Jimi Mistry: ‘We Had The Strictly Band Playing At Our Wedding As Flavia And I Did Our First Dance’

The 2010 contestant reflects on how taking part in the show was a ‘Sliding Doors’ moment, and why he doesn’t believe in the so-called ‘Strictly Curse’...

While there’s plenty of couples that have got together during their time on Strictly Come Dancing, there’s only a handful that can say they met their future husband or wife on the show, – and for Jimi Mistry, that’s exactly what happened.

“I didn’t expect to say that, but I did,” Jimi says.

After being paired up with popular pro dancer Flavia Cacace when he signed up for the show in 2010, the couple’s chemistry translated off the dancefloor and the pair fell in love, before going on to marry in 2013.

And with Strictly forming the basis of their relationship, the show obviously had to feature in their big day, as Jimi reveals in the latest instalment of our Back To The Ballroom series.

Here, he reflects on how taking part in the show was a ‘Sliding Doors’ moment, and why he doesn’t believe in the so-called ‘Strictly Curse’...

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You could say Strictly was a ‘Sliding Doors’ moment for me...

My life went in a completely different direction. I was living in London all those years doing my stuff, but from that moment it changed. Now, I’m living in south Devon in a small holding with Flavia having a life that never, ever would have been in my psyche 10 years ago.

The most surprising thing about Strictly was…

The interesting relationship actors like me have with the show. They go into it with quite a lot of confidence, because they have to have a lot of it with their jobs. But nothing really prepares you for that live show element, and it really did surprise me.

I’ll always remember the feeling of being behind the stage and coming down the stairs knowing that this was actually live on TV and there were no takes.

The thing I struggled the most with was…

Just standing up straight. Flavia is quite strict with technique and frame, and I always had an issue because I’m quite a slouchy guy... There were a couple of times that I literally almost burst into tears and walked out the room because I couldn’t do it anymore and I was trying my best. It was a real struggle to get that posture right.

David M. Benett via Getty Images

If there’s one thing I could have changed about my time on Strictly, it would have been…

I would have loved to have done a Samba. We were due to do it the week after I was voted out and Flavia always said it would really suit me. I think with my personality and energy, it would have been a natural, bouncy thing... and unfortunately, we never got to do that.

If I could have danced with anyone else bar Flavia, it would have been…

Erin Boag. Erin and [her former competitive dance partner] Anton Du Beke are very classical and they have that ballroom air about them and I like that. I would have liked to have done more ballroom even though it was difficult frame-wise because I really enjoyed it. So doing a nice Waltz with Erin would have been nice.

Erin Boag
Erin Boag
Tim P. Whitby via Getty Images

One thing fans would be shocked to realise about the show is…

How chaotic it is behind the scenes on Saturday night. We’d be in the green room at the BBC which was behind the stage and it was kind of an awkward room because you had different energies going on. It’s where everything happens – people are sitting, or having a spray tan or eating dinner. And then there will be the odd couple – like me for example – who will be practicing their Waltz amidst everybody and bumping into things. Then you’d have someone doing press ups to pump their muscles up.

Back then, everyone was on top of each other, running around the old BBC Television Centre – it’s probably different now up at Elstree, which is a bigger place, and obviously with Covid restrictions, too.

My favourite ever Strictly routine is…

I have to say one going back to the year I was on it – I’ve only dipped in and out of it since – and it was Kara Tointon and Artem Chigvintsev’s Paso Doble to Phantom Of The Opera. It was incredible and when I saw that, I thought, ‘Hmmm, these guys have got this.’

Also not being biased, but I think Flavia’s Showdance with Louis Smith in 2012 too – with all the gymnastics and the fact they did it barefoot. No one had done it, and that was quite groundbreaking and I knew how much work she put into that.

Watching my wife lift the Glitterball was an amazing moment...

I was there that night and I knew she would have liked it to have happened at some point. It was her last full year of doing it, so it was a nice way to end. If you’re going to go, go out on a high.

Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith, who won Strictly together in 2012
Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith, who won Strictly together in 2012
Georgie Gillard/Associated Newspapers/REX

Flavia and I ended up doing a routine for our wedding…

We also had the Strictly band playing, so for our first dance, we did a Vinennise Waltz into a Salsa. It went from very classic to something quite raunchy, which was fun. We were at the St Pancras Hotel in King’s Cross, but I can’t remember much about it because it was obviously late in the day, but I’d been training really hard. I’d never have imagined I would have been doing that, but I dusted off the shoes.

I now help Flavia run her dance school...

She’s got me dancing again. Last night in fact, we were doing the Cha Cha. It’s been really good to get back into it. We have couples classes and beginners ballroom and Latin, so we do that together.

On Strictly, you were always trying too hard, so I was striving to do as well as I could, whereas now, I’m more relaxed and there’s no pressure, so it’s a bit easier.

There’s no such thing as the ‘Strictly Curse’...

Some people might meet their future wife like I did, or they might have something going on in their lives that other people make out to be more than it is, or have flings. It’s life – there’s no curse. It’s just the way it is. Strictly is quite an intense experience, so it really does depend on how your life is, where you’re coming from, what’s going on.

I don’t buy into the paper talk of it… Love is an easy thing to talk about. You’ve got a man and a woman doing Rumbas, so [the press] are not going to talk about what they had for dinner last night!

My dream Strictly celeb is…

Paul O’Grady would be pretty good. They probably try to get him every year because he’s got the whole package – he’s got the humour, the personality, everyone loves him, he’s a performer. I really like him, he’s great, so I think he’d be fantastic.

Paul O'Grady
Paul O'Grady
SOPA Images via Getty Images

My advice for this year’s contestants is…

Do not blow your energy too early. It’s really difficult when you’re in it because you want to crack it, but invariably if you show all your cards too early and you try too hard, there’s only one way you can go. As the weeks go on, that’s quite difficult for your confidence.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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