Strictly’s Motsi Mabuse: ‘I can deal with Craig – but is he ready for me!?’

As Strictly returns Saturday, we cha-cha-chat to the show's newest judge Motsi Mabuse. Oti's older sister has sound advice for the celebs - and some harsh words for Craig...

The stage is set, the sequins are on and the fake tan has been applied, which can mean only one thing… Strictly Come Dancing is back!

On Saturday night, Tess Daly and Claudia Winkleman host as 15 nervous celebrities will each be partnered-up with the professional dancer they hope will teach them how to cha-cha, jive and waltz their way to lifting the coveted glitterball trophy, won last year by investigative TV journalist Stacey Dooley.

Watching their every step once again will be judges Craig Revel Horwood, Bruno Tonioli, Shirley Ballas and new judge – and sister of dancer Oti – Motsi Mabuse, 38, who has sound advice for this year’s line-up….

How are you feeling about joining Strictly Come Dancing?

Motsi Mabuse: “I’m so excited. I’ve been a judge on Let’s Dance in Germany but Strictly is just huge! It’s the mother of all shows and I’m thankful to be a part of it.”

What kind of judge can we expect you to be?

MM: “ME!! I’m just going to be me. What happens on the day is what you’re going to get! If you’re brilliant, I’ll be off the scale. And, if you’re not brilliant, I’ll tell you as well. But I would never put myself down as a certain type of judge because it just limits you. And I hate limits!”

MORE: New Strictly star Emma Barton: ‘I’m not leaving EastEnders’

With your sister Oti competing on the show, will you be able to be impartial when it comes to her performances?

MM: “Well, first of all, as judges, you cannot critique the dancers, only the dance itself. With Oti, I was her first dance teacher and still continue to teach her in her professional life, so she’s used to hearing my opinion. I’m not going to baby her. I’m going to be fair, just like with everybody else. If she does well, I want her to be on her own feet and not because her big sister helped her. That would be taking away so much of her integrity, her talent in choreography and all her hard work and I wouldn’t want to do that.”

Strictly Oti main

As a judge, Motsi Mabuse will have to critique her little sister Oti. But she promises to be fair…

Who would you say is the most competitive out of you and Oti?

MM: “Oti… Jesus, that girl! She is and she knows it. She’s really competitive but it’s a good energy to have, especially on a show like this. You need that energy to keep you going. Oti has a great work ethic, she knows who she is and what she wants. I’m super proud of her.”

Your fellow judge Craig Revel Horwood is known for his sharp tongue. Will you challenge him if he’s mean?

MM: “I can deal with Craig. The question is, is he ready for me!? If I feel the contestants are being unfairly judged, I’ll be quite vocal. Because I’ve been there and, even if it doesn’t look like it sometimes, the dancers are doing their best. So, for me, it’s about building them up. And there are certain ways that words have power.”

Strictly Come Dancing 2019 - Judges Group

Motsi with fellow judges Bruno Tonioli, Shirley Ballas and, of course, Craig Revel Horwood

What do you make of the celebrity line-up?

MM: “I knew of a few of the people but some I’ve just read about – but that’s good for me because it means I don’t have any pre-conceived ideas. What you give is what I get! So it’s not like: ‘Oh, that person is funny, why are they not being funny now?’ I’ve never seen them being funny, so I just care about how they’re dancing.”

What advice would you give the Class of 2019?

MM: “You have to take risks, be all in, give it your best and put in the hours of training you need. Remember this is a marathon, not a sprint. So don’t give everything in the first show. Just pace yourself and go for gold.”

Strictly Come Dancing starts on Saturday September 7 at 7.10pm on BBC1