Glamorous Shirley Ballas looked the picture of confidence as she waltzed into her Strictly judging job.
But behind the glitz and sparkle, the pro dancer was a bag of nerves.
Even a lifetime of performing as one of the world’s top ballroom dancers did not completely prepare her for the stress of replacing Len Goodman as head judge last year.
And now, Shirley, 57, has candidly spoken of her secret battle with anxiety and how meditating has helped her deal with it.
She said: “I’ve had anxiety in the past and two years ago I wasn’t in a great place. Without a stable mind, it’s difficult for anything else to function. I meditate and take time for controlled breathing.
“This was especially useful when I started Strictly – my first TV job. I was as nervous as the celebrities.”
Shirley revealed in a chat with Top Sante magazine that raising awareness of mental health was important to her following the suicide of her 44-year-old brother David in 2003.
She said: “People get embarrassed about admitting they feel low but you can’t help the way you feel.
“Which is why exercise, taking vitamins and having time out for meditation are so important.”
Shirley and her son Mark set up The Ballas Foundation charity to raise awareness of how to prevent suicide and erase the stigma of mental illness.
Shirley used her 50th birthday party to raise funds to support suicide prevention schemes, while Mark wrote and recorded a song about his uncle’s tragic death.
Shirley also admitted to having insecurities about her body. She said: “People used to say that my bottom was too big, and I looked overweight.
“Back when I danced with Corky [her ex-husband Corky Ballas], people were always pushing me to go on a diet.
“I’ve had issues in the past with the way I look and I’m still working through them. But as I get older I’m learning that you just have to be comfortable in your own skin.”
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