John Whaite reflects on Strictly ‘curse’ that saw him ‘fall in love’ with dancing pro

John Whaite has reflected on being “embroiled” in the Strictly “curse” after sharing a revelation about his time on the show.

The former Great British Bake Off winner participated in the BBC competition in 2021, and was paired with Johannes Radebe in what was the show’s first ever male same-sex pairing.

Throughout their time on the series, the pair won over fans with their off-screen camaraderie and on-screen chemistry, which Whaite has now said led to him “falling in love” with the dancer despite being engaged to his partner of 15 years, Paul Atkins.

The so-called “Strictly curse” is based on the idea that participating on Strictly – whether as a celebrity or a professional dancer – threatens the status of the relationship you’re in when you sign up.

“I fell in love with him,” Whaite told The Times in a new interview while promoting his new memoir, adding: “I can’t speak for him – because I’m not allowed to, legally – but it felt like there was love there.”

Now, speaking about the revelation on Lorraine on Thursday (24 August), Whaite said: “What I have to say is how blooming great it is that the gays are getting embroiled in the Strictly scandal! Because before, we were just on the sidelines, but now, the gays are involved in the Strictly curse. So for me, this is a sign of progress.”

He explained why he decided to share his experience, stating: “The reason I’ve spoken about that story and specifically with Johannes’s consent and my partner’s consent – I haven’t written anything that people didn’t want me to write – is to illustrate the point that, life is difficult.”

Whaite continued: “We are fragile human beings and our hearts sometimes can be torn into two, and sometimes you have to take stock and just think to yourself, ‘Who am I, what [are] my values, and how do I get back to that?’ And the point of the whole book is a story of love.

“It’s about showing people, anyone at home, it’s okay to be a vulnerable human being, to make a mess and to start again. You can always start again.”

He said that without his “partnership with Paul, where we speak candidly and honestly about how we feel, I don’t know where I would be in life”.

Whaite previously said he didn’t hide his feelings for Radebe from his fiancé, stating: “All the way through, me and Paul discussed it. Paul of all people deserved to understand how I was feeling. You go through life being told that you’ll fall in love with someone, you’ll get married, you’ll have children and that’s it.

Johannes Radebe and John Whaite on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ (BBC)
Johannes Radebe and John Whaite on ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ (BBC)

“But love can’t just be directed to one person. The heart can easily split into two or three or four. And those loves aren’t mutually exclusive.”

After Strictly ended, Whaite said that they temporarily “spent some time apart”, with Atkins moving home with his parents while Whaite himself “sat on the patio, drinking bottle after bottle of sauvignon blanc”.

However, the couple are back together, and Whaite says he now intentionally keeps his distance from Radebes as “I have to be mindful that there’s more than my own desires to consider here”.

He said: “If it would be tricky for Paul for me to be in contact with Johannes, then it’s a sacrifice that I have to make.”

The most scandalous example of the Strictly curse occurred in 2018, when photographers captured comedian Seann Walsh kissing his dance partner Katya Jones, despite him being in a relationship with actor Rebecca Humphries.