Inside Arlene Phillips Strictly ageism row and new baby at 48 as she enters Im A Celeb

No stranger to being on TV, former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips has signed up for I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!

At the age of 78, the dance expert is set to be the oldest contestant ever, taking the crown from Boris Johnson’s dad, Stanley, who was 77 when he starred on the show.

After controversially being dropped from the Strictly judging panel in 2009, the choreographer has spoken out about dealing with ageism – including her experience of falling pregnant at 48.

But before she swaps her world of glitter and glamour for Gwrych Castle’s mealworms and crickets, we took a look inside the former Strictly star’s life.

Strictly ageism row

Having been a judge on Strictly Come Dancing between 2004 and 2008, Arlene was axed from the show, being replaced by former Strictly winner Alesha Dixon.

Though the BBC defended its decision, and denied any form of discrimination, the move was deemed by many as being ageist, questioning why Arlene was dropped rather than one of the male judges.

At the time, it was reported that the broadcaster had received over 2000 complaints, with deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman even joining in on the debate.

Since leaving the show, the former Strictly judge has spoken of her heartache and has expressed her regret for not challenging the decision more.

“As a woman I should've thought about it, I should've demanded why the woman had gone, and three men remain.

I should have asked them to analyse it. I should have had the strength to at least ask for reasons and if not getting the reasons, a damn well apology,” she said.

Dealing with her dad’s dementia

Arlene is an ambassador for Alzheimer’s Society, with her dad, Abraham, living with Alzheimer’s for ten years before passing away in 2000.

After witnessing the condition affect her father, Arlene made the decision to put him in a care home as his memory loss had left him in need of 24-hour care.

Following her first-hand experience of caring for her father, Arlene has worked to increase awareness of the disease, encouraging others to not be afraid of discussing it with their family.

“When he was diagnosed, not many people ­discussed Alzheimer’s.

“We were always skirting around it. It’s much more open today and that’s a good thing. I regret that so much, that I didn’t know more,” she said.

Being an older mum

Having met on the set of the music video for Freddie Mercury’s ‘I Was Born to Love You’, Arlene has been in a relationship with set designer Angus Ion since 1985.

Arlene has two children – Alana from her marriage to fashion designer Danny Nobel and Abi from her relationship with Angus.

Having gotten pregnant with Abi at the age of 47, Arlene has spoken openly about her experience of being an older mum.

“[I was told] I was some kind of freak, that I would find it hard to bond with my baby when I could be the grandmother,” she told Good Housekeeping.

Her internationally renowned choreography career

Before appearing on Strictly, Arlene became a household name when she formed dance group Hot Gossip in 1974.

From then, she was a choreographer on the West End and Broadway, working on shows including Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Flashdance and We Will Rock You.

She has also worked with musicians such as Duran Duran, creating the routine for their music video The Wild Boys – a video that was named as Best British Video at the 1985 Brit Awards.

Despite being axed from Strictly, she returned to the hit show to choreography a performance involving the Strictly pros and dancers from the Condoco Dance Company.

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