John Whaite has said that it is due to his Strictly Come Dancing partner Johannes Radebe that he is “finally comfortable” in his own skin.
The Great British Bake Off star, 32, and Radebe made Strictly history last week after they performed as the dance competition’s first all-male couple.
The chef confirmed that he had received only “support, love and kindness” after their landmark performance of a powerful tango in all-black suits to a rendition of New Order’s Blue Monday, which placed them joint second on the leaderboard.
The pair will be taking on the cha cha this Saturday, accompanied by Years & Years’ Starstruck, and Whaite told the PA news agency: “My biggest challenge is to allow myself to be flamboyant because I’ve constantly got that voice in my head saying, ‘Don’t be too gay, don’t be too flamboyant, don’t be too sassy’.
“And that really is what’s holding me back because it’s that voice that won’t let me just give everything I’ve got on the dancefloor, and when I’m on my own, that voice is even louder as well.
“So it’s been a real challenge this week to try and quieten that voice.”
However, he added: “I think I’m most looking forward to just letting go.
“For saying to the world ‘here I am’, it’s taken 32 years to be comfortable in my own skin but I think I’m finally there and that’s all thanks to this one (gesturing to Radebe).”
Discussing their landmark performance for Strictly history, Whaite told PA: “It was an absolute honour, it really was.
“Not just because we were doing it, but to see the reaction.
“I think we’ve been conditioned to expect a lot of hate in our lives for who we are but I didn’t get any hate, it was just support, love and kindness.
“And the most reassuring thing we’ve had is that so many parents have slid into our DMs to say ‘Thank you, my kids watched it and they didn’t even question it’.”
Whaite added that one woman had messaged him to say her young daughter had said ‘Oh, look at all the princes and princesses coming out’ and when they came out she said ‘Oh two princes, I can’t wait to see them dance’.
“For kids to not feel the need to question it, that’s what we’re doing this for. We’re doing it for the next generation,” he added.
Radebe, 34, said it was “amazing” to be that representation for children and the LGBTQ+ community but explained that they have both been those figures in whatever they did in life.
He added: “It’s just beautiful that it’s me and John in this moment. I love that people are waking up to the fact that there are people like us, anybody can dance with anybody, and there shouldn’t be any discrimination of any sort.”
Radebe said there was a team who had done a lot of deliberation about the concept, music and costumes for their opening dance and explained they choose the tango for its history, as it is a dance that was originally danced by men.
“We took it to the origins, how it looked, what it felt like, and what it’s supposed to be, in terms of costumes, we were beautifully dressed. There was class,” he added.
Whaite confessed he was originally disappointed that they were not dressed in mesh and sequins.
However, he said after dress rehearsals he understood the purpose behind it.
He added: “I appreciated it, it was about masculinity, majesty, elegance and grace.”
He also said he hoped to challenge stigmas and toxic masculinity, continuing: “I think we are trying to convey that mix between power and sensitivity.”
Strictly Come Dancing continues on BBC One on Saturday night at 6.45pm.