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Exclusive: Catherine Tyldesley and Johannes Radebe open up about their Strictly heartache

The Strictly pair left the show last weekend

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In an exclusive interview and photoshoot with HELLO! magazine, Strictly Come Dancing pro dancer Johannes Radebe says he feels accepted for the first time in his life – and that his dancing partner Catherine Tyldesley has helped him live his best life.The Latin champion made show history on Sunday by performing in the first dance to feature two male professionals performing together.

strictly johannes hello© Photo: HELLO!

Strictly's Johannes reveals he feels accepted for the first time in his life

"I've never felt so liberated," he told HELLO! of dancing alongside his best friend and fellow pro Graziano Di Prima. "For the first time in my life, I feel accepted for who I am. That says so much about the people of this country. To be able to dance with a friend I respect and adore is joyous. There’s bromance galore between us, but there were no male and female roles, just free movement. It was beautiful, classy and elegant."

cath johannes hello© Photo: HELLO!

Catherine and Johannes were a popular couple on Strictly

And he said that partnering with former Coronation Street star Catherine – with whom he was voted off last week - played an important role in his journey of acceptance. "Aunty Cath, as I call her, has been supportive of me from the start," says Johannes as he posed alongside the actress. "It was my first time to be paired with a dance partner and I didn’t want to fail her. That was my biggest fear. I wanted to make sure I gave her the best experience of her life.

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cath hello© Photo: HELLO!

Johannes praised Catherine for supporting him

"But I was so lucky to be paired up with the UK’s sweetheart. She was on Team Johannes from day one. She made me believe in myself more. All of a sudden it was like, just be who you are; don’t worry about anything," he said. "It’s so lovely to be embraced for who I am, to not have to hold back."

Indeed, their bond since leaving the show, Catherine tells HELLO!, has become stronger than ever. "We just clicked from the start. As well as being a wonderful teacher, he has the most genuine beautiful soul. He’s kind, honest and giving with everyone he meets and I trust him implicitly. I tell him stuff I wouldn’t tell most people. We’re friends for life and I feel so grateful to have found him."

READ: Emma Barton reveals she cried backstage after hearing judges' comments

cath posing hello© Photo: HELLO!

Catherine and Johannes will remain great friends following Strictly

There wasn't a dry eye in the house as the pair said their goodbyes, with Johannes struggling to get his words out as he thanked his partner for all her hard work. Last Sunday, presenter Tess Daly asked Catherine about her time on the show, and the mum-of-one gushed about her love for Johannes and her newfound enjoyment of dancing. She said: "Him, yeah, he's like my best friend. Just the opportunity to work with amazing people and get critiqued... I never thought I'd say this, I'm going to keep it up because I fell in love with it! I've loved every second, this man has changed my life!"

Johannes was equally complimentary, adding: "The beautiful thing is that I need to thank Strictly Come Dancing for the opportunity... Most of all, I want to say thank you to this woman. She has been a light for me. Thank you for accepting me for who I am and for showing me joy every day. Thank you!"

The former Corrie star later took to Instagram to reflect on her Strictly journey with a heartbreaking photo of the pair in tears. She wrote: "My husband took this picture when we had a good cry afterwards. Tears of joy and appreciation for each other. I love this man so much. WHAT a journey!! Thank you all for your messages, your love and support. Thank you BBC for this opportunity."

In the candid post, the actress opened up about how her confidence had grown and her relationship with her body had changed since signing up for the show. She explained: "I'm often low on body confidence- but I'm so proud of the limits that I've thoroughly pushed on this wonderful journey. I did it for me. I also did it for the hundreds of mums out there who felt they'd lost a little bit of themselves, the women out there who'd become negative about their body. The women who found it hard to look in the mirror and love what they saw." She added: "I'm proud of my body and my mind for getting me through this wonderful but incredibly tough experience. Push your limits ladies and be grateful for everything your wonderful body can achieve. 'Dance like NOBODY is watching.'"

To read the full interview with Catherine and Johannes, pick up a copy of HELLO! magazine, out Monday.

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