STRICTLY sensation Debbie McGee has told how hitting the dance floor has helped bring her sparkle back.
Magician husband Paul died of a brain tumour at the age of 77 in March of last year, leaving Debbie distraught.
“If this had been last year it wouldn’t have been the same,” said Debbie, 58.
“I was still very upset with my grief and much weaker as a person.
“This came at the right time. It’s been 18 months and I’ve done some other jobs that have slowly been getting me back to being Debbie.
“When Paul died I completely lost my sparkle.
“I laughed but I wasn’t happy. Strictly has given me the sincere feeling of happiness back.
“It’s been an incredible uplift.”
Paul took part in Strictly in 2010, partnered with Ola Jordan.
Debbie says she can still feel his presence in the BBC’s Elstree Studios every Saturday night when she films the BBC show and everything she learned from him over the years has helped towards making her one of this year’s biggest successes.
“He taught me a lot about cameras and how to work a studio,” she added.
“So that’s always with me. I know he’d be encouraging me and I think Paul knew I had this in me.
“He was very aware of what I was capable of so he’d have known I’d have achieved what I have.”
Debbie, who danced a powerful tango last night to I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas with pro partner Giovanni Pernice, has won an army of new fans with her energetic routines and elegant moves.
And she says she’s delighted to have become an inspirational figure to so many.
“I get stopped everywhere I go. It’s not just older women. I get girls in their 20s who say they want to look like me when they’re my age.
“They say they’ve started going to the gym and swimming and dancing. That’s fantastic.
“I think the secret to not feeling old is to believe you can still do everything you could when you were 20.”
Debbie faced early criticism for having had ballet lessons when she was younger but mum Babs, who’s 80, is the one who has given her a real dancing boost.
“She and my dad always used to dance at parties and weddings and they loved jiving,” said Debbie, who is hoping to keep on dancing on the Strictly Live tour in January.
“Since my dad died she goes out to dance with her brother to a British Legion on a Saturday night when she’s not coming to the studio.”
This year’s Strictly has had the usual romance rumours, with gossip about Gemma Atkinson and pro Gorka Marquez. Giovanni had a relationship with actress Georgia May Foote, with whom he reached the final in 2015.
“I think it happens everywhere when people work together every day. I don’t think it happens more on Strictly than anywhere else.”