Cheryl is determined not to look weak after split from Ashley Cole

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When dancer Derek Hough was first pictured leaving Cheryl Coles room at the London Hotel, West Hollywood at 4.15am in February, the pair were immediately romantically linked by the newspapers.

But Derek, 25, who appeared in Cheryl‘s Parachute video, was only a smokescreen for waiting paparazzi because Cheryl’s PR team were determined that she wasn’t painted as weak and devastated’ after her split from Ashley Cole.

Derek – who has since accompanied Cheryl, 27, on a trip to Tanzania, nursed her through malaria and is now escorting her in LA – wouldn’t be averse to such a set-up romance’.

When he partnered American Pie actress Shannon Elizabeth on Dancing With The Stars in 2008, the pair actively encouraged rumours that they were a couple, later admitting it was more of a ‘fauxmance’.

Shannon revealed: We’re playing into the rumours with the kisses on the cheek.’ And Derek added: With our new “outlook” I think it’s going to go down a lot better. We’re like: “If they want kisses then we’ll give them kisses!”‘

At the time Shannon even had a long-term boyfriend, who was so unconcerned he gave it his blessing – especially as Shannon said Derek was too young (he was 22 and she was 34).

After the show ended Derek and Shannon lived with three other friends in a house in LA and insisted they were still an item until it fizzled out in August 2009, but sources say they were never more than just good pals.

Our source adds: Shannon and Derek had a brilliant friendship, but that’s as far as it went. He’s a good friend to Cheryl, but there’s little chance it’s anything more.’

Throughout his career, Derek – who lived in the UK in his teens and studied to be a classically trained dancer at Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts – has been dogged by false rumours about his sexuality.

In November he was forced to deny rumours that he’s gay when he nearly took the part of a gay actor in Courteney Cox‘s TV show Cougar Town, but dancing commitments forced him to pull out.

Update: Perez Hilton: Cheryl Cole‘s with a loser!

Derek is now getting stick from US blogger Perez Hilton. He says she should ditch Derek and hook up with Will.i.am if she wants respect in America.

Derek‘s D-list,’ Perez tells us. ‘Being with Will.i.am would help her. But what’s more important: career or love? I’m pleased she chose love.’

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