Sophie Ellis-Bextor likens Strictly Come Dancing to a cult amid lack of emotional care

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Sophie Ellis-Bextor, 42, has spoken out about her experience on Strictly Come Dancing, after she appeared on the BBC show in 2013. The programme is renowned for its gruelling training schedules and while the singer explained that it had to be a “joint decision” with her husband Richard for her to take part, they weren’t prepared for the emotional toll it would take on them.

There’s no emotional care at all

Sophie Ellis-Bextor

In a new article for the Main Online, Sophie – who shares three children Sonny, Ray, Kit, Jesse and Mickey with Richard – likened her Strictly experience to that of a famous Dickens quote, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’

The singer was partnered with Brendan Cole, who is also married with kids, and while she was enjoying the “gorgeous routines” and being put in “fabulous sparkly frocks with amazing hair and make-up”, she admitted the fun bubble soon came crashing down.

“Richard started to struggle with my involvement from the launch show onwards,” she penned.

“It was so hard for him that I can remember wondering if they’d ever had a contestant walk away from the show before they’d even danced their first dance.”

Sophie admitted Richard was worried he was “losing her” – “I think he thought that something was awakening in me and he felt he wasn’t part of my future,” she wrote.

“I never, ever felt like that, but I couldn’t convince him.

“He could see that I was completely wrapped up in the show and consumed with the intensity of it and the constant learning, learning, learning which you share with one other person – your dance partner.”

She explained that Richard felt as if she “might slip into a new life that left our family behind”.

“I had no such desire, but was too spent at the end of the day to give the reassurance he needed,” she sighed.

“I think the only real reassurance could come with the show finishing.”

But Sophie wondered whether the show could have done more to help contestants deal with similar experiences.

She noted that during her year on the show there were three marriage break-ups and now two babies have been born from fellow contestants and their dance partners.

Admitting she “felt terrible” about not being able to reassure her husband at the time, she continued: “At Strictly Towers there was no one to help. There’s no emotional care at all – aside from the wisdom and make-up-chair counsel of the folk working backstage.

“For the dancers, too, they have to be choreographer, dancer and occasional psychiatrist.

“It starts off with you just being keen to show you can do the right heel or toe footwork for the chief judge, then your confidence in your ability to act or be sexy gets tested, and that is more emotionally challenging.”

“I do think they should have a counsellor, just to check in with the contestants. Richard began seeing a counsellor after I’d been in the show a month or so, and it really helped. Perhaps I should have, too.”

Sophie also likened the show to that of a “cult”, after being asked questions ahead of the final that triggered responses about how much the show must mean to the finalists.

“We were asked questions such as, ‘Is this the best thing you’ve ever done?’ ‘How incredible has your dance partner been?’ ‘What will you do to fill the hole after Strictly?’” she recalled.

“I looked to my left and right and all the finalists were being talked to as if we were in barrels about to go over a waterfall.”

She went on: “One of the cameramen even said to me on the day of the final, ‘You’re going to love this. Best day of your life. Better than your wedding day!’

“And I thought, ‘No it is not. This isn’t the best thing ever. It’s been great, but this isn’t better than my wedding day.’”

Noting her final conclusions on the “Church of Strictly”, the singer remains glad she did it.

But in an adoring nod to her husband, she ended her candid tale: “But of course I did. To me, my family is everything.”

Express.co.uk contacted BBC for comment.

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