Belfast Telegraph

Christine Bleakley's on thin ice with the viewing public

By Maureen Coleman

She had been hoping her new job as co-host of Dancing On Ice would give her a chance to shine following her departure from ITV's Daybreak.

But the knives were out for Northern Ireland's Christine Bleakley as her debut on the prime-time Sunday show left some viewers and critics cold.

The 32-year-old found herself "trending" on Twitter as members of the public took to the social networking site to label her "wooden", "rigid" and "dull", with one user saying: "She puts the bleak in Bleakley."

And dozens of viewers posted negative comments online demanding the return of her predecessor Holly Willoughby, who left to present the new BBC show The Voice.

Many of the nastier, more personal comments referred to her Northern Irish accent, her appearance and her relationship with footballer Frank Lampard.

Some sections of the Press were equally unkind, with one tabloid critic branding her "thin and over-dressed".

The former One Show star was sacked from Daybreak along with co-host Adrian Chiles, with show bosses citing falling ratings as the reason. Christine had already been announced as Holly's replacement on the show when news broke that she was leaving the station's breakfast vehicle.

The Newtownards woman admitted before Sunday night's show that she was extremely nervous and was undoubtedly prepared for criticism.

But the harshness of some comments has annoyed her supporters, who feel the public has built her up only to knock her down.

Publisher of IN! magazine Lisa Harrison, who organises the annual IN! Glamour Awards, said much of the abuse directed towards Christine bordered on racism and urged the critics to "back off our girl".

"I think many of the comments are being driven by what is close to racism, spiked with jealousy at her success in both her career and personal life," she said.

"When I saw her bursting onto the screen in that fabulous, glamorous way I was just thrilled. She was back where she belongs and is a million miles away from the dowdy sofa and the dull Daybreak studio. That curbed her natural sparkle so badly.

"I've no doubt that if the average Daily Mail reader can get over their prejudices against regional accents then Christine will shine the way she's consistently done throughout her presenting career.

"This is a great role for her - she has the skills, presence and personality to deliver. Bleakley will be back with a bang, and so hot she melts the ice."

Fans of the presenter also leapt to her defence on Twitter and other internet forums, with many pointing out that it was her first night and nerves were to be expected.

One posted: "Give the poor girl a chance. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves", while another said: "Give her a chance, she was nervous. I think she's lovely."

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