Great Britain

Strictly star Craig Revel Horwood says he’ll never go soft on contestants but reveals the word he’s banned from using

ONCE infamous for his putdowns, Craig Revel Horwood has already admitted to going soft on Strictly’s contestants.

But that doesn’t mean the programme’s notoriously nasty judge is afraid to give the show itself a hard time.

The judging diva has been with the BBC1 contest since it launched 17 years ago, and in that time he has seen a long line of changes.

And he will take a dig at them all — whether it’s watching his language on the show or the Covid-safe judging “booths” which he says makes him look like a supermarket checkout girl.

He said: “We have our own separate judges podiums now and we’ve got big glass things between us. I felt like I needed a cash register.

“And do you know, I am not allowed to use the word ‘balls’ on Strictly? You can say: ‘Get up on the balls’ (of your feet) but you have to explain it and give it context.

‘We starve ourselves to look normal’

“It makes me really miss my fellow judge Len Goodman — he didn’t put up with any rubbish and was really down to earth.”

At least he is still in touch with the cheeky 77-year-old former head judge.

Craig said: “Len rang me up when Covid happened and he said: ‘I was worried because you are old.’”

As the longest-serving judge on the show, which returns tonight for it’s 19th series, it’s easy to forget that Craig is just 56.

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That’s five years younger than head judge Shirley Ballas, and barely 18 months older than his new co-star on this year’s panel, Anton du Beke.

Motsi Mabuse, 40, is the panel’s spring chicken.

But he admits he goes to certain lengths to look good for his age.

Craig reveals: “TV puts ten years on you and ten pounds. We have to starve ourselves to look normal. It’s why we have Botox.”

When Craig started on the first ever series of Strictly in 2004 he was the youngest at 39, and shared the panel with Bruno Tonioli, now 65, Arlene Philips, now 78, and Len — who have all now left.

Bruno decided that for a second year he would stay in the US to be a judge on Dancing With The Stars — the stateside version of Strictly — which meant Anton, who’s been dancing on the show for 17 years, could take his place.

Craig said: “Anton has finally hung up his dancing shoes. Hoorah. I am delighted about it. He is great and he is funny. There is always room for another judge, isn’t there?

“Will Bruno come back? I don’t know. It would not matter if Bruno came back, but I hope he does. It is only Covid that is keeping him away.”

The Sun revealed that three of the show’s pro dancers have not been vaccinated.

Several Strictly pros have called for them to be revealed and denied celebrity partners — and even the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, advised them to get jabbed.

Craig carved out a niche as the judge most likely to destroy a contestant with a remark so scathing it would make X Factor’s Simon Cowell blush.

Craig said: “Simon has got really bad lines. Who does his script?”

The back catalogue of stinging remarks delivered to the show’s long line of “dance disasters” is huge.

He said Judy Murray looked like she had been lobotomised and informed Rachel Riley she danced like a slug wriggling in salt.

When Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills appeared on the show he told him: “You’re an exception to the rule that anyone can learn to dance.”

He also compared 6ft 2in model Jodie Kidd to a giraffe.

But that started to change in 2020 when Covid meant he didn’t have audiences in the studio egging him on with boos and jeers.

Speaking on the White Wine Question Time podcast’s live show, hosted by former X Factor presenter Kate Thornton, he said: “I literally just sit there and suffer really hideous dancing and then try and be nice.

“But I am much nicer than I am on television.

“Actually, I am a loving, nurturing, cuddly person. I want people to get tens and I want them to do well.

“And I don’t care if people answer me back on TV — so long as it’s funny. It’s like a roast and I love a spit roast.

“Last year on the show I thought, do I spread the love? And actually I decided, yeah, I should. But I still make up my own mind about decisions and scores.

“It was nice to do Strictly without the studio audience because I felt I was talking to the celebs like an audition.”

It showed in his judging too, with his scores going up and the number of wounding remarks coming down over the course of the last series

‘I would do I’m A Celeb if the BBC sacked me’

Perhaps he mellowed while filming Craig And Bruno’s Great British Road Trips, which aired this summer and featured the two dance show judges touring the country’s most beautiful locations.

"We went on this vast tour across the UK and he would not allow me to eat any carbs at all and he is ten years older than me.

“It’s always rib eye steak and salad for him. He has that daily. And he loves the gym.”

But don’t expect to see Craig doing that other ITV show, I’m A Celebrity, any time soon.

He said: “I would do it if I was desperate and sacked by the BBC. I would do it if I went in to learn survival skills and I would do it if I had a mortgage to pay. But actually I don’t have a mortgage.

“There’s rats out there and lightning, so I have no desire to do that at all.

“I loved doing The Masked Singer on ITV, though, as it was great to be on the receiving end of criticism.”

The judge may not have a mortgage to pay off but Craig will have to stump up for his wedding to fiance, horticulturist Jonathan Myring, who is 22 years his junior.

He said: “Jonathan proposed. I jumped in the bath and he had the ring in his hand.

“At the beginning I said no as it was such a shock. I thought it was a joke.

“I said ‘yes’ but it was not a yes straight away. It took about a minute in the bath.

“My ring was made of wood and I snapped it doing the gardening. Jonathan had it made and it had a gold rim.

“The wood was from my granny’s tree in the garden. My sister had it sent over in a big block.

“We have a year now to make another one.”

The couple, who met in 2018 while Craig was on the Strictly tour, won’t be tying the knot any time soon as Craig is too busy this year and the next.

He said: “We could have done the wedding in lockdown as I would only have to have paid for five guests. So we are doing it in August 2023.

“I will have to have concrete ramps at the new house. I will be in my wheelchair by then — like my granny.”

Strictly judge Craig Revel-Horwood rates Michael Gove's dancing as MP is filmed raving an Aberdeen club

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