Gay dancers Johannes Radebe and John Whaite
Johannes Radebe and John Whaite (Photo: BBC/YouTube)

The UK TV show Strictly Come Dancing has unveiled its first gay contestant pairing, and the guys concerned have wowed viewers over the past two weeks.

Strictly Come Dancing, which launched on the BBC in 2004, is the originator of Dancing With The Stars in the US. It follows exactly the same format, and he even shared some of the same judges (Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli).

After years of resisting, the show had a same-sex couple as contestants last year. Olympic boxer Nicola Adams, who is gay, paired up with Katya Jones, who is straight. However, disappointingly, the pair had to pull out after just a couple of weeks after Jones tested positive for Covid.

Therefore, LGBTQ fans were excited when the BBC announced another same-sex pairing this year. Former Great British Baking Show winner John Whaite and professional dancer Johannes Radebe, are both gay.

They made their debut on the show the Saturday before last and immediately made an impact by dancing the tango to a reworked version of ‘Blue Monday’ by New Order. You can watch it below.

The judges gave the men a high score of 30 (the second-highest of the week) and praised the groundbreaking routine, including the fact they’d switch mid-dance over who was leading and who was following (who doesn’t love some versatility?).

Related: Same-sex couple win Denmark’s Dancing With The Stars

Online, many were also moved.

“Just watched the entirety of this dance and the judges feedback,” said one well-liked comment. “I’m not a Strictly fan, but to see these two guys dance was so affirming, uplifting and powerful that it brought me to tears. If the 13-year-old me had seen this in the 1980s I would have not felt so isolated and alone in the world. Here’s hoping that there are people out there who never have to feel that way that I, and so many others, did.”

This past weekend, the contestants gathered for the second week of heats and the first public vote-off.

Whaite and Radebe again wowed the judges with a cha cha cha to recent track ‘Starstruck’ by Years and Years.

They again won online plaudits and praise from the judges. They also avoided being voted off on last night’s first elimination round.

Whaite, 32, won the third series of the Great British Baking Show in 2012. He’s since carved out a successful career as a cookery writer and broadcaster.

He told the Daily Mail on Saturday that at first, he’d been disappointed in the outfit he was given to wear for their week one debut.

“I have to say I was disappointed. It was a suit and a polo-necked jumper. A polo neck! I wanted glitter, sequins, maybe a bit of mesh.

“I’d been working out in the gym for 18 months getting myself pumped for this Strictly experience, and then they wanted me to wear a polo neck jumper and a suit? It was like being covered up with a body bag.”

However, after he saw the final footage, he was impressed and said he appreciated what the wardrobe department was trying to do.

“Once we started to dance in the suits I appreciated the masculine gentlemanliness of it all.”

“I think if we’d started off with something flamboyant it would have been wrong,” he continued. “It would have been flamboyant for the sake of being flamboyant.

“Yes, we are proud members of the LGBT+ community, and we’re doing this for young lads and lasses, and for the older people, trying to undo the injustice. But I think what we wanted to show was that two men could be intimate, regardless of sexuality.”

He said he was looking forward to a little more flamboyance and glitter in his week two routine.

Related: UK’s version of Dancing With The Stars features same-sex dance duo

Both men said they have had similar experiences when growing up, including being bullied because of their sexuality.

“’I remember one teacher — a teacher! — calling me a ‘poof’,” recalls Whaite. “We accepted it then. If a teacher called my nephew a poof today I would be marching into the school to have a strong discussion, but that’s how it was.”

Both appreciate the enormity of dancing together on such a primetime platform.

“John and I talked about this last week, our lived experience, our journey, and we said, ‘It’s about time, isn’t it?’” says Radebe, 34, who comes originally from South Africa.

“And it was so beautiful, being on mainstream, prime-time TV with the world watching. Mothers and their children looking at us on the TV, discussing us, and not being fazed by it. We grew up without that visibility.”


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The current season of Dancing With The Stars in the US features its first same-sex contestant pairing: YouTuber JoJo Siwa and Jenna Johnson. Same-sex couples have also featured on versions of the show in Italy, Israel and Denmark.

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