Belfast Telegraph

Motsi Mabuse: 'I am sorry girls feel they have to look like Instagram'

Strictly's new judge, Motsi Mabuse, is a veteran of the show's German version. So, what can we expect from her? Georgia Humphreys reports

Motsi Mabuse is the new Strictly judge
Motsi Mabuse is the new Strictly judge

By Georgia Humphreys

It's no surprise to hear how professional dancer - and new Strictly Come Dancing judge - Motsi Mabuse calms her nerves before live TV. "Every time, I need to dance it out," reveals the South African star (38), who is known for Let's Dance, the German version of Strictly Come Dancing.

"And, luckily, my colleagues in Germany, they don't mind the loud music - they join in. The music is really over-the top, loud, and we are just going to move it. I need the vibe to be good and then I go out there. It really helps."

The TV personality's go-to tune? Beyonce's Crazy In Love. "She gets you hyped up, she gets you there," Mabuse enthuses.

Meeting her in person, it's hard to imagine Mabuse (who is replacing Darcey Bussell on Strictly) would ever need much hyping up.

There's no denying she's going to be a breath of fresh air on the much-loved BBC One competition, now in its 17th series. But how would she describe her judging style?

"I just know that I'm going to be myself and that's important, because we all have an opinion about dancing. So, for me, it's really, really important to be authentic."

For Mabuse, who's a former South African dance champion and German Latin champion, good dancing isn't necessarily about the technique.

"I want the emotions on the dancefloor and I want to go there and scream and be like, 'Oh my God, this dance means life'." I want them to literally feel that they are the dance. You can't hide yourself with dancing."

Her younger sister, Oti, has been a professional dancer on Strictly since the 13th series (she reached the final in 2016 with Hollyoaks star Danny Mac). But there are no concerns when it comes to having to critique her sibling on TV - especially because they've already been in the same position on Let's Dance.

"I've taught Oti since she was five-years-old, so she's used to me saying something about her dancing," she quips.

Having worked in the TV business for over a decade, Mabuse isn't worried about what the British public's perception of her will be either.

"I've learnt to not look that deep into what people say, because it's mostly a reflection of themselves. It's always great to hear nice words, but with our new daily social media and everything, people hide behind fake profiles and attack people, because they're just frustrated. And if you take that in too much, you're going to be left confused."

Mabuse, who married Evgenij Voznyuk in 2017, says their move to the UK is a temporary one - for now. But the dance teacher isn't ruling out living here permanently in future.

"There's really great stuff I love about here - the education system. I've been thinking about it, because of our young daughter. I feel like, in England, there's a lot of support if you want to go an artistic way. In Germany, they're kind of very business-way and I think here you have both."

There's been a lot of discussion surrounding how, for the second year in a row, Strictly has included a YouTube star in its line-up (last series it was Joe Sugg, this time it's 19-year-old Saffron Barker).

"You can't cut out the YouTubers and the influencers anymore because they've become such a pivotal part of our reality right now."

On the topic of social media, she agrees one downside is how it can impact young people, in terms of their body image.

"I sometimes feel sorry for the young girls that look at some fake photos on Instagram and think, 'I have to look that way'." Similarly, she adds, seeing images online can make women feel self-conscious after giving birth.

"There's a lot of pressure for moms and it's already started with the 'after-mom body'," she says. "And I'm like, 'Go away with your 'after-mom body'!' A woman is dealing with so many other things; there's such pressure."

However, a positive side of Instagram is that "you cannot define beauty anymore".

"You saw (model) Ashley Graham, she posted (on Instagram) like, 'Yeah I'm having a baby and look at my silver stripes' and people are like, 'Woah!' You wouldn't have had that a few years ago."

The question of whether the body positivity movement has made the world of dancing more inclusive is put to Mabuse.

When dancing is practised as a sport, as she has experienced, there are always going to be expectations as to what an athlete should look like, she notes.

"It's to get your body prepared, it's to get your body to that stage where it can really give its 100%. And to give its 100%, you have to look at your energy, you have to look at how much you have to work out, what you eat, because you need the fuel for your body. So, it's different."

  • Strictly Come Dancing, BBC One, Saturday, 7.10pm

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