Strictly Come Dancing same-sex backlash is why we’re fighting: Michelle Visage on those 300 complaints and why won’t be seeing a Drag Queen contestant anytime soon

Michelle Visage is without a doubt the ultimate ally for the LGBT community so the announcement she was joining Strictly Come Dancing, in many ways, really was a landmark moment.

The campest show on television finally acknowledged its foundations of sequins, glamour and Bruno Toniloi are so reliant on its LGBT roots – actually, it’s a wonder it took so long for a gay icon in the same esteem as Visage to be welcomed into the ballroom.

The 49-year-old has devoted her entire life to fighting the good fight for gay rights so it was only fitting that during her series the very first Strictly Come Dancing same-sex routine would take place. Coincidence? Maybe. But her presence on the show did feel like a shift for the otherwise conservative Saturday night prime time spectacle.

Johannes Radebe and Graziano Di Prima were the two men handed the honour of Strictly’s historic moment. The pair glided through each other’s arms, sashaying across the dancefloor to the backdrop of Emeli Sande performing her ballad Shine.

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Thousands were moved to tears, and contrary to belief the world didn’t implode. But still there were 300 critics who took actual time out of their day to call into the BBC to complain the routine was ‘offensive’.

Visage, however, isn’t too concerned. If anything, she thought there might be more.

Johannes Radebe and Giovanni Di Prima
Johannes Radebe and Graziano Di Prima’s performance was hit with 300 complaints to the BBC (Picture: BBC)

‘It’s not really that many,’ she told Metro.co.uk. ‘It’s had 300 complaints and there’s 11 million people who watch.

‘For me that’s not a lot because in the grand scheme of things, I expect the complaints. You’re always going to have conservative people who will have a pop at anything expressive so it’s really not that many and it’s way less than what I was expecting, to be honest. But there should be none, obviously.’

But the backlash, albeit tame in comparison to those who adored the performance, still reveals a lot.

‘Let me tell you something, that’s why we’re fighting and that’s why we continue to fight because of those complaints,’ Visage fired back. ‘They’re always going to be there, we’ve just go to ignore them and keep going.’

Though, BBC will be taking note. Year on year calls for a ‘same-sex’ couple fall on deaf ears, but surely the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Johannes and Graziano proves the nation is more than ready for one. Surely.

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‘I mean I hope so, I can’t speak for them, but I would love nothing more,’ continued the Drag Race judge. ‘I think it was in Denmark they had a couple win their version of Dancing With The Stars so that gives me hope, but again it’s a very conservative viewership so it’s baby steps, perhaps that’s what they’re thinking. But I think it’s time. I said it was time five years ago.’

Michelle VIsage
Michelle Visage bowed out of Strictly with a tribute to the underground gay ball rooms (Picture: BBC)

According to The Times, a change is coming in 2020 with Strictly bosses eyeing up a Drag Race UK queen for the next cycle. A source told the publication: ‘Executives think a drag queen would be the best way to introduce change slowly to the programme’s loyal audience, many of whom have watched it since it began in 2004.’

Celebrity Big Brother winner and Drag Race US alumni Courtney Act has huge success in her native Australia’s version of DWTS eventually placing second and giving what could well be the dance of the millennium with her tribute to the Spice Girls.

But on Strictly? Visage isn’t convinced.

‘I don’t think that will happen, personally,’ she stressed. ‘I don’t think I can see that happening anytime soon. I think first we need to tackle a same-sex couple. But I think any one of [the Drag Race stars] could do it and I would love nothing more.

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‘I’m just trying to be realistic here. I just think we’re going from a same-sex couple to drag queens, I just don’t think that’s going to happen anytime soon, realistically.’

Visage’s Strictly exit was a sore blow for fans; after topping the leaderboard, it seemed a safe bet she could go on and lift the Glitterball trophy. And then, despite a triumphant American Smooth, she found herself in the bottom two against BBC Breakfast presenter Mike Bushell.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 20:00:00 on 17/11/2019 - Programme Name: Strictly Come Dancing 2019 - TX: 17/11/2019 - Episode: Strictly Come Dancing 2019 - TX9 RESULTS SHOW (No. n/a) - Picture Shows: **RESULTS SHOW - EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION UNTIL 20:00 HRS ON SUNDAY 17TH NOVEMBER 2019** Michelle and Giovanni leave the competition Tess Daly, Michelle Visage, Giovanni Pernice - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy
Michelle was hit with headlines accusing her of feuding with Giovanni Pernice (Picture: BBC)
Michelle Visage's Thread Talks
Michelle hosted her own Thread Talks at Samsung KX in London last night (Picture: Samsung)

Suddenly, the headlines changed. Visage was accused of ‘storming out’ of Blackpool, ‘screaming’ backstage and ‘hating’ her partner Giovanni Pernice. None of it was true, but it comes with the territory.

‘I was prepared for it because Strictly prepare you for what’s to come, which was really helpful but I also have been in this country and worked in this country for long enough [to know what the press is like],’ admitted Visage. ‘I don’t know if anyone can prepare for the onslaught of Strictly but I knew what headlines were going to come my way and they did not disappoint!’

Last night the Drag Race idol spoke at Samsung’s Thread Talks held in association with Twitter. She looked back at some of her favourite moments on the social media platform, but arguably it became a different weapon for the star when she joined Strictly.

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While Visage would rarely highlight some of the bizarre press attention, it was important to address a few mistruths to her 547,000 followers

‘It’s an incredible platform when used wisely and correctly,’ she explained. ‘For me I always try to do my best to use it for positivity, comedy, for promotion and a way to educate.

‘In many ways, because I’m an American and I have a big mouth I’m an easy target, but I would never let that happen. Anybody who knows me knows it’s ridiculous the things they were saying about me – they were ridiculous. Not to bring attention to the articles by reposting them but it was a way to say, “this is really sad”.’

Strictly Come Dancing continues Saturday at 7pm on BBC One. Thread Talks is a series of ‘in-conversation’ events hosted by Alex Zane.

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MORE: Rylan Clark-Neal and Michelle Visage mock Strictly Come Dancing secret romance – and they ‘know’ who it is

MORE: Strictly Come Dancing’s Shirley Ballas breaks silence following Alex Scott exit backlash

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