Arts & Culture

Nicola Adams makes Strictly history3 min read

Former GB boxer Nicola Adams hoping to knock out the competition in first same-sex pairing in Strictly Come Dancing’s 16-year history.

Alongside the ordinary glitter and sparkles of the world of Strictly Come Dancing, audiences can expect some cha-cha changes to this year’s lineup.

Nicola Adams OBE made history when Strictly Come Dancing 2020 returned on Saturday 17 October. In a monumental step for LGBTQ representation Strictly Come Dancing welcomed a same-sex celebrity pairing for the first time.

On this year’s show, she joined an all-star lineup including EastEnders actor Maisie Smith and Made in Chelsea’s Jamie Laing who will also be vying to win the coveted glitter-ball trophy.

Who is Nicola Adams?

Nicola Adams OBE is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, who first catapulted to fame at the 2012 London Olympic games. The flyweight boxer then successfully retained her gold medal in the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

The following year she launched her professional career, signing with boxing promoter Frank Warren. And in just her fifth professional bout, she won the vacant WBO flyweight title in October 2018 against Isabel Millan. Devastatingly, Adams tore her pupil in the first round of her title defence, which forced her into early retirement. Despite this, she successfully defended the title with a split decision draw against Maria Salinas.

She is no doubt hoping some of the quick, slick footwork that took her to the world championship will bring her further success when she steps into the Strictly ballroom.

Aside from her professional career, Adams has gained much recognition for her role in the LGBTQ community. In 2012 she was named by the Independent as the most influential LGBT person in Britain. That same year, she became the first openly gay person to win Olympic gold.

Nicola Adams, Credit: Diva Magazine

A look into the history

When the show first aired in 2004, the political landscape was markedly different for gay people living in the UK. At this point, discrimination in employment settings based on sexuality had not yet been outlawed. It was not until mid-2013 that the marriage act was passed allowing for first same-sex, marriages.

Even so, the world of ballroom remained hostile to change; in 2014 the British Dance Council launched a bid to out rule same-sex couples from competing. In line with belligerent attitudes Strictly continued to defer its first same-sex couple until 2020. Even as recent as 2018, producers denied Dr. Ranj Singh his request to have a male dance partner. This was despite support from judges Shirley Ballas and Craig Revel Horwood.

A spokesperson from Strictly said on the matter: “Strictly has chosen the longstanding ballroom dancing format of mixed-sex couples and at the moment we have no plans to introduce same-sex couples.”

Despite this, several international adaptations have already taken the step. Alfons Haider was fourth in the Austrian version of the show in 2011.

A (quick)step in the right direction

Despite not allowing Dr. Ranj Singh a male dance partner in 2018, Strictly showed signs of progression in the following season when Johannes Radebe and fellow professional Graziano Di Prima performed together to Emeli Sande‘s “Shine.”

The performance received over 200 complaints. However, that did not deter the show from taking the step for greater inclusivity. In a year that has been taken over by strict calls to socially-distance, viewers can now look forward to social progression. The much-loved talent show has returned to screens and is more inclusive than ever.

You can watch series 18 of Strictly Come Dancing on BBC iPlayer.

The Judges, Credit: BBC

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