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Strictly struggles: stars from Kevin Clifton to Oti Mabuse bravely reveal secret struggles

From Crohn's disease to bankruptcy…

strictly struggles
Jenni McKnight
US Lifestyle Editor
June 27, 2019
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Strictly Come Dancing is one of Britain's best-loved TV shows, and over the past 16 series we've become invested in the professional dancers and celebrity contestants – where are they from? Do they have a family? Do they share any interests with us? No stone is left unturned when it comes to discovering all there is to know about our favourite pro or celebrity. But while their lives may look idyllic on the outside, our Strictly favourites are human too and have struggles just like the rest of us...

Poor Jamie Laing had his Strictly journey cut short after he was forced to pull out of the competition after injuring his foot during the launch show. The Made in Chelsea star was advised by doctors that he should not compete in the show and was replaced by Emmerdale's Kelvin Fletcher. The BBC said in a statement in September: "Sadly, due to an injury, Jamie Laing will no longer be able to take part in this year’s series of Strictly Come Dancing. As the Strictly launch show is pre-recorded, Jamie will still feature in this programme which airs Saturday September 7." Expressing his sadness, TV star Jamie added: "I'm absolutely devastated that I’m unable to continue in the competition, I was so excited to hit the dance floor. I would like to wish the lovely couples all the very best and hope they enjoy their time on the show to the fullest."

kevin clifton strictly struggles© Photo: Getty Images

Current champ Kevin Clifton revealed earlier this year that he almost quit the show over struggles in his personal life. Before his romance with Stacey Dooley became public, Kevin had split with his wife and fellow Strictly star Karen Hauer. Speaking to the Daily Mirror in April he said: "I've really enjoyed Strictly. I think it's a great show. But it's no secret that the last two years has seen massive upheaval in my personal life. There have been times where I have struggled. There have been times that really haven’t been easy. I was thinking maybe I need to get out of all this and get away from all this. I’m not very good at coping with it." Keep reading for more Strictly stars who have bravely opened up about their personal struggles…

darcey bussell strictly struggles© Photo: Getty Images

Former Strictly judge Darcey Bussell revealed in 2015 that dyslexia had a crippling effect on her childhood. Darcey even went to the extreme lengths of hiding in cupboards at primary school to avoid being embarrassed in lessons. "If we were asked to write a story about something and illustrate it with a picture, the writing part was the most horrible challenge for me. So I would work on the illustration for an hour and a half and then write three lines for the story, making sure there was 'no time' to finish it." Dyslexia still affects Darcey today, with her admitting she freezes in book signings. She also has a 'phobia' of academic learning and finds reading TV scripts hard.

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Strictly pro Amy Dowden revealed her secret battle with Crohn's disease in May 2019. Speaking to HELLO! she said: "When I got my job on Strictly Come Dancing I didn’t want to be known as 'Amy with Crohn's'. I wanted to establish myself as 'Amy the dancer' first. But I've done two seasons on the show now, and I think it's important to speak out. It will be a relief that people will finally know, but I don’t want any sympathy. It doesn't define me, it's just part of me, and I want this to be a positive story."

MORE: Strictly star Neil Jones reveals the change he's making to appearance

katya neil jones strictly struggles© Photo: Getty Images

Katya Jones hit headlines in 2018 when she was pictured kissing her celeb partner Seann Walsh. Speaking about the difficult period in their lives in March 2019, Katya and her husband Neil – who stuck by her side after the infidelity – told Lorraine: "It was a shock. For me it was a major shock and I appreciated it of course that Katya told me, so I found out from Katya before I saw it in the news. Strictly they were fantastic with me and with us all. They supported us all and they were helping us. I think it was that shock factor. And then for me, it was just straight away I was actually more worried about Katya. I could kind of see what was going to happen and then I knew how strong everything was on the show and I was just like, 'As long as she's going to be ok'."

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Former rugby player Ben Cohen competed on Strictly in 2013 but he struggled to hear the music properly because he is clinically deaf, with only 46 per cent hearing. He also suffers with tinnitus. Speaking to the British Deaf Association in 2015, Ben praised his pro partner Kristina Rihanoff – who later became his off-screen partner too, for helping him during their time on Strictly. "I've never danced before, as I can't hear the beats, but my partner, Kristina did a fantastic job of directing me about the floor and I never held back."

Keep scrolling for more photos...

caroline flack strictly struggles© Photo: Getty Images

Caroline Flack was crowned Strictly champion in 2014 – but just one day later she revealed she was hit with depression. "I woke up and felt like somebody had covered my body in cling-film," she told The Sun in 2018. "I couldn't get up and just couldn't pick myself up at all that next year. I felt ridiculous, being so sad when I'd just won the biggest show on telly and had such an amazing job. People see the celebrity lifestyle and assume everything is perfect, but we're just like everyone else. Everyone is battling something emotional behind closed doors — that’s life. Fame doesn't make you happy."

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Former pop star Frankie Bridge has been very open about her battle with depression, but during her stint on Strictly in 2014, Frankie was heavily criticised after she revealed she had missed her son, Parker's first steps because of her appearance on the show. Speaking to The Telegraph in 2017, she said: "I knew I’d have so many people passing judgment, and as a parent, that's the hardest bit. If they mention my children or parenting skills it makes me so angry. Every parent knows the guilt - whether you're at home, working, not working."

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Following her horrific acid attack in 2008, which saw her need 250 operations, Katie Piper revealed the extent of her injuries left her struggling during her stint on 2018's Strictly. The intense training was particularly difficult for Katie, who struggles with her breathing; has restricted vision in her left eye, and scar tissue which denies her the full movement of her head. Speaking to the Mirror at the time, Katie said: "The respiratory problem makes training a bit harder. I tried to practise some steps and can't really move my head back because of a band of scar tissue that starts at the top of my head… It will be hard with my eyesight. If you cover one eye and think you can't see your peripheral, that is harder with dancing, steps and anticipating your partner."

MORE: Danny John-Jules breaks silence on Strictly feud with dance partner Amy Dowden

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You wouldn't have thought it at the time, but Louise Redknapp was struggling with her self-esteem and low motivation before her 2016 turn on Strictly. Making it all the way to the finals with Kevin Clifton, Louise's 19-year marriage to Jamie Redknapp crumbled soon after her appearance, but she credits the BBC One show for reigniting a spark in her. "Strictly switched a light back on," she told Mail On Sunday's You magazine in March. Speaking of her low self-esteem, she added: "In the past six months, I've thought, you know what, it was down to me to say, 'Something's not right. My self-esteem is really struggling. I've got no passion… I just didn't speak up. I don't blame anyone else for that."

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In February, former pro Strictly dancers Ola and James Jordan opened up exclusively to HELLO! about their struggles to start a family. The couple, who have been married for more than 15 years, have been trying to conceive for two years – with no success. "I would love to be a mum with all my heart and I just thought it would happen naturally," Ola said. "James is also desperate to have babies and I just wish it could have happened by now. That’s the one gift I would love to give him. I guess I just thought, like most women, that I could choose when the time was right for me; that I could have my career and then have a baby when it felt right. But for us it just hasn’t happened like that." The couple will now undergo IVF to fulfil their long-held wish.

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oti mabuse strictly struggles© Photo: Getty Images

Women with larger busts can certainly relate to Oti Mabuse, who revealed in June that her 28GG boobs left her in tears during her dancing career, especially during her first dress fitting on Strictly back in 2015. She said on Lorraine: "I remember fitting my first bra and I was crying. I was like, 'This looks so bad and I look so massive compared to the other girls'. Nobody picked on me for it and no one discriminated against me for it and nobody said anything in a negative way and I think that helped me and my self-esteem and my nerves about being out in a bra with sequins on."

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Blue singer Simon Webbe declared himself bankrupt just a year before he signed up to appear on Strictly in 2014. Speaking of how he spent as much as £40,000 a week at the height of his fame, he said earlier this year: "I was too young and too busy to actually care and understand. I was doing what I love doing, getting on the stage every day. Forty grand a week was coming in. I was glad for that to continue and I thought it would last forever so losing a bit here and there was nothing. That was my attitude."

will young strictly struggles© Photo: Getty Images

Will Young surprised fans when, after finishing fourth in the leaderboard, he announced that he was quitting Strictly in 2016 after just three weeks in the competition. At the time he cited "personal reasons" for his departure, but in 2017 he revealed to The Times Magazine that it was important for him to leave for his "own wellbeing." Then in 2017, Will admitted on Dermot O'Leary's BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show that he struggles with anxiety: "I've got a very dodgy nervous system that's why, the irony that I was on Strictly – and I had to leave Strictly because of it," he said. "But I've done a lot of work on that, so physically I'm a lot better. And I know, living with that kind of anxiety, I just know what works for me and what doesn't, and actually being in theatre really works for me." 

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