Boxer Nicola Adams has come out fighting in response to criticism of her becoming the first Strictly Come Dancing contestant to be in a same-sex coupling.
The bisexual Olympic star, 37, has already made history when the BBC announced she will join the celebrity dancing show. Strictly is a primetime TV hit in the UK and uses the same format as Dancing With The Stars in other countries.
However, the BBC show has limited Strictly to opposite-sex pairs for years, fending off calls to be more inclusive.
Even now, the broadcaster has received over 100 complaints about letting her dance with a woman. And the show won’t even start until Saturday (17 October).
But Adams told the Radio Times magazine that the trolls wouldn’t ‘faze’ her and she’s faced far bigger challenges in life.
She said: ‘They’re going to have to deal with it or switch to another channel.’
Meanwhile, she revealed why she insisted on another woman as her dance partner.
‘Cool for kids to see someone who represents them’
Adams told Radio Times:
‘I’m expecting the same sort of thing I got with women’s boxing in the beginning. There will always be some resisters. But once they know you’re here to stay, they get used to it.
‘Women dance together all the time in nightclubs. Traditionally I guess men and women would dance together when they were courting, so the older generation have that in their heads. They see it as a sexual thing rather than a sport.
‘I’ve been through so much in life. I’ve been through my mum and dad separating, domestic violence, back injuries, having to look after my brother when I was 13 when my mum had meningitis.
‘So someone’s going to comment on Twitter? It’s nothing, it won’t faze me at all. It’s like – try harder. If they don’t like it, they’re going to have to deal with it or switch to another channel.’
Meanwhile, she said she would have refused to join Strictly if the show insisted she danced with a man. However, she admitted the reason wasn’t to show her as a good example to others.
‘I wish I could say it’s because I wanted to be a role model But it didn’t even cross my mind at the start. I think it’s cool to see kids see someone who represents them, but for me it just felt more comfortable.’
The fight for same-sex Strictly
When Adams takes to the dancefloor, most likely with Russian ballroom professional Katya, 31, it will mark the end of a long struggle.
The show has featured same-sex professionals dancing together before. But they have never been paired with one of the celebrity contestants. Moreover, they have made up just a few minutes of programming over Strictly’s 17 series since 2004.
Last year, Radebe danced with fellow professional Graziano Di Prima to the music of Emeli Sande. But the routine attracted 189 complaints from viewers, the most in the show’s history.
Despite that, Strictly insiders have kept pressing producers to be more inclusive. Gay pro dancer Robin Windsor and gay judge Craig Revel-Horwood are among those to have called for same-sex dancing.
Many of the celebrity contestants joined their calls for same-sex inclusivity. But they said the issue was ‘out of their hands’.
Meanwhile the show has featured lesbian, gay and bi celebrities before – but not in same-sex pairings. Gay stars including former singer turned vicar Rev Richard Coles and TV host Richard Arnold both danced with women. So did singer Will Young who abruptly quit the show in 2016.
Comic Susan Calman became the first lesbian to join the show in 2017. But she attracted criticism from LGBT+ fans when Strictly paired her with a man rather than a woman.
Meanwhile TV doctor Ranj Singh said he wanted to dance with a male professional when he entered the show, but Strictly refused. Likewise gay quizzing star CJ de Mooi says the show’s producers rejected him because he insisted on dancing with a man.
Meanwhile rival ITV show Dancing on Ice has beaten BBC’s Strictly to it. Singer Ian ‘H’ Watkins and professional skater Matt Evers made history by being the ITV show’s first male skating duo earlier this year.
Adams has now retired from boxing having won Olympic golds in both the London 2012 and Rio de Janeiro 2016 games. But she has finally won this fight for representation, after years of hard slog from LGBT+ campaigners.