Strictly Come Dancing is known for lighting up the lives of the millions of viewers from August, when the celebrities are announced, to December, when the winner is awarded the glitter ball trophy. But many of the stars of the show, including the judges, professional dancers and celebrity contestants, have gone through their fair share of shocking personal tragedies. From Bruce Forsyth's sad death to Shirley Ballas opening up about her brother's tragic passing – HELLO! has taken a look back at how the stars of Strictly have found the strength to overcome sad and tragic personal circumstances…
Steps star Faye Tozer has revealed that she was facing an emotional challenge at the same time she appeared on the series in 2018. Faye revealed to HELLO! magazine in July that while her dance training with Strictly professional Giovanni Pernice was in full swing, her mother Dorothy was undergoing treatment for stage 3 breast cancer. "While I was putting on sequins, mum was putting on a cold cap," Faye told HELLO! "That kept everything in perspective. If I was having a bad day, I knew that mum was going through so much more." Explaining why she kept her family's heartache a secret while on the show, Faye added: "It was mum's journey, not mine. I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me or ask how I was because it wasn’t about me. I wanted to get on with the job, and mum wanted that as well. She was so incredibly positive." Thankfully, Dorothy has now successfully completed most of her treatment.
Sir Bruce Forsyth
Sir Bruce Forsyth sadly passed away in 2017, at the age of 89, just three years after stepping down from his presenting role on Strictly Come Dancing. The popular presenter had hosted the show for ten years and 11 series, announcing to HELLO! after his decision to quit that "the world is my oyster." Following his death, Tess Daly, who he co-hosted the show with from 2004 to 2013, tweeted: "There are no words to describe how heartbroken I am to be told the saddest news that my dear friend Sir Bruce Forsyth has passed away. From the moment we met, Bruce and I did nothing but laugh our way through a decade of working together on Strictly Come Dancing and I will never forget his generosity, his brilliant sense of humour and his drive to entertain the audiences he so loved." On the 2017 launch show, following an introductory video featuring Bruce's best moments, the professional dancers put on a special routine in memory of the popular presenter, to Fly Me to the Moon, made famous by Frank Sinatra.
Alexandra performed on the fifteenth series of Strictly Come Dancing in 2017, and was paired with Gorka Maquez. Sadly the 30-year-old announced the death of her mother on the same day as the launch show with a statement reading: "Mummy has always been my biggest supporter and was over the moon when I told her I was doing Strictly…I know that she would have wanted me to carry on." Speaking on Loose Women in 2018, the X-Factor star revealed: "I just remember the day we did the red-carpet reveal, that was the day mum passed. Early hours that morning. No one knew, I went on stage, smile on my face and I left everything for behind the scenes. That's the way mum's always taught me to be."
In 2007 Kelly appeared in the fifth series of Strictly Come Dancing, alongside professional partner Brendan Cole. Unfortunately, the then-28-year-old had to pull out of the show after her father suddenly passed away. The television presenter had previously stated that she would remain in the show despite the tragedy, because it was what her father would have wanted, however having made it to the last six, in week eight she made the tough decision to pull out. A BBC spokesman said at the time: "Understandably she has found it too difficult. Kelly has been a fantastic part of the programme, and she will be sorely missed by everyone on the show who would also like to express their deepest sympathy to Kelly and her family at this difficult time."
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The Strictlyjudge's brother, David, tragically took his own life in December 2003, aged just 44. Shirley has previously opened up about the guilt she suffered following the death, telling You Magazine : "There's just so much guilt…I didn’t know enough about mental health at that stage to grasp the extent of how sick he was. That I didn't spend enough time with him." Appearing on Comic Relief Kilimanjaro: The Bigger Red Nose Climb, the 58-year-old emotionally admitted that: "He was like my brother, my father, my best friend and was lonely, he felt low. He said like he'd got into a dark hole, he couldn't get out of." After David's death, the ballroom dancer raised his daughter Mary as if she was her own.
The much-loved celebrity stylist unexpectedly died in 2015, after four years as a hair designer on the show. Before his death, the 42-year-old phoned relatives to complain of chest pains, but by the time the paramedics arrived at his Leicester home, they were unable to revive him. Following his sudden death, Strictly stars took to social media to pay tribute to the stylist. Ant McPartlin's former wife Lisa Armstrong, who worked alongside Neale on the show, was one of the first to pay respect: "Utterly devastated and heartbroken over the loss of my side kick and dear friend @Nealepirie such a talent and inspiration! We love you RIP." Devastated Karen Clifton, who had her wedding hair styled by Neale one month before his death, shared a photograph of the pair from her special day, stating: "Absolutely heartbroken at the loss of our beautiful friend @Nealepirie. I can't believe you're gone… RIP." Tess Daly, Ola Jordan, James Jordan, Janette Manrara and Alijaz Skorjanec also shared tributes, emphasising their heartbreak following the tragic death.
The former The Pussycat Dollssinger appeared in the sixteenth series of Strictly alongside winners Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton. The 37-year-old, who was partnered with Pasha Kovalev, offered an emotional contemporary dance in week eight of the competition in honour of her father who had passed away in March of the same year. Speaking to the The Sun about her father, who took his own life, the singer explained: "It's been a really tough year and I know my dad would be super proud of me. I think about him when I'm dancing, and of course he is with me on that dance floor. He is definitely with me throughout this experience." The expressive dance, that bought the judges to tears, landed the couple with a score of 39, the highest for any contemporary dance of the series, with not a dry eye left in the studio.
Graziano Di Prima
In an exclusive interview in 2018 with HELLO!the professional dancer opened about his tragic past. The 24-year-old revealed: "I was born prematurely and had a twin brother, who sadly died. I was so weak that it was uncertain whether I would survive. I was lucky, though, and my parents named me Graziano, which means 'thank you'."