Strictly’s Neil Jones recalls how ‘unhappiness’ inspired life-changing career move

Strictly star Neil Jones has revealed that he was encouraged to make a big career change after feeling “unhappy”.

Speaking on The Midlife Mentors podcast, the dancer, 39, revealed that while he was competing on an amateur level with his then wife Katya Jones, 32, he was hesitant to take a risk and go professional.

Neil explained: “I like taking risks and over time, especially with the competitions, when you start winning, you stop taking as many risks because you get to a point where everything is going right.

“You’re like, ‘Let’s not make any changes’ because everything is going right, but then something inside of you says, ‘I’m bored, I can’t do this anymore, this is boring'.”

The ballroom star, who was eliminated from the show in week two, added: “We [him and Katya] were still winning and we were working with a sports psychiatrist and it was a decision to turn professional.

“It's the next level up. I wanted to stay in the amateur section, we had been winning for three years, I said, ‘Can we just do it for one more year?’ I remember them asking, ‘But why? You don’t seem happy. Maybe if you turn pro, and you’re not going to be winning, it gives you the drive’.

“We did it and it was the drive we needed.”

Katya, a fellow Strictly pro, has also revealed that once she and Neil had won 26 dance competitions, she began to “hate” being successful and found it “tough” to carry on competing.

She admitted: “It is all exciting because you keep climbing up that big mountain. You see those little checkpoints, but once I was at the top, for me and Neil, I absolutely hated being there.

“I had a really tough time turning up to competitions, although we won 26 competitions in a row, so we have reached that top.

Katya, who split from Neil in 2019, added: “I remember my feelings about dancing in the final thinking, ‘I’m about to win this competition, what the hell am I doing right here on the floor?’

“So my mind would be floating somewhere else instead of enjoying the moment. The only thing that kept me going is that I loved dancing.”

Neil was partnered with former Eastenders star Nina Wadia on this year’s series of Strictly Come Dancing, but the pair were the first to be eliminated in the show’s second week.

The pair faced Hollyoaks actor Katie McGlynn and Gorka Marquez in the dance off, with the judges opting to save them.

In last year’s series, Neil didn’t get a celebrity partner, instead only appearing in group routines.

In 2019, he got his first celebrity partner when he was paired with footballer Alex Scott.

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