John Whaite has quickly become one of our favourite Strictly contestants in this year's series. He and Johannes Radebe have not only won over the public with their exciting routines and heartwarming friendship, but have also made Strictly history by being the first all-male partnership.
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In an exclusive interview with HELLO!, John revealed that he sheds "a few tears" each week after receiving thousands of messages from LGBTQ+ fans thanking him for representing them on TV.
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Speaking about making Strictly history as the show's first all-male partnership, John spoke about the response he received from members of the LGBTQ+ community. "We have thousands of messages every single week from parents who say, 'I think my son might be gay and thank you for making him not feel ashamed'," said John. "We have messages from the older generation of the LGBTQ+ community saying, 'Thank you for doing this.'"
John believes that if he was exposed to more dancing partnerships like his and Johannes' when he was younger, it might have led to fewer suicides in the gay community. He said: "I probably have a few tears in my eyes every day when I read messages from people saying thank you because if my generation had had that on television when we were younger, fewer people would have lived with shame, maybe died by suicide. That's something that does affect the gay community quite severely."
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With the quarter-finals looming, John told HELLO! that he didn't think he would get this far in the competition: "I didn't think I would make it to the quarter-final if I'm being truly honest. I thought I was going to be the clumsy one, the tall, hefty lad who falls over his own feet. I'm truly honoured and humbled to be here.
John says he receives thousands of messages from fans each week
"It's been a dream of mine since the very first episode to be on that dance floor. And so to be here in a historic partnership, the significance of our partnership is undeniable."
The professional baker cited his and Johannes' Argentine Tango in Week 10 as a significant moment regarding UK attitudes towards all-male dancing partnerships. "The biggest achievement or the biggest change in the world was our Argentine Tango at the weekend," said John. "For us to be able to do something so intimate and passionate on Saturday night television on the biggest show in the UK in front of ten million people, it still hasn’t sunk in."
The Strictly star also revealed that he got emotional when Luba Mushtuk and Karen Hauer danced together in week ten's results show. He said: "When I sat and watched Luba and Karen dance together on the Sunday night results show, I remember feeling blown away and overwhelmed by that because I thought if I'd had that as a little boy if I'd had that representation, I would have grown up with a lot less shame and a lot less fear."
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While John has been spending most of his days in the Strictly rehearsal room, he has also been devoting his time to other career ventures, including his partnership with American Express. He has teamed up with the brand to create a festive Shop Small Sandwich recipe as a part of their American Express Shop Small campaign.
John has created a Shop Small Sandwich for the American Express Shop Small campaign
The campaign aims to support small businesses by encouraging the nation to shop small throughout the festive season and beyond. Having grown up with parents that owned small businesses, John is passionate about supporting them. He told us: "Small businesses in my blood. I'm a working-class lad and I'm proud of that. I just think it really is important to look at the people we can support this time of year."
From 4-15 December, American Express Cardmembers can get £5 back when they spend £15 at participating small shops.
To find out more about John's American Express Shop Small campaign and to view his Shop Small Sandwich recipe, click HERE.