Words: Will Stroude; picture: BBC
The Great British Bake Off's John Whaite will make Strictly Come Dancing history as part of the hit BBC show's first-ever male same-sex couple.
The TV chef, who won the third series of Bake Off in 2012 and now hosts a slot on Channel 4 daytime show Steph's Packed Lunch was confirmed as part of the line-up for the 19th series of the ballroom dance competition on Thursday (5 August).
It comes following reports earlier month that Strictly bosses had lined up the show's first all-male pairing after Olympic boxer Nicola Adams and pro dancer Kaya Jones became the first same-sex couple to take to the floor last year.
Sadly, Nicola and Katya's time on the series was cut short when Katya tested positive for coronavirus and the pair were forced to immediately withdraw from the competition.
Whaite told Matt Lucas on BBC Radio 2 on Thursday morning that it was an "honour" to take part in Strictly.
"When they asked me if I'd be interested, I just bit their hand off because I thought, to do that and represent the LGBTQ+ community is one thing, but also just to see two men or two women dancing together, it's not necessarily about sexuality, it's just about intimacy and respect," he said.
— BBC Strictly ✨ (@bbcstrictly) August 5, 2021
"And I think that's going to be such a great thing in our culture, where men are sort of conditioned not to open up and not to be emotional. I think it might help to combat that. So I'm excited on so many levels to be doing the first all-male partnership."
He added: "I don't think it's quite sunk in yet and I don't think it will until I find out who I'm actually dancing with."
While initial reports indicated that Whaite may be paired with Italian Strictly pro (and former Attitude cover star) Graziano Di Prima, the couplings for series 19 are yet to be publicly announced.
The inclusion of same-sex pairings on Strictly (or lack thereof) has been the subject of fierce and prolonged debate in recent years.
In 2019, amind mounting pressure on the show to break away from the traditional male-female pairing format, Di Prima joined his friend and fellow Strictly pro Johannes Radebe to perform a same-sex routine on the Sunday night results show.
The stunning performance was welcomed by viewers but also sparked more than 200 complaints to Ofcom - complaints Di Primo himself dismissed during an interview with Attitude last year.
“At the end of the day, you don’t need to have a female and a male to dance; as long as you love dancing", the 27-year-old said.
“Dance is love, that’s it."
Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC One this autumn.