‘There’s No Strictly Curse: You’re Either Happy Or You’re Not’

Strictly's Nicola Adams Talks To Grazia.


by grazia |
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Sad news for Strictly fans: Nicola Adams has been forced to withdraw from this year's series, following the coronavirus diagnosis of her dance partner Katya Jones. It's a sad end to big moment in TV. Here's what happened when Grazia caught up with her...

When Nicola Adams accepted her Olympic gold medal at London 2012, it was a groundbreaking moment. It was the first year that women were permitted to compete in the boxing ring, the final sport in the Olympics to dispense with men-only regulations. Now, she is making history again, as the first contestant in Strictly Come Dancing’s 16-year run to compete in a same-sex dance partnership.

‘They’ve asked me to be in Strictly a few times,’ Nicola tells Grazia over the phone. She is calling from her car – parked and punctured, and waiting for roadside assistance. ‘I hadn’t been able to do it in the past because of training commitments, but now I can give it a go. I like learning new things, and it would be cool to come out of the show knowing how to dance. I just wanted to take on a new challenge, do something different.’

‘Different’ is the word. Nicola may not have set out to make waves, but she has undoubtedly done so. ‘I said from the start that I wanted to dance with another woman,’ she explains, ‘and the BBC said I could do it and that they’d get behind me. I was really happy that they were willing to do that. It’s definitely about time that it’s happening.’ She will also be the first celebrity to decline to dance in dresses.

‘I don’t wear dresses,’ she asserts. It bears repeating. ‘I wanted to be in trousers. It’s clothing at the end of the day. You should have the choice to wear whatever you want. It doesn’t matter about gender.’

There has been an inevitable outpouring of closed-minded negative comments, but Nicola is unfazed. ‘I just roll with it,’ she says. ‘I don’t let anything like that get to me. I’ve been through so much in my life already, a couple of comments on Twitter aren’t going to break me. The way you look at life, you can look at it as all going wrong all the time – I could do that – or choose to look at the positive side. I choose to do that. Life is short.’

The criticisms – even Graham Norton argued that the decision could ‘muddy the waters for the judges’ – were, however, more than matched by a wave of praise. ‘It’s really nice to have had so much support going into this,’ Nicola says, but she resists the suggestion that she has become a role model for women. ‘I just have to keep on being me, the person that I am,’ she says. ‘If I thought too much about being a role model, I wouldn’t be living my life the way I should, that I can’t do this or that: I need to live my life properly.’

That said, she understands the impact that seeing a successful, gay Black woman on prime-time television could have on a younger generation. ‘I think it is important,’ she explains. ‘It’s all about having somebody who you can feel represents you. To be able to see that. Because without that, how can you picture yourself doing Strictly, or being an athlete?’

Nicola has been paired with professional dancer Katya Jones, the only person in the production who she is permitted to touch as part of new coronavirus regulations. ‘We have Covid tests all the time,’ she explains. ‘Everybody is keeping socially distant, we’re only allowed to interact with our dance partners and can’t go near anybody else. They’ve been doing really well, and have been really strict in keeping everyone safe.’ So far, there has been only one blip: YouTuber HRVY tested positive earlier this month, but has pledged to continue after a recent negative test. ‘It’s one of those things,’ Nicola says. ‘I’m confident that everyone is looking after themselves.’

‘I’m super-excited to work with Katya,’ Nicola says. ‘She’s so creative, and really good at choreography. She’s unbelievable.’ One wonders if being paired with a straight woman at least dispels any concerns of

a Strictly curse: Nicola is dating beauty blogger Ella Baig. ‘It’s not a big deal,’ Nicola insists. ‘It’s not even a curse. You’re either happy with your partner or you’re not.’

Despite ‘zero dance experience’ and only a few rehearsals down, Nicola tells me she vehemently wants to win. It’s part of a fighting spirit that swept her to Olympic glory. But once her Strictly run ends, however long that may take, she has greater aspirations.

‘I’d love to get more involved in acting now,’ she says. ‘I’ve done acting coaching alongside my boxing for my whole career but haven’t had the chance or the time to really pursue it because of all the training commitments. Now I have the time, I want to be in a Marvel film.’

Nicola’s alternative mode of transportation arrives, and she moves from the old car to the new as I say goodbye and good luck. She’s hit some speedbumps on her journey so far, but the next phase of her journey may have unexpected new heights. Who knows, perhaps her trophy cabinet may soon house the Glitterball trophy or, indeed, an Academy Award.

‘I could make some room,’ she laughs.

‘Strictly Come Dancing’ is on BBC One on Saturdays and Sundays

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