AS Strictly’s oldest ever contestant Angela Rippon stunned viewers on Saturday’s show with her sensational footwork and stunning leg lifts.
The 78-year-old’s spectacular performance may have surprised viewers of the BBC1 dance competition, but she has paved the way throughout her six-decade career.
After landing a series of jobs previously reserved for men or the upper class, she now proves that mature women can compete with rivals a quarter of her age.
Angela, who turns 79Monat said: “When I look at the younger people I know I’m not as fit or strong, that’s just a medical fact.
“But I play tennis, go to Pilates and ballet classes, so I’m pretty fit for someone my age.
“I told my professional partner Kai Widdrington that there are things I can do and things I can’t do. I just want to do everything right. I told him, ‘Challenge me’.”
Kai certainly did that when he helped Angela perform a cha-cha to Shirley Bassey’s dance anthem ‘Get The Party Started’ during Strictly’s first live show.
She received a standing ovation from the studio audience, judge Motsi Mabuse and head judge Shirley Ballas.
‘The Whole Nine Yards’
Angela finished joint third on the scoreboard, just one point behind 20-year-old EastEnders actor Bobby Brazier and four points behind top actor Nigel Harman, who is 28 years her junior.
The reaction on social media was explosive, with sports presenter and fellow former Strictly cast member Dan Walker saying: “Give her the glitter ball now.”
And Angela’s professional partner Kai appeared to speak for the nation when he took to Instagram to describe her performance as “iconic”.
For many, the decision to sign up to Strictly would be a brave one, but for Angela – who hosted the show’s quieter predecessor, Come Dancing, from 1988 to 1991, it was a question of: “Why not?”
She told Radio Times: “I love dancing.
“I’ve been involved in dance for a very long time and this will be the opportunity to do what so many people say to me: ‘God, I would love to be in this program’.”
“Dancing with one of these professionals, learning in the hands of an expert how to do it right, the clothes, the glamour, the whole nine yards. “Why shouldn’t you?”
That’s the question Plymouth-born Angela has asked herself at every point in her media career – and why she’s never worried about so-called “glass ceilings” blocking her rise.
In 1975, aged 30, she became Britain’s first permanent female national newsreader.
This was no easy task given that the Beeb’s screens were still full of Oxbridge-educated, middle-aged, middle-class men.
In contrast, she was born to Edna, a seamstress, and John, a Royal Marine, and had left school at 17 before working her way up in local newspapers and on regional television.
But after landing the job presenting BBC One’s main evening show The Nine O’Clock News, her star rose so quickly that she starred in Morecambe and Wise’s Christmas show the following year – revealing a whole new side.
In a skit that began with her reading a few grim headlines, she then stood up and began a boisterous dance routine to “Let’s Face The Music And Dance” with Eric and Ernie.
In 1977 she became the first presenter of Top Gear, and in 1983 she co-hosted the first ever Good Morning Britain breakfast show for TV-am on ITV, some 31 years earlierdid the same with the modern incarnation.
She was also the first female presenter of Come Dancing from 1988 to 1991 – which gave her some surprising connections to Strictly.
Angela said: “I feel like a grandmother! When I met one of the lead choreographers on Strictly he said: “You won’t remember but I was a contestant on Come Dancing.”
“One of the professionals told me, ‘I became a dancer because of you. I stayed up late watching Come Dancing and you were the host.”
“And three of the other pros told me that their teachers were also candidates.
“From the late 1980s to today, things have come full circle. It’s great that everyone said that.”
Despite being showered with admiration and praise, she remains humble about the fact that she still works on television as co-host of BBC One consumer show Rip Off Britain and also appears on Strictly.
And Angela – who was married to engineer Christopher Dare for 22 years until 1989 – is still determined to continue breaking those glass ceilings.
She said: “I want to be able to work in a job I love for as long as I can and for as long as people keep me busy.
“People told me, ‘You’ll never hire anyone over 50.'”
“Well, there’s me, Gloria Hunniford and Julia Somerville, and we’re in the 15th year of Rip Off Britain – we’re still hanging in there.”
- Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday at 6.20pm.
MY SEVEN STEPS TO FITNESS
By Emma Pietras
Read more at the Scottish Sun
ANGELA said yesterday she took part in the competition because she wanted to “get the message across” that dance can help older people stay healthy, happy and fit. Here are her fitness tips. . .
- Stand-up test: Stand barefoot, cross one leg in front of the other, and then sit cross-legged on the floor. Then stand up in the same way. Repeat often.
- Eat purple: From red cabbage to eggplant to blackcurrants and blueberries, the foods can help prevent clogged arteries.
- Cook from scratch: Avoid canned or packaged foods and use organic and regional products.
- Try supplements: I take bacteria balancing acidophilus after food poisoning, cod liver oil capsules for joints, and ginseng for overall vitality.
- Exercise: I do tennis, cycling and Pilates.
- Scrub your face: Avoid tea and coffee and drink water to keep the skin hydrated. Cleanse and exfoliate regularly.
- Forgot age: It’s just a number. Forget your age and do something to distract yourself. . . such as dancing.
FORMER tennis champion Annabel Croft is hoping her talent with a racket will help her speed up this weekend.
Having just made sevens in her debut cha-cha-cha on Saturday, she now has to learn an entirely new style for her next dance.
Annabel, 57, below, said: “In tennis you stand on your tiptoes and bend over, which helps, but there are a lot of steps. At first I thought, ‘This is scary,’ but now it feels beautiful.”
On the spin-off show Strictly: It Takes Two, Annabel and her dance partner Johannes Radebe spoke to new co-host Fleur East, who has replaced Rylan Clark.
Johannes said of Annabel: “When I saw her first steps, I thought: ‘Something special awaits me as a teacher.’
ANGIE WITH THE FLOOR
TV PRESENTER Angela Scanlon has revealed her body is already feeling the heat of Strictly training.
The 39-year-old mother of two, along with professional dancer Carlos Gu, said: “It’s very busy. My pelvic floor is under pressure.
“But from an energetic point of view, the Jive this weekend probably suits me and Carlos a little better. Last weekend’s tango tried to curb that in some ways.
“I was just relieved when we did the last lap that I hadn’t rotted myself.”
Meanwhile, actor Layton Williams – along with Nikita Kuzmin – had to completely forget about his cheeky samba moves to prepare for a quickstep on Saturday.
He said: “I asked, ‘What transferable skills can I take with me this week?’ and Nikita said: ‘Nothing’.”
It was also announced that Kevin Clifton would return to co-host a choreography slot alongside his sister Karen.