‘When I’m in Waitrose, women of my age thank me for being their champion’: Angela Rippon reveals the joy in her life as she gears up to take part in Strictly as the show’s oldest ever contestant at the age of 78
The former newsreader who turns 79 next month, says she can’t even do her weekly shop without being praised for championing the over-70s.
And she teased the possibility that she may do the splits on the show – which would be sure to win her even more plaudits.
Ms Rippon, who hosted the original Come Dancing in the late 1980s, said: ‘I’ve had a lot of women come up and say to me, “Oh we’re so pleased that you’re doing it.”
‘When I was shopping in Waitrose at the checkout, the lady standing next to me said, “You don’t know me but I just want you to know that all my friends, like me, say that women of our age and with our hair colour become invisible, but thank you because you’re going to make headlines for us.” ’
Ms Rippon says that it is a role she is delighted to have – as she wants to send the message to women her age that nothing is impossible and that life in later years is still to be enjoyed. She says: ‘I think the message to get across is that if this 79-year-old can do it, then so can you. So get out there and just do it, and enjoy it.
‘I hope that I can get older people dancing, who aren’t dancing already. Touch wood, I haven’t had a single twinge.’
In 1976, Ms Rippon stunned the 27 million viewers of the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special when she emerged from behind her newsreader’s desk to perform a high-kicking dance routine to Irving Berlin’s showtune Let’s Face The Music And Dance.
Forty-seven years on, Ms Rippon says she is so flexible that she can still do the splits – and has not ruled out the possibility of doing so on Strictly.
She says: ‘You’ll have to ask the choreographer about this. I think I owe it to the audience, I owe it to the producers and most of all I owe it to my partner to be able to do my very, very best, and I will channel whatever it takes so that I don’t let them down.’
Ms Rippon, who presented the non-celebrity show Come Dancing from 1988 to 1991, has no time for doubts about her ability to dance because of her age.
She says: ‘Everyone’s asked me about my age but I never think about it. I really don’t, it’s not important. Up here somewhere, in my brain, I’m still 30.’
Ms Rippon, who led a Shape Up And Dance fitness movement during the 1980s, says dancing in older age can help keep your mind sharp.
She says: ‘I’ve been around dancers for such a long time that my brain and my head know what to do, although my body is saying, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”
‘But we know that dance is the best exercise as you get older, for mind and body .
‘It does all the right things, strength, core, all the right things – flexibility, mind, you’re using your brain all the time.’
Ms Rippon signed up to Strictly after making a brief guest appearance on the show in 2022, prompting viewers to call for her to be given a more prominent role. In an episode marking the BBC’s centenary, she introduced Kym Marsh and her professional dance partner Graziano Di Prima to the floor for their routine to Ballroom Blitz by Sweet.
Ms Rippon became the first female journalist to permanently present BBC TV’s national news reports in 1975. She went on to co-found TV-am and now co-hosts Rip Off Britain for the BBC with Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville.
Until now, the oldest Strictly contestants were 72-year-olds Johnny Ball and Paul Daniels.
Children’s TV presenter Ball, father of DJ Zoe, took part in 2012. Magician Daniels, who appeared in 2010, died in 2016.
Former Birds of a Feather actress Lesley Joseph was 71 when she competed in 2019.
Casualty Doctor quits for show
Casualty’s Nigel Harman has left the BBC soap so he won’t have to combine its gruelling filming schedule with practising for Strictly.
Nigel, 50, below, who has played Dr Max Christie in the medical drama since February, says: ‘My time on Casualty is done for the time being.
‘I’m on screen until early next year and there are no plans for me to go back to the show at the moment.’
Nigel, who has also been in EastEnders, adds that he hopes Strictly will ‘boost my confidence’.
I might foxtrot on in drag, says West End star Layton
West End favourite Layton Williams, right, hasn’t ruled out shaking up the show with a spot of drag.
His participation in Strictly has raised eyebrows because he danced as Billy Elliot on the stage and also played a young Michael Jackson in Thriller – Live.
Layton, 28, says of waltzing out in drag: ‘I love being playful with my fashion, so if there’s an opportunity where it feels right in the moment, then why not?
‘I will give you what feels comfortable, it will never be a reach. It will be something that will be authentically me and I need to represent myself as well as my community. I’m ready for all things, ready to be Strictly-fied.’
Meanwhile, Channel 4 newscaster Krishnan Guru-Murthy has revealed his decision to join Strictly isn’t popular with everyone.
The 53-year-old says his wife approves – but he should have gone on to consult the whole family.
He says: ‘Everyone’s been very, very positive, but my 16-year-old son is not a fan.
‘He said, “Oh God, there are going to be so many terrible videos of you on the internet for ever.” ’
Comic Les Dennis has revealed it’s no joke getting fit for the show – as he is walking 10,000 steps a day.
Les, who turns 70 next month, said: ‘We did some dancing yesterday, and today I couldn’t get up.
‘I’ve got myself fitter in the last month or so, which is a great challenge. I’ve made sure I’ve got my steps in, I’ve been going out walking. I can’t run any more as I got a new knee a couple of years ago. My step count is over 10,000 and I’m definitely eating healthier.’