Shirley Ballas Details Major Personal Sacrifices She's Making To Ensure Strictly Goes Smoothly

"The choices I make aren’t just important for myself but for the audience. The show must go on.”

Strictly Come Dancing star Shirley Ballas has revealed she’s made some major personal sacrifices to keep herself safe in the lead-up to this year’s series.

Later this month, Shirley will return for her fifth year as Head Judge on the Strictly panel.

While last year’s run was cut short due to the pandemic, the BBC has confirmed that 2021’s series will be back to its usual scale, meaning lots of new measures are being put in place.

Shirley told The Sun: “Sarah James, Strictly’s executive producer, said to me: ‘If you think the restrictions were tough last year, they’re going to be tougher this year. We want the 13 weeks to go ahead’.”

Shirley Ballas pictured earlier this year
Shirley Ballas pictured earlier this year
David M. Benett via Getty Images

She noted this means she’s being “extremely vigilant” with wearing a face covering and washing her hands, and is also questioning whether attending public events in the lead-up to Strictly is a good idea.

However, her biggest sacrifice involves her son, 35-year-old dancer and musician Mark Ballas, who she hasn’t seen in around two years.

“There’s a sacrifice to be made if we want to get through it for the people at home,” she explained. “So if I’m invited out to big events, I think twice. Like the NTAs [which take place on Thursday night] – do I really need to be there?”

Shirley added: “I was going to go to America to see my son, but I didn’t want to make that journey and take the risk in case I caught anything and couldn’t do the launch show.

“It’s my responsibility. This show is a big deal, so I will forgo seeing my boy.”

Shirley and Mark in 2014
Shirley and Mark in 2014
Allen Berezovsky via Getty Images

The Sun noted that at that moment Shirley’s “filled with tears”, as she added: “I’m sorry. I’m getting emotional thinking about him.

“Not holding him or being in the same room has been the hardest thing. But it felt selfish to go.

“The choices I make aren’t just important for myself but for the audience. The show must go on.”

While Shirley will be returning to the panel alongside Strictly staples Craig Revel Horwood and Motsi Mabuse, they’ll be joined by a new face, as long-serving professional Anton Du Beke makes the jump to judging in the absence of Bruno Tonioli.

The 15 celebrities taking part in the show have also been confirmed, with McFly singer Tom Fletcher, former soap star Nina Wadia, presenter AJ Odudu and Bake Off champion John Whaite among those competing this year.