Strictly star Johannes Radebe reveals heartbreaking reason he nearly quit show

Strictly Come Dancing semi-finalist Johannes Radebe has revealed the heartbreaking reason he nearly quit the show after being paired with former British tennis player Annabel Croft.

The fan favourites made it all the way to the semi-final of the BBC’s dancing competition last year, with winners Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola ultimately claiming the glitterball.

In a new interview on Jessie Ware and her mother Lennie’s podcast Table Manners, Radebe, 36, shared the reason why he almost didn’t take part in the competition following tragic circumstances in his and Croft’s personal lives.

Radebe revealed that he had lost his cousin to suicide shortly before the season, while Croft had been grieving her husband Mel Coleman, who died of colon cancer in May.

”When they said I’m dancing with her, I was like: ‘What are they trying to achieve?’ And I say that because two weeks before I started, I buried my cousin who [died by] suicide,” he said.

Radebe had just concluded a successful tour when he was forced to return to his home country, South Africa, to mourn the death of his cousin.

As a result, the Strictly star explained that he “didn’t feel anything” and wasn’t as excited as he’d usually be at the start of the season.

Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe made it to the semi-finals of Strictly Come Dancing 2023 (BBC/Guy Levy)
Annabel Croft and Johannes Radebe made it to the semi-finals of Strictly Come Dancing 2023 (BBC/Guy Levy)

He continued: “I could have stayed out there [in South Africa] for longer but after we buried him, I had to fly back to the UK and do my audiobook.”

Although the dancer and choreographer now says that Croft helped him process his grief, he had reservations about how their respective mourning would impact their professional and personal relationships during the competition.

“You can imagine when they said the partners I was just like ’OK great’,” Radebe admitted. “I just really wanted to deal with it but you never allow yourself the time to deal with whatever you are going through in your life.

“They said we think that you’re the person to partner with this woman. I just said to myself, they’re reaching.

“I remember calling my agent, I was like, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he added. “Maybe we should say that I shouldn’t get a partner this year because I just really need some time out.”

Johannes Radebe (Getty Images)
Johannes Radebe (Getty Images)

Discussing the impact Croft had had on his personal life as he grieved the loss of his cousin, he said: ”A lot of people say, ‘Oh Johannes, you helped Annabel’, but no, Annabel helped me.”

Croft has described her experience on the show as “life-changing”, and told the MailOnline that Radebe had made her laugh like her husband used to. She also shared how her dance partner had given her a reason to get out of bed in the morning in a heartfelt Instagram post.

Elsewhere in the podcast episode, published on Wednesday (7 February), Radebe also shared how surprised he’d been at the impact the dancing competition had had on viewers.

“That blows my mind, I don’t want to tell lies – a mere dance show to have such an impact. When you look at it from my perspective, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think.”

His popular audiobook and memoir Jojo: Finally Home is being turned into a movie and will chronicle his rise from poverty to fame according to Deadline.