Frontrunner: South African Dancer Lights Up The Strictly Stage

Published 3 years ago
Graham Norton Show – London

Strictly Come Dancing on the BBC is arguably one of the biggest shows in the United Kingdom. And 2020 saw, for the first time since the ballroom and Latin dancing show started in 2004, a back-to-back win for a South African professional dancer.

Pretoria-born, Oti Mabuse, took home the Glitter Ball trophy for the second time in December 2020 making her the first professional on the show to win a back-to-back title. What made the win more significant was the dancer was paired with 56-year-old English comedian, actor, and musician, Bill Bailey. Bailey is the oldest-ever winner Strictly has seen in its 18 seasons.

A win that everyone said could not happen in week 1 of the competition.


“You don’t know this but in the UK they take a vote,” Mabuse laughs from her home in London in a recent interview with FORBES AFRICA. “And they will tell you who they think the first person to go out will be. And we were voted the first couple to go out… And that motivated me and I said fine I will show you all. We will show you all.”

And show she did, in the nine-week-competition. What further drove the 30-year-old ballroom and Latin dancer to want to win is the fact that she loves her job and that she is representing her country.

“It’s in my DNA. I always say it’s because of where I come from that I am the way I am. I look at how my mom literally raised us. From the Winnie Mandelas and the Sarafinas. Women in our country are just strong. We are fighters,” she explains. “I have never met a South African woman who is just like ‘meh’.”

Mabuse has been dancing on Strictly since 2015 and won for the first time in 2019 with English actor and racing driver, Kelvin Fletcher. The format of the show, unfortunately, had to change in 2020, from having to have a smaller crew, fewer couples, and no live audience. The win feels more special to Oti because it was during a time that has been very difficult, so having something positive happen does feel “amazing.”


“In the last couple of weeks, I think it’s soaked in slowly and but I think that’s only because we’re in lockdown. But you know, people at home don’t really get to see what it meant to people other than us. We did the show, and we were kind of isolated in our own small bubble. So you didn’t get to see other than the cast and crew and what their reaction was. It’s just been absolutely unbelievable,” Mabuse says.

Mabuse also took part in the ‘IN THE SPOTLIGHT ‘segment at the FORBES WOMAN AFRICA Leading Women Summit.