It’s the announcement everyone has been waiting a year for. International ballroom champion Shirley Ballas has been named as the new head judge on Strictly Come Dancing.
Nicknamed the Queen of Latin, the 56-year-old will replace Len Goodman when the BBC show returns this autumn. Highly regarded in the world of ballroom, she has numerous titles to her name and is also the mother to Dancing with the Stars professional champion Mark Ballas.
Strictly professional Anton Du Beke and former judge Arlene Phillips were among the favourites to take on the head judge role. Ballas has been frequently seen on Dancing with the Stars, the US version of Strictly – on which Mark appeared for 10 years – giving masterclasses and commentary.
“I am so excited and over the moon to have been given this wonderful opportunity,” she said.
“I can’t wait to get in to the ballroom and be part of the incredible and respected judging panel. Strictly is so loved by the British public, I have always been a massive fan. I just can’t wait!”
Who is Shirley Ballas ?
- Originally from Wallasey in the Wirral, she began dancing at the age of seven.
- She won her first major Latin championship at 18 and had won all major titles worldwide by 23 with her partner Sammy Stopford.
- he moved to Houston, Texas, in 1983 and began to compete with new partner and husband, Corky.
- They won their first professional Latin title in 1984 and continued undefeated for a further eight years in a row, making them the most successful Latin American Champions in USA history.
- She moved back to the UK in 1990 to compete on the international circuit.
- From 1995-96 Shirley and Corky were at their most successful, winning the Open British Professional Latin titles in both years – the most prestigious championship in the world of ballroom – plus all the major international events.
- She retired from competitive dancing in 1996.
- She became the guardian of Dancing with the Stars professional dancers Derek and Julianne Hough in 1998 when they moved to London to study at Italia Conti theatre school.
- She trained Mark, Derek and Julianne, who all went on to win the Open British Championships in their age grades in Latin ballroom.
- All three competed as professional dancers on Dancing with the Stars, with Julianne winning seasons four and five, Mark seasons six and eight, and Derek seasons seven, 10, 11, 16, 17 and 21. Julianne is now a permanent judge on the show.