With the 13th series of Strictly Come Dancing in full swing, we take a look at some of the romances that have fallen victim to its infamous curse
Throughout Strictly Come Dancing’s 11-year history, the BBC ballroom dancing show has been at the centre of many break-ups. Most recently, it emerged that Call The Midwife actress Helen George had split from her husband Oliver Boot, while Kristina Rihanoff’s new relationship with her former dance partner Ben Cohen has turned things with his estranged wife Abby very nasty indeed.
These are just the latest in a long line of dramas, which is why the phrase ‘the curse of Strictly’ has become synonymous with the popular dance competition. Now takes a look back through the years to reveal the contestants who fell foul of the Strictly curse.…
Series 1, 2004: Natasha Kaplinsky hits the headlines
Speculation over the chemistry between newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky, 43, and her professional partner Brendan Cole, 39, hit fever pitch during the very first series of Strictly. While Brendan was, at the time, in an eight-year relationship with fellow dancer Camilla Dallerup, Natasha was with long-term partner Mike Bernard. Natasha and Brendan denied a romance but Camilla, 41, was unconvinced. Earlier this year she revealed: ‘To this day I have no idea whether it was her fame and celebrity that swept him away or if he really did feel a strong connection with her. I’m guessing it was probably a bit of both.’
Where are they now: Brendan married model Zoe Hobbs in 2010, Natasha wed Justin Bower in 2005 and Camilla is now married to ex-Hollyoaks actor Kevin Sacre. Three happy endings.
Series 4, 2006: Mark Ramprakash exposed as love cheat
Former cricketer, 46, won in 2006 with his dance partner Karen Hardy. But during his time on the show he was at the centre of a romantic scandal when it was revealed he’d been having a six-year affair with single mum Sadia Saleem behind the back of his wife of 13 years Vandana. Four years after the scandal broke, the couple divorced.
Series 5, 2007: Matt Di Angelo’s tango with Flavia
EastEnders star Matt Di Angelo, 28, was partnered with Flavia Cacace, 35, who was in an 11-year relationship with fellow dancer Vincent Simone. Flavia and Matt insisted they were just good friends, but after the series they dated for three years before splitting in 2010. Vincent revealed his devastation later that year, saying: ‘Suddenly it was as if she didn’t want to be close to me. I remember going to hug her one day and I felt her pull away. Everyone knew there was something going on – everyone except me. I wanted to die. She said with all the pressure of Strictly she wanted to be single, to be able to concentrate on it.’ Despite this, Vincent, 36, ended up in a love triangle of his own in 2008, admitting to a brief fling with Kristina Rihanoff while his wife Susan Duddy was pregnant.
Where are they now: Flavia went on to be partnered with actor Jimi Mistry in 2010 and three years later the couple wed in London – the first Strictly wedding between a celebrity and dance partner. Matt is currently single.
Series 7, 2009: Kristina Rihanoff is knocked out by Joe Calzaghe
When former boxer Joe, 43, was partnered with Russian sex siren Kristina Rihanoff, 38, it soon became clear their chemistry had spilled over from their dance routines into real life – despite
the fact that Joe had a long-time girlfriend Jo-Emma Larvin. Joe – who has two children with ex-wife Mandy Davies – dumped Jo-Emma soon after starting the show.
Where are they now: Kristina split with Joe in 2013 over claims he didn’t want any more children and that he’d became increasingly jealous of her dancing with other men on the show. He’s now dating make-up artist Lucy Griffiths. Turn the page for more on Kristina’s latest relationship…
Ricky Whittle’s romance rumours
Actor Ricky Whittle was widely reported at the time to be having a secret romance with professional partner Natalie Lowe. During his stint on Strictly, Ricky was in a two-year relationship with his Hollyoaks co-star Carley Stenson. Ricky, 33, ended his relationship with Carley, 33, and even referred to Natalie, 35, as ‘practically a soulmate’, but denied they were ever in a relationship.
Where are they now: Ricky’s since moved to LA and has a successful acting career with roles in Mistresses and The 100. Natalie recently got engaged to James Knibbs, who she met on a train two years ago.
Series 8, 2010: Gavin Henson falls for Katya
Gavin Henson became as famous for his relationship with singer Charlotte Church, with whom he has two daughters, as for his skills on the rugby pitch. When he was partnered on Strictly with Katya Virshilas, 32, speculation soared over a romance. Gavin, 33, was single at the time, having split from Charlotte in May 2010, but denied the rumours. He later confessed that he did fancy Katya but she was dating dancer Klaus Kingsdal.
Where are they now: After appearing on reality TV show The Bachelor in 2011, Gavin chose Carianne Barrow to be his girlfriend but the pair split the following year. Katya married Klaus in July 2012.
Series 11, 2013: Ben Cohen and Kristina’s romance rumours
Former rugby star Ben Cohen and his professional dance partner Kristina Rihanoff were dogged by claims of a romance during their time on the show. Both insisted the claims were false but the rumours hit Ben’s marriage to his wife of 11 years Abby and after a rocky year they announced their split in September 2014. This August, Ben, 37, and Kristina finally admitted they’re in a relationship while on holiday with his twin daughters and his mum. Meanwhile Abby’s made her feelings about the romance clear. She recently said: ‘My husband, who I was with for 23 years, unconditionally loved and was completely loyal to in every respect, has left me for a f***ing Russian dancer.’ She added: ‘The last two years have been the most traumatic thing to ever happen to me. He’s done the dirty on me. I want people to know.’ Kristina has denied there was a romance prior to Ben’s split from Abby and spoken about treatment she’s received from online trolls. She said: ‘I just thought: “What is the point?” Everywhere I looked it was all wrong and dark and I’d had enough. I wanted to quit the show, quit everything.’
Where are they now: Ben and Kristina are together, while Abby’s trying to move on.
Rachel Riley’s passion for Pasha
After just 15 months of marriage to her long-time partner Jamie Gilbert, Rachel Riley, 29, ended her relationship with the technology millionaire. At the time she insisted that there was ‘nothing romantic’ between her and her chiselled Russian dancer Pasha Kovalev, 35. But in 2014 she admitted: ‘Pasha and I are dating. We are having lots of fun. He’s a brilliant guy, really brilliant. On Strictly you form a close bond with your partner, but there was nothing romantic when Pasha and I were dancing.’
Where are they now: Rachel and Pasha are still together, although Pasha recently said: ‘She’s very busy and I’m very busy so we’re enjoying that little time we get together.’
VIDEO: Strictly Vs X Factor – the stars battle it out