There’s something about Nancy Dell’Olio.Perhaps it’s her self-described "mystery and charisma", or maybe it’s her jet-black hair, olive skin and enviable figure. Either way, heads never fail to turn when she walks into a room – something the 50-year-old Strictly Come Dancing contestant is well aware of. "There has to be a reason why I’ve been the centre of attention for the past ten years in this country," she tells HELLO! as she sits down after our photoshoot.
Wearing a figure-hugging blue jumpsuit, accessorised with earrings and bangles that bear her initials, she certainly is striking. "People probably find something very fascinating or interesting about me and I’m quite pleased about that," she adds, smiling. "That’s why we’re here talking."Within days of the Strictly line-up being revealed, the Italian businesswoman was already making headlines. Rumours that she was "a bit of a handful" and creating "real tension" soon surfaced. Not that Nancy is affected by such gossip, which, she says, is unfounded. She claims never to read articles about herself, but feels there are lots of misconceptions created by them. "There are different aspects to everyone," she says. "The real me is very private and shy. I have always been like that since I was very young."Nancy has a sense of humour and warmth that doesn’t always come across in the media. She is, she says, getting on with the Strictly cast."The atmosphere has been great," she says. "They are a nice bunch of people and we all want to go out for dinner before the first live show."She’s also bonding with her Strictly dance partner, Anton Du Beke. "He is very sophisticated, very intelligent, a proper gentleman. We’re having a lot of fun," she says. The opportunity to take part in the show came at a good time for Nancy. As she exclusively tells HELLO!, it draws attention away from rumours about the status of her relationship with theatre director Sir Trevor Nunn.
"Last month, we decided to put things on hold," she says, finally setting the record straight about their five-month romance. "Trevor was busy doing The Tempest (he is directing Ralph Fiennes in the Haymarket Theatre production in London’s West End) and I was busy with different things, so we decided that we needed a bit of time to think about it.The problem was that we were in the public eye too much, which was not our decision, and it (the relationship) was running too fast." High-profile relationships are nothing new to Nancy. As the ex-girlfriend of the former England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson, she has weathered stormy headlines on such matters as Sven’s two infidelities (in 2002 with TV personality Ulrika Jonsson and in 2004 with a Football Association secretary), as well as her characteristically flamboyant dress sense (a skin-tight red catsuit worn to a Number 10 reception in 2002 is now the stuff of legend). She loyally stayed with Sven, but their nine-year union came to an end in 2007. Does she accept that her relationships will always come under scrutiny?"It makes my life very complicated," she says. "I’ve had a few situations where men got scared of this, but this is my life. If a man cannot cope with all this..."My previous partner, he couldn’t cope with my popularity. Men sometimes find it difficult to cope with a woman who is the centre of attention." Full the full interview, pick up HELLO! Magazine, issue 1194, on sale now.