Fans of Strictly Come Dancing were blindsided earlier this week when AJ Pritchard announced his shock departure from the show after four years. But now, the pro dancer has revealed the real reason he decided to step away from the hit BBC dance series – he wants his "own brand". The 25-year-old confessed that he "had no life" thanks to gruelling 18-hour days, so decided the time was right for him to step away. "I want to have my own brand and there were things I couldn’t do because of the Strictly brand and the time involved," he told the Sun. "It took up six months of my life, some days I would work 18-hour days because I was dancing and choreographing."
AJ was most recently partnered with Saffron Barker
He continued: "I didn’t have a life and I wanted to be able to do more. I want to show people what I’m about — not just, 'Here’s my celebrity partner this year that I’m going to showcase'. I did have to turn down things in the past, which I was upset about sometimes, but I understood I was part of Strictly Come Dancing. Now I am going to pursue things I didn’t have the time for. It’s the right move." AJ also admitted he felt relieved to finally quit the show. He added: "It’s a relief to finally quit. If I didn’t further my development now, while at my peak mental well-being, I would regret it."
The professional dancer broke the news of his departure on social media on Thursday, writing: "I have some news for you all. Please see the below statement from my team, also sending my love to everyone in this difficult time, please keep safe. AJ x." The TV star has been part of Strictly since 2016, dancing with celebrity partners Claudia Fragapane, Mollie King, Lauren Steadman and Saffron Barker.
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Sharing a statement from his agent, the message continued: "After four years on Strictly Come Dancing, AJ has decided the time is right to leave the show and follow his dreams to explore opportunities in the presenting world alongside his brother Curtis. AJ would like to thank the team at Strictly and everyone at the BBC for giving him such a brilliant opportunity. AJ would also like to send his love and gratitude to all who have followed and supported his career. He is excited for you all to join him on the next chapter of his journey."
Strictly also paid tribute to the professional dancer in a statement, which read: "We would like to thank AJ for four fantastic years on Strictly Come Dancing. He is a brilliant dancer, who reached three semi-finals during his time on the show." The message continued: "He will be missed by fans and the Strictly family. We wish him all the best for the future."
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