matija Škarabot, 33, the father of her six-year-old daughter Mila.

“It wasn’t nice and we had some not nice headlines written about us,” says Kai, placing a protective arm around Nadiya. “We just stuck together and said, ‘I want to be with you and we’re going to make it work.’”

“Being in the public eye is tough,” admits Nadiya. “But some people can’t be together because there’s actually a war going on so I always say, no matter how difficult things get, there are worse things happening to other people. We’re very lucky to have what we have.”

After spending 24/7 together in the Strictly bubble the pair are now adjusting to balancing their relationship around their soaring careers and Nadiya’s responsibilities as a mother.

She has flown in from a business trip to Slovenia for our Valentine’s Day shoot in east London, while Kai has travelled from Manchester from the Strictly Come Dancing tour.

False reports had claimed the couple had moved in together just months after confirming their relationship last April. “That was a lie,” says Kai.

“It’s so interesting to see gossip like this,” says Nadiya. “I’m a single mum and am very protective over my daughter. Kai and Mila have a beautiful relationship but moving in together, it’s a big step. I’m sure every mum in my position would agree.”

However, multiple-award-winning dancer Nadiya, who has been married once before, has relocated permanently to the UK with Mila, primarily for Mila’s ongoing schooling, who affectionately nicknames her mum’s boyfriend Kai Lemon Pie.

“I have a new relationship and I moved my whole life here last year so Mila could go to school in the UK,” reveals Nadiya.

“It was big for Mila – it’s a new language, new people, but she loves it. It’s not that simple to balance it all – we both have careers on the rise and I have a family to look after. There’s a lot of pressure but we’re so lucky because we’re doing what we love and we have each other. It’s having that one person you can always count on and who’ll be there no matter what.

“I know it’s mushy but it’s about love,” says Kai. “You have to be there 100% for each other – we always say it’s not 50/50, it’s 100/100.”

The past year has been difficult for Nadiya due to the war in Ukraine where her mum and grandmother still live. She is from Luhansk, a city that is internationally recognised as Ukraine, however was annexed by Russia in September 2022. The region has seen much damage during the conflict and many locals continue to hide in bomb shelters.

“It’s been quite a tough year for me with everything happening in Ukraine,” she says. “You get to that age when your grandparents are slowly not feeling as good, and it’s hard not being able to go to Ukraine to see them. Living in a different country and deciding to move your child here, just having someone you trust is very important.”

It’s clear that being a mum is paramount to Nadiya, who started competitive dancing aged six, and it’s a quality that Kai has deep admiration for. His parents split when he was 15 so he knows firsthand the challenges faced by single parents.

“Being a mother is the best thing ever but it’s tough because I’m a working mum and I’m a single mum,” says Nadiya.

“It’s tougher than you can ever imagine, but it’s very rewarding. Mila and I have a beautiful relationship, there’s a lot of planning and organising to make things work, and I don’t get to see her sometimes because I’m away on tour, but no matter how tired I am she will somehow refill me with energy and happiness – it’s incredible. She’s an expert at making tea, too. When I’m tired, she’s like, ‘No Mummy, you sit and I’ll make you a tea – I can’t believe she’s already that grown-up.”

The couple rang in their first New Year together in Belgium after spending Christmas with Kai’s family, and have bonded as a family unit, holding weekly movie nights together with Mila and their six-month-old adopted English bulldog, Snoopy.

“Friday movie night is our favourite,” smiles Nadiya. “We get pizza – Kai loves pizza! – popcorn and loads of sweets and watch Disney films.”

“Mila is the queen of bribing me to get more sweets,” says Kai. “The Christmas period was really nice as we got to spend lots of time together, the four of us, Snoopy included. Nadiya met my family on my dad’s side. It went really well. There are a lot of kids on my step-mum’s side who are Mila’s age and they hit it off.”

Reflecting on the moment they first fell for each other, Nadiya and Kai become coy.

“When I first met Nadiya I was instantly attracted to her – I mean, look at her,” says Kai. “We got on really well then the moment for me was when we first danced together – that’s when we realised that there was something special there.” When quizzed on which dance it was, Nadiya requests to keep that private. “It was a dance that everyone watched, let’s put it that way,” smiles Kai.

Their chemistry on the dance floor is undeniable. Strictly fans were moved to tears when Nadiya and Kai took to the floor during singer Luke Evans’ rendition of Bridge Over Troubled water during a results show in November, and the moment was just as emotional for them.

“When we danced together while Luke Evans was singing, that was the best dance I have ever done in my career just because of how I felt,” recalls Nadiya. “When I knew I was going to dance with Kai I didn’t worry even for a second, I was so relaxed, confident and sure nothing would go wrong because I can trust him so much. I’d never experienced it before to that level. We did it in one take, which is rare – it’s very rare.”

“When we dance together something magical happens,” says Kai. “That’s why we can’t wait to do our tour – it just works. We’re always on the same wavelength.”

So what’s life really like for the pair away from the fake tan, spotlights and sequins?

“It’s comfy clothes, cheese boards, Netflix (they’re binge watching Suits right now) and dog cuddling,” says Kai. “I do like to class myself as romantic, though. I try to be what you would class as an old-school gentleman – I don’t think there are many of us left.”

“He makes everything special,” says Nadiya. “He took me on a trip to Paris and there was this one evening where he had laid out candles and flowers in his apartment before I got there – Michael Buble was playing. I love surprises.”

The pressure’s on for Valentine’s Day then. “I can’t tell you what the plans are because it would ruin the surprise,” says Kai.

Next month, Nadiya and Kai are launching their tour Once Upon A Time, which will tell their fairy-tale love story and rise to fame as dancers. Kai admits to being bullied as a child after taking up dancing.

He said he’d turn up to school after competitions still covered in fake tan and was labelled Terry’s Chocolate Orange by his peers.

Vowing to prove the bullies wrong, he went on to win his first world championship aged 16 while his classmates sat their GCSE exams.

Nadiya started dancing in Ukraine aged six and was so tall for her age she was paired with a 20-year-old when she was just 12, winning her first world championship.

She and her mum later left Ukraine for Slovenia to follow her dance dreams. At the time they had no money and Nadiya would model for cash while her mum made her dresses by hand.

The show will also feature private video clips of their romance filmed on their mobiles, plus a surprise performance from Mila.

“The tour is a dream come true – it’s a fairy tale,” says Nadiya. “It’s not so much showcasing our relationship but showcasing dance, which brought us together. Dance has been a big part of our lives since we were kids so to share something like this together is incredible. My mum is making dresses for me and Mila will be dancing with Kai, too.”

“You’re going to see the glamour and the fancy dresses but it’s also going to be stripped right back down,” adds Kai. “It wasn’t always sparkles and feathers and looking a million dollars. You have to work hard and we want to tell people how we got here – you don’t just arrive in this place. We want to make people laugh and cry.”

Nadiya and Kai’s Once Upon A Time tour runs across the UK from 27 March until 7 May. Find tickets at


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