Debbie McGee has revealed dancing every Saturday has given her a new lease of life

Surprise Strictly Come Dancing sensation Debbie McGee slipped under the radar when this year’s line-up was launched, and the smart money was on young pop stars Aston Merrygold and Mollie King to lift the 2017 glitterball.

Then, in the first live show, Debbie, 58 and partner Giovanni Pernice stunned us all with a paso doble so sizzling that judges Darcey Bussell and Shirley Ballas gave them a standing ovation! And we have a feeling the best is yet to come…

TV Times caught up with Debbie McGee on her way to training, to hear more about her magnificent moves, the Strictly experience and why the show is giving her a new lease of life after the sad loss of her husband, Paul Daniels last year…

TV Times: Debbie, is Strictly living up to your expectations?

Debbie McGee: It’s 100 times better in every way! And not just because I’ve been doing well so far, the whole experience is lovely and I can’t wait to find out what I’m wearing every week. I still can’t believe I was top of the leaderboard in week two. You dream about things like that happening to you, but you never think it ever will – I just feel as if I’m in a fairy tale.

TVT: You wowed us all with your paso doble – did you know you’d surprise people?

DM: “I suppose inside I know what I’m capable of, but I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off with the pressure of a live show. I had quite a strict education, we had to behave and I’ve always seemed a composed person, but my real friends know that I’m actually as nutty as a fruitcake, I play tricks on everybody all the time! I loved the feistiness of the paso, I just felt like I was in a movie playing a part.”

TVT: How much dance experience did you have before Strictly?

DM: “I’ve had a bit of a battering from people saying I’m a trained dancer, because I did the teachers’ course at the Royal Ballet School, but I gave up when I was 23, because I was so busy working with Paul. I haven’t been secretive about my training, but people don’t seem to realise that I’m nearly 60 and I haven’t done any dancing for 35 years!”

Debbie McGee Strictly

‘From day one we’ve just made each other laugh,’ said Debbie McGee about Giovanni

TVT: You said you wanted to be on the show to inspire other ladies, who have lost their husbands?

DM: Yes. When Paul died I spoke publicly about it the day after and I got so many emails and letters from people in the same situation saying I’d inspired them to carry on, which is wonderful. People come up to me all the time on the street, and just want to hug me. So now, doing Strictly, I’m showing them that you don’t have to feel your age and you can have a good time, don’t be frightened. It is a bit scary when you’re on your own, I haven’t got Paul at home anymore who I can ring to tell him how rehearsals are going, you haven’t got that back up anymore and you don’t feel as strong as a person. So it does take a little bit of courage, you have to just go for it.

TVT: Is Strictly helping you cope with the grief?

DM: Yes, it’s been great for my confidence. For months after Paul died I just felt like I was made of eggshells, that if somebody knocked me I would have just crumbled. You’re trying to hold it together but grief is the strangest thing, it’s painful and you just totally lose motivation for life. I’ve had to completely drive myself through the last 18 months, forcing myself to get up in the morning and get dressed. Now on Strictly I just can’t wait to get up and learn the dance, the show has given me a completely different focus.

TVT: Are you enjoying dancing with Giovanni?

DM: From day one we’ve just made each other laugh, so we were both delighted when we found out we were dancing together. We’ve got the same sense of humour and we are both very committed to what we’re doing. I’m happy to put the hours in, he’s pushing me quite hard sometimes because he wants to get the most out of me. We ended up in fits of giggles doing the Viennese Waltz though – he made me walk around the room on my own with a banana on my head to keep the movement smooth. I just couldn’t stop laughing but it was a good teaching method!