Strictly Come Dancing’s first male couple have taken part in their first joint photoshoot and interview in an exclusive for HELLO! magazine.
Johannes Radebe and John Whaite tell HELLO! how much of an impact their pairing can make. "John and I dancing together demonstrates that we live in a progressive society, but it stands for something far bigger than we actually realise," says Johannes.
"There are still societies that don’t accept homosexuality and where people who don’t have human rights. That’s one reason why it’s important to keep breaking down those barriers, and people seeing John and me on the dance floor is a big step towards that. If we win, that message would be even louder.
"We don’t just think about the Glitterball and getting 10s. We think about doing each other and ourselves proud."
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"When Johannes and I were young lads, we saw so much hate towards people like us because being gay was deemed to be scandalous," John added. "So we’re doing this in honour of all those people. It’s another step towards being equal."
“And the pair say they are delighted viewers seem to be enjoying their performances. "To know that people love us is a breath of fresh air," says Johannes. "It’s overwhelming," adds former Great British Bake Off winner John.
"When I see how people appreciate the beauty of our dances and accept us without judgement, I feel overcome." Yet both admit they hesitated when offered the chance of a same-sex partnership on Strictly. John says he expressed his concerns to his partner, graphic designer Paul Atkins, who he met 13 years ago via Facebook.
John and Johannes are the first all-male partnership
"He told me, 'Don’t do it if you feel that way,'" he told the magazine. "My emotional well-being was all that mattered to him and that’s one of the things I love most about Paul. Deep down I knew that doing Strictly was the right thing to do. It was time to flick the switch and, as Jo says every day, go for gold."
"There was no doubt in my mind that the dance side of it would work, but I was scared of the reaction it could bring," says Johannes. "I thought criticism would come from all sides. After speaking to my therapist I realised what was holding me back was still feeling ashamed.
"Despite my fear, I couldn’t let this opportunity go to anyone else."
However, both have turned off most of their social media in a bid to ignore homophobic trolls. John has deleted twitter permanently. "It’s a breeding ground for toxic opinion," he says.
Adds Johannes: "I did it for the sake of my mental health. For me to function properly and give John the experience he deserves, I need to be fit mentally and physically. If you consider what people are saying about you on social media you would never survive an experience like this."
Read the full article in HELLO! magazine out now.