Back around the beginning of our Strictly journey, a tabloid suggested that we were the bitchiest group of celebrities ever. Firstly, that headline simply isn’t true. Secondly, ask yourself why that statement makes you think immediately of the women involved? Why not Ainsley, Jeremy or Peter? Because men (and I adore all of our male comrades) are not referred to as bitches. Period.
Let’s get something straight… I’m not a feminist. I’m not usually compelled to write a gushing piece about a group of women who have rather unexpectedly found themselves bonding for life during an extraordinary experience. And yet, here I am. It took until week six for us to lose one of our flock. (I use the term “flock” as our dance partners often use the swan analogy – the upper body must look effortless while the lower half generally moves like the clappers.)
And I’m proud to consider myself part of it. Throughout my acting career I’ve found myself working in large groups of women quite intensely and sometimes it isn’t easy. I particularly remember this being an issue when I joined Bad Girls. Most of the cast had been working together for three years when I came along, and I felt I had to prove myself as an actress, but also demonstrate that I wasn’t the kind of woman interested in being top dog. Were they threatened and cliquey because they were a group of women and not men? The answer, sadly, is probably. Women are wonderful but can be unbelievably mean to each other.
Why is that? Jealousy? Insecurity? Why do some women treat each other with such malice? Being a woman in today’s society is hard enough – we’re expected to achieve and excel in all areas. As professionals, mothers and wives. A near-impossible task and yet we put ourselves under enormous pressure to do just that. So how, you may ask, has a group of such strong women with very different characters, of different ages and backgrounds, managed to bond with such devotion on Strictly? What? I hear you cry, no divas? No backstabbing? There must surely be at least one bitch among you! The answer is a resounding no.
The secret, I believe, is that we genuinely watch each other’s back and feel we’re in this together. When my friends (and I can call them that now) perform, I literally hold my breath, willing them to get through it without falling over, making a mistake or, worse, bursting into tears after a particularly nasty comment from the judges. None of us wants to break down publicly and show the nation just how vulnerable we really are. I think problems surface when women start comparing themselves with each other – that’s when feelings of insecurity and unhappiness emerge and women can turn on each other and become “bitches”. Strictly should therefore be the ultimate catfight, right? But I don’t feel I’m competing with these women. I want them to do well. I want them to walk off that dance floor feeling proud.
I want you to celebrate this flock of women with me: Carol, Anita, Helen, Jamelia, Georgia, Kirsty and Katie. Celebrate them for their bravery – you have to be brave to take part – and for being able to juggle motherhood (for some of us), our careers and training all at the same time. For not being what the media would love us to be – a bunch of backstabbing “bitches” only out for ourselves. We’ve discovered that, without letting jealousy, insecurity or a need to try to outshine each other get in the way, we are unstoppable. We are able to go out every Saturday night and give it our all, feeling the strength and support from each other – it’s palpable. I love each of them. For who they are as individuals and for what we have created as a flock of (sometimes graceful) swans.