STRICTLY judge Motsi Mabuse has revealed how dance saved her from a “very hard childhood” in South Africa.
The professional dancer, 38, will make her debut on the first Strictly live show tonight, but today she has spoken about the tough time she had growing up.
Motsi grew up under apartheid in a township in South Africa which saw her and her sisters forced to take a community minibus to their convent school because they were banned from “white” public transport.
She that during her early years she was treated as though she was worth “nothing” in her home country, enduring segregation and racism.
But then she was introduced to dance, which helped her through the painful times of growing up under apartheid.
Speaking to The Mirror, she said: “I’m so thankful for the world of dance because if I had grown up with just the South African bitterness of the very hard childhood we had, and I’d never experienced the love of the dance world, then I probably would have been a very sad person.
“The world of dance is where I felt accepted as a human being.”
However, she said her life changed when she moved from South Africa to Germany to pursue her career at the age of 18.
She said: “You have to actually get there, to the fact that people really do think you’re great.
“To be able to hear people say, ‘We love you’, and swallow that and say, ‘Oh wow, thank you’, when as a child you were taught – through to your bitter bones – that you were nothing. It’s something you have to get over.”
The new comments come hot the heels of Motsi hitting back at allegations she was only hired for Strictly as part of a “box ticking” exercise because she is black.
Former Dancing on Ice judge Louie Spence cruelly said that she was a “nobody” and that she got the coveted job based on her skin colour.But speaking to The Sun, Motsi dismissed his offensive view, and said: “It would be really sad if someone chose me for my colour only.
“I think a person of colour in any situation should be qualified to do the job. Not just because of the colour of their skin.
“You’re always going to have someone attacking you in some way. But it’s weird from someone who’s never met you, I thought it was funny.
“But there is already a woman of colour in this show — Oti.”
Motsi, who replaced the outgoing Darcey Bussell on the hit BBC1 dancing show, will make her live debut on the series on Saturday following the launch episode two weeks ago.
And she admits she is slightly nervous in case she slips into German, the language of the country where she lives with her husband and their one-year-old daughter.
She said: “I can just feel something is happening, the vibrations. It’s new nerves that I’ve never experienced before. It’s completely new for me.
“I’m worried. I’m just curious to see what’s going to happen. I’ve been speaking more English lately and I speak to my daughter in English, but it’s not like it used to be as I’ve been speaking German.”
And asked who she thinks has the best hope of winning this year’s series, she pinpointed veteran dancer Anton du Beke who previously screentested for a judging job on the show.
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Anton, who has been on the series since its first episode, is paired with EastEnders actress Emma Barton.
Motsi added: “I saw a clip of her on Instagram and she was turning close to Anton, and she had the same kind of precision. I thought ohhhh yes. This is happening.
“Now he has a chance at winning, as I think she is really good, so what is Anton going to do differently? What has he learnt from past experience to win the Glitterball?”
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