She is the Queen of the ballroom whose role as head judge on Strictly Come Dancing was a big hit. And Shirley Ballas says she fitted right into the judging panel. In an exclusive interview and photoshoot with HELLO! magazine in November 2017, Shirley, 57, said: "I have known Bruno for 11 years. He is as mad as a hatter and I love him to bits. Craig is a big soft pussycat, and Darcey is very mothering and very sweet. It's my job to slot into the panel, but I didn't have to try too hard because it just kind of clicked. It's a laugh a minute, actually."
Of replacing Len Goodman, she added: "Len is a good friend of mine, a wonderful man, and he's got huge shoes to fill. But I am just trying to carry on in my own way. You can never be Len Goodman – he is iconic. He is who he is and I can only bring myself to the role."
Home sweet home with Shirley Ballas:
She continued: "I enjoy seeing the people that you thought were perhaps not going to do so well suddenly come to the forefront. This is probably the hardest Strictly ever to predict because, where we thought we had some front runners, other people have started to do different things that are quite amazing."
Liverpool-born Shirley also talked about how she has overcome the initial criticism she faced when joining the hit BBC 1 show. At first, she received criticism for being too technical with her critiques as well as mixing up some celebrity contestants' names, but she quickly turned it around. "I haven't tried to change," she said. "There are always some people that like what you do and there's always going to be some who don't like what you do. But maybe I have learnt to take those technical points and put them in layman's terms."
"I have known Bruno for 11 years. He is as mad as a hatter and I love him to bits," she said
While she spends a lot of the year in the US, she is enjoying having a UK base while judging the show so she can see her beloved mother Audrey, who still lives on the same estate where Shirley grew up. "My mother raised two children on a housing estate, in a place where people said once you got on, you never got off. And she believed in me. So when people tell you that you can't, you can. I am so glad that at 80 she is here to see this part of the journey," she said.
In the interview, twice-married Shirley admitted that she would like to find love again and has tried online dating, with a brief spell on match.com. Currently 'completely' single after her last relationship ended two-and-a-half years ago, she said: "If I was in a relationship again it would have to be with somebody that really cared about me, who was kind, caring and loving."
Shirley shares a son Mark with her second husband
Her second husband Corky, with whom she shares a son, professional dancer, actor and musician Mark, 31, sold secrets of their relationship to a newspaper. "I was quite surprised he sold his story because we are good friends and have a beautiful son. But I love him, I forgive him."
Her belief in knowing what she wants is in stark contrast to a decided lack of confidence in her appearance. Despite her age-defying dancer's body, Shirley revealed that she has never been happy with how she looks.
"I am self-critical and always have been," she said. "There was some bullying going on in my industry, which I felt particularly when I was growing up and as I got older. But over the past two years I have got my head into a good space and now just want to be a good role model for people and show that eating well and getting plenty of rest is what you need to do."