Dance of my life: Soprano Katherine Jenkins reveals how she is counting on U.S. Strictly to rebuild her confidence following split from fiance
00:17 GMT, 30 March 2012
As a teenager she lost her beloved father. As a student she was the victim of an attempted rape. In her 20s she became the focus of intense scrutiny after admitting taking cocaine and ecstasy. And last year she revealed she’d been bullied and harassed by an online stalker.
But for the 31-year-old mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins, the very public end of her engagement to former Blue Peter presenter Gethin Jones was the ‘toughest few weeks of my life’.
Katherine was meant to be preparing for her fairy-tale wedding right now. Instead, she is sitting in a Hollywood dance studio, where she spends hours on end every day training with a man who she met just a month ago in order to compete on America’s Dancing With The Stars.
Spring in her step: Katherine is hoping her new project will help her move on
As I join her before another rigorous training session begins, Katherine, wearing black tights, looks visibly thinner. ‘I’ve lost a stone-and-a-half,’ she admits. The stress ‘Yes,’ she replies quietly, already close to tears.
Is she coping emotionally ‘I’m seeing myself still as mending,’ she answers. ‘I’m getting there. I feel like I’ve found something that’s making me smile and laugh again, and that’s really nice. This has come at the right time.’
This is Katherine’s first interview since the split that shocked showbiz and it quickly becomes apparent she’s far from over it.
Katherine and Gethin were Wales’s most glamorous couple — she the angelic-voiced beauty with a 15 million fortune, he the handsome primetime TV star.
They met in 2005 when she went on the BBC’s Blue Peter which he was hosting. They became a couple in 2007 after he was a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing and she made a singing appearance on the show. In February 2011 Gethin presented her with a 10,000 diamond engagement ring as he proposed during a romantic Mexican holiday. As recently as last November, Katherine said she was looking forward to taking a break from the spotlight to start a family.
Up close and personal: Katherine in rehearsals with dance partner Mark Ballas
As a result, the pair’s New Year’s Eve announcement, made through coordinated messages on their Twitter profiles, that they were ending their four-year relationship came as a bombshell.
Two months later she said she would be relocating to LA to take part in Dancing With The Stars, one of America’s most popular TV series watched by 20 million viewers every week. Katherine would be the only British contestant, competing against big names like 67-year-old singing legend Gladys Knight and former Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova.
Friends of her former fianc whispered
the move was an illustration of how the singer would put her desire to
crack the notoriously difficult American market before anything else.
Cruelly, friends of her former fianc whispered the move was an illustration of how the singer would put her desire to crack the notoriously difficult American market before anything else.
Katherine flatly denies those claims, insisting that producers approached her only in February, after the split was announced. Struggling with her new single life while on tour, she decided learning to dance would give her a focus.
‘My gut feeling was: “I feel like this is the right time in my life to do this.” This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity had come to me,’ she recalls. At short notice, Katherine’s management had to clear her diary for three months, including delaying recording her next album. But she didn’t want it to look like running away from personal problems.
Happier times: With former fiance, TV presenter Gethin Jones
She insists: ‘It’s just that it was something I’d always wanted to do and now seems the right time.’
The Neath-born singer has agreed with Gethin not to discuss the circumstances of the breakdown of the relationship, but she has clearly struggled with the decision to split.
I tell her she finally looked happy again after performing her first dance on the show last week. ‘I definitely think . . .’ Katherine falters.
‘Oh, I’m silly,’ she chokes, as her eyes well up and tears start flowing down her porcelain cheeks. ‘I think anybody knows if you’re going through something like this how hard it is. You need other things to focus on to make you happy again.’
Katherine’s radiographer mother Susan has flown in this week to provide moral support and ‘try to make me eat properly’.
Top marks: So far Katherine has drawn high praise from the judges
‘I’m burning so much energy now that it’s hard to put the weight back on. But I like to be curvy so I’m trying not to lose any more,’ she sighs. ‘But I do want to be healthy, too — there are so many skimpy costumes to wear. That scares me!’
At that moment, Mark Ballas —America’s
equivalent of Strictly’s Brendan Cole — bounds into the room. The
British-born professional dancer has become a heartthrob thanks to his
raunchy routines with celebrities as diverse as Sarah Palin’s daughter
Bristol and American socialite Kim Kardashian.
made the final six times and won twice, and is determined to win with
Katherine, whom he affectionately calls ‘the Welsh wiggler’.
Best foot forward: With The Mail's Dan Wootton
The bond between the rather tactile pair is evident. Katherine runs up to greet him with a hug. But she is insistent their relationship is purely one of friendship. ‘Come on, I’m very newly single,’ she scolds. ‘I would not be rushing into anything like that. Besides, he has a girlfriend.’
Speculation about their relationship began after Mark was spotted intimately holding on to Katherine’s leg after a night out at London’s Brompton Club at the start of the month.
‘It’s insane,’ Katherine argues. ‘We had met not even 12 hours earlier that day. I had arranged a dinner for some of his friends who live in London and some of my friends. It was a get-to-know-you thing. We got into the cab and he put his hand on my knee to ask if I was OK. That was it! And all of a sudden it was: “They’re getting married!” ’
She was nervous when they first met.
‘Having been a fan of the show, I know you can absolutely see it if the
couples don’t get on. I was hoping we clicked, and we did. He’s totally
on my wavelength.’
many examples of Strictly partnerships resulting in romantic affairs,
often sparked by the physical intensity of dancing together for so long
‘Yes, it is intimate,’ Katherine
concedes. He spends most of the time holding on to your body, doesn’t
he ‘All the time, yes. I think that’s why we are quite affectionate
with each other in terms of things like him putting his hand on my knee.
It’s nothing compared to when we are at this studio and have to really
also been whispers about Katherine’s friendship with Derek Hough, the
former boyfriend of singer Cheryl Cole, who is another professional
dancer on the show.
pair are also clearly close and Katherine is comfortable being
physically affectionate with him and engaging in playful banter between
breaks in training. However, she says they are only ‘good friends’.
‘There’s a group of us, including Derek, who are in a similar age bracket and will go out most nights after training,’ she explains.
I suggest that now she’s single and on a favourite TV show, there must be plenty of interest from American men. ‘A little bit,’ she purrs. Then, feigning horror: ‘They’re much more forward.
Judgement time: Katherine and dancing partner Mark Ballas wait the verdict
‘Mark and Derek were trying to explain how the dating culture here is different. You can date a few different people at the same time! But I’m happy to have the distraction of dancing. Dating isn’t going to happen.’
She is terrified about some of the provocative moves she is going to have to do in her jive routine. ‘I’m having a massive panic — Mark wants me to raunch it up,’ she cackles. ‘Usually I stand in one place in front of an orchestra. I’m not used to shaking my bits, let alone shaking my bits for America. It’s daunting.’
Producers have provided Katherine with an apartment in the same Hollywood block where show judges Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli live while in Los Angeles. But she has been forced to keep her distance from them despite knowing them well. ‘It’s weird. I know them because . . .’ she pauses and takes a deep breath, ‘. . . Gethin was a contestant on Strictly.
In good shape: Katherine has lost a stone in preparation for the show
‘But it’s set up here so I only see them on the show when they are giving their comments on my performance. I don’t socialise with them. I love Bruno especially, but it’s best for the competition if it’s all kept separate. I’d worry if people thought they were giving me special treatment.’
It also frustrates her that she continues to have a reputation for being demanding. ‘The diva tag just won’t go away,’ she says exasperatedly. ‘I think that’s because people want me to be like that. It makes it more interesting if I have thrown a phone at somebody or a water bottle. Sadly that’s just not me.’
After training she takes me on a tour
of the rehearsal facilities where she spends her days. While Strictly
contestants have to perform in pokey rooms all over London, Dancing With
The Stars has purpose-built facilities complete with six training
studios and a suite for spray tanning.
we walk into the kitchen, the show’s real diva, Gladys Knight, is
nibbling on a chocolate cupcake. ‘Have one,’ she demands, pushing the
plate towards Katherine. ‘You need the energy.’ Naturally, Katherine
declines. ‘Because we’re all under one roof, it’s a bit like being at
school. I love it,’ Katherine says of the set-up. ‘As a solo artist, I’m
so used to being alone. Now I’m in a team of people who I love.’
She has her own cameraman who films every moment — ‘The only time they don’t is when I go to the toilet!’
her first run-through of the jive (she’ll have done it 30 times by the
end of the day) she twists her ankle and yelps in pain. Mark cuddles her
and assures her she is OK.
After two years of tough slog, the American media are finally showing interest in Katherine. Photographers wait outside the studio.
‘It’s completely different,’ she says. ‘When I came here before to make an album for three months, I was under the radar. I could walk around and never be photographed.’
But, contrary to reports, she has no
plans to relocate to America permanently. She has retained the 4.7
million eight-bedroom mansion in Richmond, South-West London, where she
lived with Gethin.
see myself as a homegirl. Wales is my first home. London is my second
home — I’ve been there 14 years now. No matter what does happen here, I
will always live in the UK. I know that.’ But a Hollywood film career
might beckon. ‘After doing Doctor Who, I’m open-minded to doing more
acting’ she reveals. ‘Part of the reason you do a show like this is
because it creates other opportunities you haven’t had before.’
Happy family: Katherine (Second right) says she gets on well with the other competitors on the programme
The only downside of the increased attention is more security risks for the singer who has been the target of stalkers back in the UK.
It’s not surprising she is cautious. On her tour in February, a lone male fan evaded security to end up alone in her dressing room as she prepared for a performance in Bournemouth. ‘It was the craziest thing ever — I couldn’t believe it,’ she exclaims. ‘I don’t know how it happened. He got past all the security and walked straight in.
‘I didn’t know what that man was capable of, so I thought I’d be polite and defuse the situation. Thankfully, it worked.’
On her return to the UK, Katherine is due to make two major public appearances.
is ‘in talks’ to perform at a ‘big occasion’ surrounding the London
Olympics, although it’s unlikely to be at either the opening or closing
ceremony. ‘I’m told they’re going to be a pop and rock celebration with
no classical music,’ she says.
also accepted a request from Buckingham Palace to sing the national
anthem for the Queen at the Epsom Derby for the Diamond Jubilee
celebrations. ‘I will never get used to being invited to sing for her,’
Katherine is an admirer of the Royal Family and knows both young Princes, who she says are ‘doing an amazing job’.
I remind her how she once said Prince Harry was more handsome than Prince William. ‘Oh my God! I didn’t remember I said that,’ she says squirming.
‘You’re both single now,’ I joke.
‘Stop the matchmaking! Look how uncomfortable I’m getting,’ she giggles.
Two days later and Katherine is squirming again. She’s about to perform on live TV from the legendary CBS lot in Hollywood. There is Colosseum-style seating and the 900-strong audience is much more vocal than their British equivalent, whooping and hollering. It’s like Strictly on steroids.
Backstage, as she waits to be called, Katherine, wearing a figure-hugging sequined dress, is trembling. ‘As a singer, I am so calm. I have never been this nervous, ever. A few people suggested I should have a shot of tequila but I couldn’t do that.’
I take my seat next to her mum Susan and auntie Louise Weaver, who have brought Welsh flags to wave.
The quality of dancing is much higher than on Strictly, especially given it is only week two. But when she takes to the floor, Katherine makes the other celebrities look like amateurs.
She gets two nines and an eight as Bruno declares: ‘The blonde bombshell is unleashed!’ He tells me later he wanted to give her a ten, but felt it was too early in the competition. For the second week in a row Katherine is at the top of the leader board. But after the show, she is modest.
‘I was in such a panic beforehand. I’m really hard on myself. I thought I’d forgotten my routine.’
She adds: ‘The jive was going to the extreme. I’m in this tiny tassled dress, shaking it about, and my mum’s in the front row. Oh my God!’
For the last two hours, it is clear Katherine has forgotten about the trials and tribulations of the past three months. ‘When the music starts and I get into it. I love it,’ she says euphorically.
‘When I dance, I forget everything else and just feel completely happy. I need that at the moment.’