Russell Grant: “I’m back to where I feel I belong”

The unlikely star of Strictly Come Dancing explains how the show helped him turn his life around

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Russell Grant on…his health issues

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“I was taking 25 pills a day, I had two near heart attacks, I was diagnosed with asthma, I had diabetes, a prostate problem, I was on a walking stick, I was 26 stone. So now to think I’m prancing round that studio… back in those days I couldn’t even get out of my chair.”

“You can’t move. You just can’t move. You don’t go out because you don’t want people to laugh at you, and you also don’t go out because you can’t go out because you can’t walk anywhere without your angina spray. There’s no joy. You feel there’s no reason to carry on.”

“All I can say is, you wake up some mornings and roll over because you want the day to go away. You don’t want to get up because there’s no reason to. People say that’s suicidal, but suicide is a very selfish act because you’re leaving people behind and you’ll hurt them. So if a couple of times I thought, ‘What’s the point in living?’, I soon jolted back to reality, to think, ‘Oh my God, all these people who care for me and love me.’ I wouldn’t do it. But it crosses your mind.”

…changing his outlook on life

“You can’t move and you suddenly want a life and you look at yourself and you think, ‘why am I like this?’, and you realise it’s because you’re not doing what you like. It’s not about going on a diet. That’s the last thing you need to go on. The first thing you need to do is psych yourself up to find what it is that’s missing. And I woke up and thought, ‘What’s missing in my life? Music, dance, drama. Go back to theatre, Russ’, and I was very lucky because I was then offered this wonderful role at Alan Ayckbourn’s theatre in Scarborough.”

“I’d like to get down to 12 or 13 stone, not lighter. I think part of my persona is the bigness, what I call the Jupiter persona. [I’m] not a bear because I’m not hairy. But I think I’m a bit of a chubby chaser’s delight. According to Twitter, anyway. I’m a sort of foxy flabby.”

…being perceived as camp

“I don’t know if I am camp. I’m just me. Somebody rang me up this week, and said, apparently the Oxford English Dictionary is putting in a definition of camp: Russell Grant in Strictly Come Dancing. I don’t know if that’s apocryphal. But I do think that’s a wonderful, wonderful accolade if it’s true. Wouldn’t that be fabulous, darling?”

…Diana, Princess of Wales

“She was a wonderful, fabulous, glorious person. A pity she was murdered. […] If you look back in the cuttings on August 10 1997 in the Sunday Mirror I basically said their relationship was so fated it was going to end in tears. And she died August 31. […] I warned her. I said, ‘Don’t go there, love. Just don’t go anywhere with him [Dodi Fayed]. You’ve got to knock this on the head.’ It was star-crossed lovers. It was bad. […] I think there are questions still to be answered, but don’t ask me. I sought closure on that, and I’ve got it.”

…Strictly Come Dancing

“Bruce came up to me last week and said we get a lot of people in who like to camp around and have a laugh, that’s because they can’t dance. The thing is, he said, you do all that and you can dance; you’re what showbusiness is all about. To hear that from Bruce was wonderful.”

“I’m back to where I feel I belong. Where my heart is. My heart’s in music, drama, performance, in entertainment, in glitz, in showbiz, in fabulous costumes, in gorgeous make-up, glorious dance, and I never thought I’d say that before Strictly.”

“I’m just living a fabulous dream, it’s taken me to 60 to get to a point where I’m so happy.”

Russell has since been eliminated from Strictly Come Dancing, but the celebrity dance show continues tonight at 7pm on BBC1 and BBC1 HD.

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This is an edited version of an article from the issue of Radio Times magazine that went on sale 22 November 2011.