Laura Whitmore has said she “cried every day” taking part in Strictly Come Dancing, and that the experience of doing the show left her mentally and physically “broken”.
In a blog for Huffington Post, the TV presenter wrote movingly at length in a piece titled #MeToo, #TimesUp, #IBelieveHer – The Movements That Taught Me To Speak Up For Myself.
In it, she talks about being the victim of sexual assault in a nightclub, and also how a paparazzi outside her home attempted to take photographs up her skirt.
She also writes about a “well-known film executive” making inappropriate advances (“later when whispers of “you’re a very pretty girl” were made, alarm bells rang,” she writes) and how she found herself at the centre of a media storm when she was photographed talking to “a Hollywood movie star” who the press then linked her to as a “rumoured love interest”.
“I have a career, I have done serious work, and yet they want to define me as someone’s possible bit on the side,” she said. “Why is that seen as a way of measuring my worth?
“I didn’t think the media storm could get any worse than that incident – and then I signed up for a show that I had loved so much and grew up with, Strictly Come Dancing,” continued Whitmore.
“I’m still not ready to talk in depth about my experience on the show. I love dancing – I topped the leaderboard twice – but before it even began, I was thrown into the lion’s den and into the middle of someone’s break-up that had nothing to do with me.”
In September 2016, when Whitmore starred on Strictly, it was revealed her professional partner Giovanni Pernice and girlfriend Georgia May Foote had split. The pair had been dance partners the year before and had started a romantic relationship, which had come to an end by the following series of the BBC1 show.
“Once again, I was a ‘rumoured love interest’,” continued Whitmore. “I was placed with a dance partner I was extremely uncomfortable with – and in the end I felt broken. I cried every day.
“And I really was broken, both mentally and physically, by the end. To the outside world I tried to suck it up and smile, and I did that to the best of my ability, but it affected me deeply.
“My friends and family knew that I was struggling. And they were there for me. The media, however, saw me as blonde bait in a sequinned dress.
“How have we sunk to this level, where women are routinely reduced, and demeaned, in this way? It is impossible to understand, when everything about it is so wrong, so misguided and so vile.”
To read the full blog post from Laura, click here.