Saira Khan has told how she originally turned down the chance to appear on Dancing on Ice – until her two children persuaded her to change her mind. But the 48-year-old Loose Women presenter told HELLO! in November 2018 that she is raring to go and represent the older generation. "As women get older, our lives consist of being parent, wife, friend, but we forget to put ourselves out of our comfort zone," she says. "We have to dig deeper and remember: 'I can do this.' It gives you a little bit more confidence and self-respect by having a go."
The TV star revealed that she feared she wouldn’t be able to take on the challenge and juggle her workload and explains the part her two children Zac, 10, and seven-year-old Amara played in her changing her mind, "You know when your parenting is working when your children use the same language as you. Zac said, 'Listen to yourself - you’ve got no time, you can’t do it, you don't want to make a fool of yourself. Why not just take a positive attitude and give it a go? Why don’t you do it for us?'"
Saira Khan spoke to HELLO! about her next chapter on Dancing on Ice
Dancing on Ice sees Saira competing against younger stars including singer Brian McFadden, Gemma Collins from The Only Way Is Essex and former Strictly Come Dancing professional James Jordan. Even the fact that she’d never worn a pair of ice skates before the audition didn’t daunt her. "It showed that I’d give it my best shot," she said. When she was first invited to take part in the hit show, however, Saira turned the offer down, panicking about how she'd fit it around her skincare business, hosting a TalkRadio show with Eamonn Holmes and appearing on Loose Women.
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A couple of months later and after countless training sessions with her professional ice-skating partner Mark Hanretty ahead of the show being aired on ITV1, Saira has come on leaps and bounds – quite literally. "I can do a backwards crossover, a forwards crossover and quite a few lifts – and I’ve done the headbanger," she added. "That’s the one where they grab you by the legs and spin you round. It’s my favourite move." Skating has even helped her become a more patient parent, she revealed. "My kids are learning new things every day – how to ride a bike, how to spell or swim – and I’m not always sympathetic," she said. "I forget you need encouragement and positivity."
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More than anything, though, she can’t wait to wear the sparkly skating outfits. "I was brought up in a Muslim household where I couldn’t wear what I wanted. I remember watching Jayne Torvill perform Bolero, whizzing round in that blue floaty dress, and thinking: ‘I wish I could wear that,’" she shared. "But what I wear has always been an issue in my community – even now, when I’m nearly 50. My mum will still say: ‘Don’t embarrass me.’ I tell her: ‘Mum, I can’t go on the ice wearing a burqa,’" she laughed. "Bless her. I really want my mum to see that just because I’m an Asian Muslim woman doesn’t mean I can’t do anything I want, given the opportunity."
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It’s a message Saira is determined to pass on to Amara, whom she and Steve adopted in 2011 from an orphanage in Pakistan, where Saira’s family is from, having had Zac through IVF two years previously. "I want to show her: ‘Give it a go, Mars; go on, have a go,’" she confessed. "It’s really important that I try and do these things to demonstrate to both my children.” She admitted that she probably feels this more keenly with her daughter, who was taken in by the Edhi Foundation in Karachi after being abandoned as a newborn. "Steve and I want to give her the best life," the star explained. "I don’t want her to ever look back and think: ‘Why did my mum and dad not want me?’ We talk about it, and she will say: ‘I’m adopted. I’m from Pakistan,’ and she’s so proud of her heritage. She’s been teased a bit at school, with kids saying: ‘That’s not your real mum,’ but she’s strong and so confident she just ignores it. My son gets more upset about it than she does."
Saira and Steve are now considering adding to their family, this time adopting an older child within the UK. "We’re in a good place," she said. "We’ve just had our house renovated, the kids are growing up settled and happy, Steve’s business is doing well and I have a lovely career. I’m always aware that there are children who need a loving home and I’ve seen what love can do, how it changes lives." She added: "We can all play our part. I realise that some children will be in the care system because they’re a little bit older, but I don’t think they should be shunned because of that.
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"I do believe that love and stability can change a child and that not everyone comes from a perfect background. I like to think we’re a nice family and would like to offer that to somebody" Family discussions are ongoing and will continue into the New Year. Zac and Amara are very keen on having a sibling, explained Saira: "But they can’t agree on whether it should be a brother or a sister."
For now, the TV presenter’s focus is on staying upright on the ice. Does she worry that Dancing on Ice might be hit by the so-called "curse of Strictly", which has split up relationships. Saira replied with typical candour: "You can be intimate with anybody in a performance, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to do anything. I’ve got a gorgeous, handsome ice-skating partner and I’ve already had to put my crotch on his neck. But I can tell you, I’m very happy in my marriage. Steve and I were a mixed marriage, we were told we couldn’t have children, we’ve been through IVF and adoption. If that isn’t going to break you, ice-skating isn’t either."