Strictly Come Dancing star Johannes Radebe says he is “friends for life” with his former dance partner John Whaite, after Whaite revealed that he fell in love with Radebe during their time together on the show.
Whaite, who rose to fame as a winner on The Great British Bake Off, was partnered with South African professional dancer Radebe in 2021 for the BBC series’ first ever same-sex pairing.
The duo quickly became a fan-favourite thanks to their evident chemistry both on and off the dancefloor. They ultimately finished in second place, with EastEnders actor Rose Ayling-Ellis winning the contest with her professional partner, Giovanni Pernice.
In a recent interview, Whaite revealed that he spent time apart from his fiancé and partner of 15 years, Paul Atkins, after “falling in love” with Radebe. He has since got back together with Atkins.
“I fell in love with [Radebe],” Whaite told The Times. “I can’t speak for him – because I’m not allowed to, legally – but it felt like there was love there.”
In an interview published on Saturday 26 August, Radebe addressed Whaite’s recent revelation, apparently “keen” to emphasise “the platonic nature of their connection”.
“We have gone on to have such a beautiful experience together that it would be a shame if we were not friends after all that,” he told The Times.
“What we agreed is that, regardless of what life throws at us, we will always keep [this friendship] going. ‘We are friends for life,’ I always say to him. ‘I know where you live. You cannot get rid of me.’ I still speak to him.”
In Whaite’s interview, he explained that he discussed his feelings with Atkins from the beginning.: “Paul of all people deserved to understand how I was feeling,” he said. “You go through life being told that you’ll fall in love with someone, you’ll get married, you’ll have children and that’s it.
“But love can’t just be directed to one person. The heart can easily split into two or three or four. And those loves aren’t mutually exclusive.”
However, the couple are back together, and Whaite says he now intentionally keeps his distance from Radebes as “I have to be mindful that there’s more than my own desires to consider here”.
“If it would be tricky for Paul for me to be in contact with Johannes, then it’s a sacrifice that I have to make,” he said.
Appearing on ITV daytime show Lorraine on Thursday 24 August, Whaite joked that it was “blooming great that the gays are getting embroiled in the Strictly scandal”.
“Because before, we were just on the sidelines, but now, the gays are involved in the Strictly curse. So for me, this is a sign of progress,” he said.
He explained that he had decided to share his experience, with Radebe and Atkins’ consent, to “illustrate the point that life is difficult”.
“We are fragile human beings and our hearts sometimes can be torn into two, and sometimes you have to take stock and just think to yourself, ‘Who am I, what [are] my values, and how do I get back to that?’
“And the point of the whole book is a story of love. It’s about showing people, anyone at home, it’s okay to be a vulnerable human being, to make a mess and to start again,” he continued. “You can always start again.
Without his partnership with Atkin, Whaite told host Christine Lampard, “I don’t know where I would be in life”.
Both Whaite and Radebe have written books about their time on Strictly; Jojo: Finally Home by Radebe is released on 7 September.
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