Strictly Come Dancing helped me feel like a woman again says popstar Anastacia
- Credit: Archant
Singer Anastacia heads to Ipswich this June. She talks about almost quitting Strictly Come Dancing and how the show helped make her feel like a woman again after breast cancer surgery.
Devastated an injury could mean the early exit of fellow celebrity dancer Melvin Odoom, Anastacia confesses she told producers of the prime time BBC show she’d leave instead.
“I said I’d like to bow out,” says the singer of their controversial decision to cancel their dance-off and rely on the public vote. Viewers complained. It was even rumoured judge Bruno Tonioli threatened to not take part in the results show.
“I felt awful I couldn’t just leave, it wasn’t good sportsmanship. The reality of me injuring a part of my body I was trying to raise awareness for was even more ironic.”
Growing up in New York, she knew how to salsa. Pro partner Brendan Cole was in heaven. She was more than up for the lifts he’d planned, laughing she was ready to emulate fellow celeb and gymnast Claudia Fragapane and “be thrown all around the dance floor”.
Rehearsals took a dark turn when she unknowingly ripped her pectoral muscles, a result of a lift they were practising and the complicated and radical reconstruction surgery she’d had after her double mastectomy.
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“I had to be really strict with my body so he could lift me. When you lift under somebody’s arm you have the pec and the lat creating that foundation. I didn’t have that so when I was bearing down I was just bearing down in the front... So much that what happened was like when a body builder lifts too much weight.
“I was sore all over. Everyone knows when you’re doing a lift you’re a mess,” laughs the so called little lady with the big voice, diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time in 2013 just 10 years after her first battle with the disease. “Brendan was lifting my big butt around and trying to have as much fun as we could.”
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When she tried the moves again two days later, she knew something was off. Tender to the touch, she felt like every piece of power in her right arm was gone. A doctor suggested she not do the show, but that wasn’t an option - no matter how much it hurt performing live, despite the reworked choreography and “really strong anti-inflammatories”.
After all, this is a woman who when she got the call about her cancer returning as she arrived at the studio ignored her writer and producer’s plea to go home; telling him “are you kidding me... Let’s write a damn song”.
“When I was in the bottom I was like ‘oh my God’, there’s no way I could do it. I didn’t know what I’d done but I’d definitely done something horrible and they (the producers) were really concerned. They wanted to go to the vote so I was like okay, this is what this show’s about I’ll do it. It was a big upset because it’d never been done before... The doctors said if you don’t use this arm as much and use the other your arm will heal. We were limited as a dancing couple but I don’t give up and neither does my partner so I really did have the fight or flight attitude.
“So yes, dancing and lifts are not my thing, it won’t be something I can do in my future but I did want to try and I was very proud to be a part of a show that allows you to - even if you’re a bionic woman,” she laughs “and you’ve biceps that are built. That’s a wonderful thing.”
Describing herself as just a “white girl with rhythm” rather than a dancer, she was knew what she’s let herself in for; with injuries and people leaving because they couldn’t hack it. I don’t get time to ask if she’s perhaps referring to Will Young’s sudden and mysterious departure.
Bubbling with excitement about her UK tour, I only got three questions out during the whole call, which she’s doing from sun-drenched Miami while I’m huddled in my cold hallway, rain pouring outside.
Raising awareness of breast cancer was her ultimate goal. Her work to that end over the last decade saw her become only the second woman to be presented with the humanitarian award at the GQ Men of the Year Awards.
Reassuring Cole she was determined to hang in there as long as she could, she announced a partnership with Cancer Research UK, making a personal donation to the charity during her time on the show.
“Finally I was able to be on a show where I could display that part of the woman people don’t get to see... The one in the videos and pictures is the strong one. The one on the show is the real one. The one that’s a little shier, nervous and putting her body out there in ways she’s not comfortable with,” adds the I’m Outta Love and Left Outside Alone star, promising to bring some of that Miami sunshine with her to Ipswich.
“I’d already come to terms with myself but... I was hoping I would find a little bit more of my femininity and I did, really truly. The costume and hair departments, the show itself, were so welcoming and supportive of everyone’s insecurities... That big show of love really was a great boost to my own spiritual, independent, feminine confidence.
“I’m excited to go into the next tour and I’m writing this album that’s coming out in September so there’s this tremendous amount of stuff I learnt and it’s just a wonderful thing to have experienced something that cool.”
With more than 30million records sold worldwide, Anastacia has one of the most recognisable voices of our time. Her last album, Ultimate Collection, reached the UK Top 10 – the sixth in her career.
She invited fans to vote for their favourite songs, rarely heard B-sides and original material. The project began to take on a life of its own.
“Some of them I’ve never sung live before so it was a nervous thing because I don’t even remember these lyrics. I’d only ever sung them for like a demo that ended up being a B-side on a single. So this whole project became really exciting and the whole album is recorded over 10 different countries... You’re into the performance two hours and only recording one song so I would always forget what I was doing or how I was doing it.
“When I went to listen back to it I was like ‘oh my God I’m actually a decent singer’,” she laughs. “I’d never really heard myself live that way before. It was very fun.”
• Anastacia brings her Ultimate Collection tour to the Ipswich Regent on June 7. For the latest entertainment news and interviews follow @WhatsonWayne on Twitter and check out our bumper What’s On event guide and arts and culture section in the paper every Thursday.