This week, in a major first, the U.K. television show that inspired America's Dancing with The Stars will reportedly feature a same-sex pair gliding across the ballroom floor. And for one of the dancers, the moment carries even deeper meaning after surviving years of homophobic bullying and a violent attack.
Strictly Come Dancing star Johannes Radebe told viewers that the show allowed him a platform to be his true self, moments after he and celebrity partner Catherine Tyldesley were eliminated last night. The result came after Radebe recently wowed fans with an show-opener where he danced in four-inch heels, a decision made with encouragement from show producers.
But, Radebe recently told The Sun that while his experience on the show led him to embrace his sexuality, he hadn't experienced that kind of affirmation in the past. According to the performer, he was called a "sissy boy" and other hurtful names while growing up in the outskirts of Johannesburg. In one particularly traumatic incident, at 17 years old, the choreographer was beat with a baseball bat by a classmate.
"This happened in school, a fellow pupil," he said. "I was terrified. All I can remember was asking, 'What have I done? What did I do to you?' He said, 'Well, you're a faggot and disgusting,'"
"We ended up physically fighting because when somebody comes at you with a baseball bat, I don't think you can just stand there ... He was not a fan of me -- he was punishing me for the fact that I am what I am."
As a result of the bullying, Radebe experienced moments of anxiety about leaving the house. But he credits a strong source of love for uplifting him after the traumatic attack: his mother.
"I would get home and talk to Mum and tell her what I'd experienced. She said, 'There's nothing wrong with you. You go back tomorrow and you make sure that Johannes is happy," he said, noting that his father had passed away but showed signs of acceptance. "Without Mum's love and support, I wouldn't be where I am today."
According to reports, the choreographer will take to the floor with co-star and friend Graziano Di Prima, for a special performance next week. And while this won't be the first time there has been a same-sex pairing on the show, it will be the first time that featured performers engage in one. The performance is set to make Strictly one of the latest dance competitions to feature same-sex performancesin recent years -- Nyle Dimarco and Courtney Act on broke gown on Dancing With the Stars in the U.S. and Australia, respectively.
"I'm happy to be a trailblazer," Radebe said. "It will be one of the moments where we all sit back and go, 'This is what we've been waiting for.'"