Dressed to the nines in an elegant white tie dinner suit as he was presented to the King at Buckingham Palace, Johannes Radebe felt himself sinking to the floor into the deepest theatrical curtsy he had ever performed.
Meeting King Charles:
Recalling this extraordinary moment, the Strictly Come Dancing star booms with laughter in this exclusive interview with HELLO! "As I did it, I was thinking, 'Johannes, what is wrong with you?'" he says. "It's part of our culture as Africans to bow to an elder as a form of respect, but I don't know what got into me to think this was a fitting way to greet the King. "There was a gentle grin on his face as he picked me up with his eyes, and said, 'Hello Johannes, welcome back to Buckingham Palace,'" he continues, recounting Charles’s kindly but bemused response.
Queen Camilla's special gesture:
Surrounded by royalty - including Queen Camilla, the Prince and Princess of Wales, and the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh – as well as ministers and diplomats at the King’s first State Banquet as monarch which was held in honour of South Africa’s President Ramaphosa 10 weeks after the death of Queen Elizabeth II, Johannes, who is more accustomed to the Strictly dance floor than the BP ballroom, felt understandably overawed.
"It was the most surreal experience of my life,” he says as his compelling memoir, Jojo: Finally Home, which charts his journey from humble beginnings in a small South Africa township to international fame, is released this week. “When Queen Camilla turned around and told me, ‘I voted for you guys - three times at Blackpool,’ I felt as if I’d won Strictly. She probably sits down with a cup of tea to watch the show on a Saturday night, just like everyone else."
Strictly Come Dancing and beyond:
HELLO! was the first publication to interview this initially outwardly shy young man, and we followed his blossoming career every step of the way as his endearing personality and confidence grew. In his memoir, he gives the magazine and our digital counterpart enormous credit for welcoming him and making him feel at home. "Thank you for championing me, HELLO!" he says, breaking into his signature radiant smile.
Johannes Radebe was HELLO!'s 2022 Pride Cover...
The bullying Johannes faced for being both gay and a male dancer while growing up in South Africa is well-documented, but while his heart belongs to his family in the township Zamdela, he has finally found a place where he can be himself, and is not only accepted but celebrated, too. “Although my Mum and family supported my love of dancing, it was never considered cool like it is here when I was younger," he says. "So to live amongst people who really respect the art form makes everything worthwhile."
And he tells HELLO! how he is now hopeful he will also be granted what is missing from his life. "I have love in bundles, but it would be lovely to be in an intimate relationship with somebody. I’m very conservative and believe in monogamy. Unfortunately we live in a world where times have changed, but I believe there are people out there who have the same values as me. Not everyone is guaranteed that love, though. If it happens, it happens, if not, that’s ok."
Photography: Elliott Wilcox
Jojo: Finally Home by Johannes Radebe is published on 7 th September by Hodder Catalyst. Johannes will be in conversation with Clara Amfo at a special theatre event to launch.
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