Shirley Ballas has revealed she has been subjected to more online bullying during the current series of Strictly Come Dancing than in previous years.
The ballroom dancer, who took over from head judge Len Goodman on the BBC One series in 2017, said she has received an influx of abusive direct messages, mostly from younger viewers.
Ballas, 59, told BBC Breakfast: “I’ve had more online bullying this time than I’ve had in any series of Strictly, particularly direct messaging, more so from the younger fans if their chosen one gets sent away.
“It’s ‘I hate you, die, go kill yourself’ – those types of messages in my direct message box.
“My concern is not so much for myself, it’s for the younger people out there… if they do that kind of bullying online, what do they do in the workplace, what do they do at the school? So my concern is always for the younger generation.”
Appearing alongside her to talk about the online bullying, Ballas’s partner Daniel Taylor said it was “very nasty”.
He told Breakfast hosts Dan Walker and Louise Minchin: “I’m always saying to Shirley to try and ignore it if you can but sometimes it’s very, very difficult to sort of look away from it, some of it gets quite personal and its sad”.
Ballas said that she had not previously experienced “this kind” of social media bullying, adding: “It’s so personal. It’s about your body, it’s about your face, it’s so many things.
“I couldn’t even repeat some of the things that are said because… I mean we’re talking like really personal, and that’s because you send somebody home and that’s my job.”
She went on to say that as a judge on the Strictly panel she has no favourites among the contestants and deciding who to send home is part of her job.
She added: “I love them all, may the best man win. The BBC put on an absolutely spectacular show and people should focus on that. We have to send somebody home and if you (the public) put them in the bottom two, that’s my job. Vote if you don’t want them in the bottom two!”
During last weekend’s Blackpool Tower spectacular, Michelle Visage and her partner Giovanni Pernice were voted off the show after landing in the dance-off alongside Saffron Barker and AJ Pritchard, who were saved by the judges.
Judge Craig Revel Horwood said during Sunday night’s result’s show that it was a difficult decision to make.
He told the couples: “I’m having a really difficult time with myself over this. This doesn’t normally happen to me. I normally make a very quick, instant decision.
“This has been really, really difficult. One couple took all the notes on board and one couple were better. And the couple I’ve decided I would like to save is Saffron and AJ.”
Ballas told BBC Breakfast that she thought it “was one of the best shows we ever, ever had at the Tower Ballroom in the whole entire time that Strictly has been born on the TV”.
She said: “Everybody brought their A-game. It was so difficult to see anybody go home, you know we’re all in love with Michelle and it was so sad that we had to let anybody go at all.
“Everybody, even Craig, was quivering in his boots there because we love her so much.
“It’s hard from here on in, it gets tougher and tougher…”