Strictly's Shirley Ballas opens up about her brother David's tragic suicide: 'We've not celebrated Christmas since'
STRICTLY COME DANCING'S SHIRLEY BALLAS TALKS ABOUT HER BROTHER'S SUICIDE IN AN EMOTIONAL CHAT
Strictly's Head Judge Shirley opened up about her experience on the show and the devastating loss of her brother David to suicide on the show as she joined Andrea, Nadia, Katie and Jane.
Talking about joining the reality show, Shirley said, 'It’s been an amazing experience. I’ve never done any TV before [...] I love my job, I love the critiquing of the dancers. I love the journey of all of every celebrity that’s on there. My son [Mark Ballas] is in TV so he gave me a lot of advice. The trolling... I’ve struggled with the bullying on that. The actual show is great, but the other side of it it’s been an experience.'
Shirley also spoke emotionally about the loss of her brother David who took his own life in 2003. 'I’m going home on Saturday evening. My mum’s put a tree up for the first time – 2003 my brother took his own life. He died on the 5th of December, so we haven’t celebrated Christmas at all,' Shirley explained.
'It was a short spell [of depression]. He had this six weeks of being really down, not really feeling up to himself. My mother was with him. It was one day when my son was singing in St Paul’s Church. I spoke to David on the phone. My mother, I love her to death, but it’s not an over-communicative family. I don’t think I ever really understood to the great extent how sick he was. I don’t think my mum did either. She came to watch Mark at the church singing, it was that particular day David chose to take his life.'
Of their sibling relationship Shirley said: 'We lived on a housing estate where there was a lot of bullying. He was the voice on the housing estate when others didn’t have a voice […] He was my biggest fan you know. He was not just my brother he was like a father figure. We’d talk every day. He had a daughter called Mary and we’d talk every day about my son and his daughter. It was difficult. I lost a big part... I always felt safe with him, very safe.'
Shirley also opened up about the betryal of seeing her ex-husband Corky Ballas discuss their marriage in the papers when she first joined Strictly, Shirley explained: 'My son had said to me, "People crawl out of the woodwork, they write stories, be prepared for it". But even he said he didn’t expect it to be his father. And it came the day before my mother’s 80th birthday, which was a big celebration for me because she’d never had a party. I wanted to make sure her 80th was something she’d really enjoy.'
'Nobody knew. We just woke up to it in print,' Shirley said. 'I was married to him a long time, we have a son together, my son is the most important thing to me. So if you feel like you have to write something for money – I forgive you.'
And while talking about loneliness, Shirley revealed she's been bullied in the ballroom industry.
'I have experienced a little bit of loneliness in my industry, in my Latin and Ballroom industry. That’s a little bit more with some bullying that’s gone on for many years,' she said. 'I surround myself and put walls up to avoid that. We’re a male dominated industry and from some of the men at the very top it’s been really quite suppressing and I felt it, to the point where people hold up a video in their lectures and say, "We never want to look like this woman, don’t talk to this woman", even stopping me judge a small competition here or there. I look at myself sometimes at 57 and wonder how I’m still standing in an industry where there is a tremendous amount of jealousy and can have that loneliness. But, I’m still here.'
'I think I’m a strong character – maybe that’s half the problem with the men in my industry. Maybe that’s half the problem,' Shirley added. 'My advice to everybody is watching out for the bullies. It’s been a big part in my industry, not an easy ride.'
Watch both the videos to see Shirley's full interview talking about Strictly, her family life and dealing with bullies.