Strictly Come Dancing star John Whaite has opened up about the importance of being part of the first exclusively male partnership on the hit BBC dancing show.
The TV chef is definitely looking forward to the glitz and glamour of the dance floor, but confessed he did think he would receive “a fair bit of hate” in his inbox.
Speaking to Daily Star and other publications, John admitted he hopes to be a “role model” for young people who are in the LGBTQIA+ community.
He gushed: “The reaction has been so positive. Because I’m doing the first all-male partnership I genuinely did think I was going to receive a fair bit of hate in my inbox – because you do!
“As a gay man you get a lot of hate, it’s a thing you grow up and learn to deal with. He explained that you don’t have to but it is normal.
“But I can honestly say that I haven’t had a single message of negativity and I think it was when I was talking to Matt Lucas on the Radio 2 Breakfast show that I realised just how important all of this is.”
John added: “For little kids who watch the show, having same-sex role models will give them a little bit of hope for the future and it won’t make them grow up with the same shame that I grew up with, that perhaps Matt Lucas grew up with.
“But also, it’s not just about queer people – it’s about intimacy generally,” the star explained.
Elaborating, John went on: “Two men – whether they’re straight or gay – can be intimate with each other. I hope that this will show that there is a way to break down the toxic masculinity that is prevalent, especially in Britain.
“If you look at Europe, people are much more intimate with each other – so why can’t we have that here?” he wondered.
Asked if he was experiencing any additional pressure being part of the first male-male dance couple, John responded: “I think there’s pressure anyway! At first I did think it’s more likely going to be on us as the first all-male couple, but when you think about it it’s actually only about the dancing.
“The message that I’m conveying to queer people around the world is my message, but I convey that if I do an Instagram post, if I get up and make the bed, I do that as a proud gay person.”
He continued: “The show is about the dancing. I want people vote for me if I’m good and not because I’m in an intimate male-female relationship.
John has already had plenty of advice from former Strictly celebs, including his Steph’s Packed Lunch pal and former Emmerdale star Gemma Atkinson.
Gemma, who played Carly Hope in the Dales, said it’s the “most wonderful thing you’ll ever do”, but warned John that she piled on the pounds while competing in the show.
“Gemma said, believe it or not, you do put weight on because you’re just eating whatever you want and you have a drink on a Saturday night when you finish,” John explained. “She said she put a few kilos on, so I’ll have to watch what I eat – but I can still enjoy it!”
Denise Van Outen (ex-Strictly star) offered John some advice. She has also graced the ice skating rink with her Dancing On Ice skills.
“Denise Van Outen said it was amazing. I remember I saw Denise, I was in the Strictly audience in 2012, and she said on Packed Lunch that it’s amazing. All people have said is positive,” John gushed.
Anton Du Beke, former Strictly pro-dancer, is still mum about the whole subject.
“Anton hasn’t given me a single tip because he didn’t know!” John laughed. “I was dying to tell him I was on the show because I knew last time I saw Anton on Steph’s Packed Lunch that I was going to be in the first all-male partnership.
“I thought it was funny that if he tells me it breaks that boundary, he doesn’t want to give any advice. I want to just get on with it and get it done if it’s okay. If it’s not, I want to go home and continue the journey.
Strictly Come Dancing will air on BBC One on Saturday, September 18.