In an exclusive shoot and interview with HELLO! in January 2018, Dancing on Ice star Donna Air opened up about her relationship with her on/off boyfriend of five years James Middleton, the brother of the Duchess of Cambridge, who she has since split from. When Donna took to the rink for her first live performance, she had more high-profile support in the audience than most. Speaking of James in the front row, she said: "It's been lovely to have the support of everyone. It's quite funny because you think, 'Oh I don't want anyone there - it's distracting. I just want to skate and get it done.' But having people there - my closest - on the first skate was really helpful."
Donna has also said part of the reason she wanted to do the show was to set a good example to her 15-year-old daughter Freya. "Life is about experiences, and if you get the chance to do something you should grab it," she says. "The reason you don't do things, quite often, is fear. I was afraid I was going to really hurt myself; I was fearful I couldn't do it. And the other thing people don't do things for is because they're so concerned about what other people think, but the joy of getting older is that you get to a point where you don't care. It would be a bit strange at my age if I was dominated by what people think. It's liberating, getting older."
Donna, who shot to fame aged ten when she starred in Byker Grove, added: "By doing Dancing on Ice – as much as I'm sure Freya will be mortified at moments – what I hope to teach her is that it's okay to put yourself out there, to fall over and make mistakes, and that you come through it. I want to teach her to be brave. It's okay to fail. What it's not okay to do is not try and to be scared. Especially when you have teenagers, you have to lead by example."
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Freya attends a girls’ boarding school. "It was something she really, really wanted to do. It was different for me because obviously I didn't grow up having that sort of education, so I had to be quite open-minded," says the Newcastle-born star, whose CV also details a pop career and high-profile presenting jobs on MTV and Channel 4's The Big Breakfast. "And that's the key. As a parent you have to remember that your life is not their life. And I'm glad, because she's super happy and she loves it. There comes a point where they do need much more stimulation, and we've been so close all the time that she's probably just OD'd on me a bit. As much as I hate to admit it, she needs some other stimulus in her life."
Donna opened up about Dancing on Ic
"If she wanted to be in the spotlight I couldn't condemn it," Donna muses, adding that Freya is a "real mix" of her and Damian, from whom she’s inherited a passion for conservation work with gorillas. "But I'm an actress and a performer, and she has that side, too. She's already been scouted and offered work. But I think her father and I are in agreement that it should be when the time is right. She's still at school and she's very young still. There's no hurry. I've always been 100 miles an hour but she doesn't need to take the first thing that comes along."
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Donna has been enthralled with ice-skating ever since she was a little girl watching Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean win their Olympic gold medal in 1984. "I've seen them perform now and it's like a childhood fantasy," she said of working with the pair, who are judges on the show alongside Jason Gardiner and Ashley Banjo.
She also spoke about her on/off boyfriend James Middleton
"At one point during my first live show I had to check myself because I was very happy with the score I got, but I could have got any score to be honest," she said. "I just thought, 'Oh my God, Jayne Torvill is actually marking my skating and being really nice about it!' It was a pinch-yourself moment. She's like the fairy godmother of skating and I used to watch her with absolute awe as a tiny girl. So standing in front of her saying nice things about my skating – it was definitely a little moment for life."
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