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Under the Strictly glitterball with Michelle Visage: 'It's Salsa week, and I'm 80 per cent on my own!'

Michelle and Giovanni wowed the judges last week with their saucy Quickstep from Cabaret
Michelle and Giovanni wowed the judges last week with their saucy Quickstep from Cabaret Credit: Guy Levy/BBC

The RuPaul's Drag Race UK  judge talks about keeping fit for Strictly, the support from her family, and how Week Four is piling on the pressure for all the dancers

Well, well, well! I had to dance the Quickstep to Cabaret last weekend with a chest cold - I’m fending it off, but in Strictly world, you just deal with it and move on. So this week, I’m delighted to be dancing the Salsa with Giovanni to Quimbara by Celia Cruz - a genuine piece of Latin music, and there will be some added pressure as I’ve got a lot of Latino friends in New York who will be screaming at the television set when they’re watching me dance.

The Salsa is the most difficult dance we have done so far, and it’s quite a challenge, as for 80 per cent of the time, I will be dancing on my own, so I really have to stand there and know what I’m doing - for Giovanni, it’ll be like him being a parent and watching your child go out on stage by themselves for the first time. He’s told me time and time again: “I can’t help you with this dance”. 

There’s an added pressure for us this week in that we are doing the first ‘proper’ Salsa on the show. Normally, it’s a special Strictly version of the dance, but Giovanni is making me do a real Cuban street Salsa, which is very, very complicated. 

Oti Mabuse and Kelvin Fletcher earned the first two tens of the series with their dance from Mary Poppins Returns Credit: Guy Levy/ BBC

So it’s all pretty high pressure for week four. When Kelvin and Oti got the first tens of the series, we could all feel that the competition has gone up another gear and you can really feel the pressures. I was on our Strictly WhatsApp group on Wednesday and said to everybody: “Please, tell me I’m not the only one who is struggling this week”, and they all said they were, too. It’s good to know you’re in this with a bunch of friends, and you’re not alone.

As well as training with Giovanni every day, I also see a personal trainer called Annamaria Bodzas. She is very much into having a very feminine, but very strong body. When we’re training, she tells me: “Don’t lose your bum, don’t lose your curves”, so we work very hard at strength training so that I don’t get injured and can stay strong. She doesn’t push me to do anything that might be dangerous and she’s just wonderful.

My body is what it is - I have had two babies and two C-sections, and my first daughter Lillie was ten pounds; huge! After two children, my body will never be the same as it was, and so my curves will be different from, say, someone who has never had children. We are all different and I think we need to embrace it and just do what we have to do. We don’t need any negativity about our bodies.

I celebrate being 51 - my arms are flabby, my belly is flabby, but I DON’T CARE! What those are, are battle wounds. At the end of the day, there’s nothing you can really do about the ageing process; you can sit there and be depressed, but, hey, life’s too short.

Having said that, I can see big changes in my body since working out with Annamaria, in addition to doing eight hours of cardio in the studio when I’m dancing. Now, I can eat pretty much what I like, which is wonderful, and although I do try and keep it healthy, last night I had a bowl of pasta and it felt so good - and even better, because I’m so active, I don’t keep it on!

My family are back at home in the States, but are being an amazing support from afar. My husband David is a writer and actor, and a graduate of Juilliard - but do we discuss my performances on Strictly every week? NO. Because he’s a dude, and in all my years of acting, reading lines with him and vice versa, he knows that if he gives me advice, I never take it. We’re not that kind of couple. He knows that I know what to do; I know he knows what he has to do, which gives us both a sense of confidence.

David is my number one fan and because I don’t have my phone in the Strictly dressing room, there are always a flurry of texts from him when I get back home. He’ll have watched the show live with our youngest daughter, Lola, whereas Lillie is at university doing her own thing, so she’ll catch up online later. They’re not tough critics...that would be very silly! They have all been an amazing support. It's also great that RuPaul's Drag Race UK, on which I'm judging, was such a success on its launch last week.

Though I’m excited to dance the Salsa tomorrow, I do feel that ‘my’ dance will be the Paso Doble - it has sex and class but I don’t know when it’s coming up on the radar. Watch this space!

Strictly Come Dancing is on BBC1 at 6.40pm on Saturday with the results show at 7.15pm on Sunday. Michael Hogan will be liveblogging both shows on the Telegraph website