Judi Love shares how she balances being a single mum with competing on Strictly

With bags of personality and some “mum moves” under her belt, we’ve seen Judi Love, 41, being whipped into shape over the past few weeks by her Strictly professional partner Graziano Di Prima – and sharing plenty of laughs too.

We caught up with the pair shortly after their first meeting at the iconic Hackney Empire in London and, even then, it was clear from the smiles on their faces that this was a special pairing and they’re delighted to be matched with one another.

Here, stand-up comedian and Loose Women panellist Judi reveals just how much support 27-year-old Graziano – who she affectionately calls “Graz” – has already offered her. We also talk about how the successful single mum plans to balance family life with training and rehearsals, and what her beloved late parents would have thought of her being on the show.

We’re not used to see Loose Women star Judi so Strictlyfied!
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BBC)

Judi’s bringing her sparkling personality to the dancefloor in Strictly
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BBC/Ray Burmiston)

Hi Judi! How have you been feeling since learning you have the gorgeous Graziano as your professional dance partner?

I’m really good! He’s an absolute champ. I’m very happy he’s my partner. When it was revealed, it was sheer delight and lots of screaming. They opened the curtains and I saw Graziano just standing there, shining like an angel, and he threw me in the air!

I was like, “Yes!” Also, I was born in Hackney, so doing the reveal in the Hackney Empire – which is such an iconic building – was great.

Tell us why it’s so important…

It’s a really special place. People from the West Indies and Africa came over and performed there, so it housed a lot of Black culture, arts, comedy and plays. I remember going there with my mum. Some of the comedians that I love now in the UK were birthed in the Hackney Empire. It was great going back and I hope to do my one-woman show there one day.

You’ve said you’d love to dance to reggae and bashment on the show. How important is it to you to bring Black culture to the Strictly dance floor?

I’m Black British, so there are going to be bits of both cultures that I mix and blend. Black culture is here in the UK. We know about reggae, we know some of the food and about different parts of the culture. It’s about being inclusive. And everyone talks about me bringing my personality to the show. Well, those things are part of me, so how can I not bring them to the show?

How are you feeling about rehearsals?

There’s a mixture of feelings. Not knowing what steps I’m going to learn or how my body’s going to move scares me a bit. Graziano is a great leader though, so I know I’m in safe hands.

What makes Graziano the right partner for you?

I feel like I can speak to him about my worries. When I say, “I’m feeling nervous about this,” or, “I’m not sure about that,” he’s like, “Don’t worry, we can move like this and think like this.”

Judi’s been learning ballroom from pro partner Graziano Di Prima – but it looks like she’s got some moves of her own
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PA)

Tell us a bit about those worries. What’s playing on your mind?

You quickly realise just how much you want to do your best for your partner and or yourself. I’m going to have to push myself beyond anything I’ve done before. It might make me feel vulnerable, but I’ve just got to go for it, even though I might make a mistake.

Most celebrities are nervous before the show each week…

Normally, when people see us on stage or TV, they see the picture-perfect finished product. They don’t see the rehearsals. In this show, the audience sees all the things we usually edit out. There’s nowhere to hide!

In spite of all those nerves, are you excited?

I can’t wait. It’s going to be an amazing journey, full of different emotions.

Strictly is a massive undertaking. You’ve got two kids – how did you go about preparing them and what do you have planned?

I’ve been edging them in! [Laughs.] Over the last few weeks, I’ve been saying, “You’re not going to see Mummy as much and these particular days are when I’m really away, but I’ll try to make sure I’m here on these days after school.” I’m just looking at my network and doing all I can to make sure there’s always someone at home – if it’s not me, then it’s a family member – because that’s what I worry about.

You were so close to your parents. What would they say if they could see you now?

My sister texted me the other day asking how things were going, and I told her we were starting soon, and she said, “Don’t forget, Mummy used to love dancing.” That really warmed my heart because all these memories of her dancing around the house during my childhood came back to me. She would be the proudest Jamaican mum ever! She’d be the only person allowed to come and see me. And she would love Graziano.

That’s lovely! And your dad?

He’d be very happy. My parents were born in the 1930s, so their style of dancing was similar to the waltz and the jive. I think they’d both be really excited and proud and happy.

The glitz and glamour is an essential part of the Strictly experience. How do you think getting dressed up every week is goingto make you feel?

I’m so excited. I’m a plus size girl, so as long as I’m not thinking, “Will this restrict my movement?”, I’m here for the glam. I just need to try to keep the wig on! [Laughs.]

Lastly, what’s going to be your driving force in this competition? What will get you up every morning to put in the hours?

If you’ve got Graziano video calling you, you’re gonna get up! We’re a dream team.

Strictly Come Dancing continues tonight on BBC1 at 6.45pm, with the results show on Sunday BBC1 at 7.05pm

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