Strictly star Joanne Clifton has revealed how she hopes that her painful history of extreme dieting will be a warning to other young dancers.
The 35-year-old, now a musical theatre star, revealed on social media last month that she stopped eating while dancing in Italy and ended up dangerously thin and with health issues.
Ahead of her return to Glasgow this week with The Rocky Horror Show, she explained: “My mum asked me if I was sure I wanted to put it out there and I said yes, because if it helps even one person then it’s worth it.”
Joanne, who won the Glitterball trophy with Ore Oduba in 2016, revealed she only ate half a mini croissant a day while training and working in Europe.
As she trains to get into dancing shape for a new Burn The Floor tour with her brother and fellow Strictly winner Kevin next year, she said feared she was falling into her old ways.
“My mum had sent me some pictures she’d found and it brought it all back, seeing myself like that,” she continued.
“When I was in Italy I thought it would be better to be really skinny. I thought I looked good but looking back I realise I didn’t.
“I came home to do a show and my mum walked past me in the hotel because she didn’t recognise me.
“I ended up with anaemia and was fainting all the time. I didn’t have the necessary energy.
“Around the same time my mum found the pictures, I had been thinking I needed to get back into dancing shape for Burn The Floor.
“I don’t eat after the show while I’m on tour, so it’s midday before I eat again, and I realised it was very easy for me to go back to not eating at all.
“I was surprised at how easy I found it was to slip back into that, as so many years had passed. So I wanted to let people know if you want to be a dancer, you don’t have to be really skinny, you need to have energy and muscles to be the best you can.
“And secondly, if you know someone with a past eating disorder who is talking about going on a diet, keep an eye on them.”
Joanne is playing Janet in the cult classic Rocky Horror.
Despite learning the Time Warp at her parents’ dance school when she was just four, she didn’t know anything about the show until she was asked to audition.
“I don’t think anything quite prepares you for Rocky Horror and all the shout-outs from the audience,” she said.
“I think the message of the show, about being who you want to be, is why it’s still so popular. As the song in the show says, Don’t Dream It, Be It.”
“I have Rocky Horror until November, where we finish up at the Edinburgh Playhouse, then panto, and after that I’m going to New York to study. I’d always wanted to go to theatre school but never did, so where better to do it than New York? I’m doing a month of musical theatre followed by a film acting course.
“After that, I’m into rehearsals with Kevin for Burn The Floor.
“We’ve not danced together since we were children. We went off on our separate ways – Kevin doing Latin American while I did ballroom – so we didn’t compete against each other.
“Strictly was the first time in years we’d competed – and I managed to beat him!”
Joanne was on stage when the news came through that Kevin had won Strictly last year.
“They definitely deserved it,” she added.
The Rocky Horror Show, King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Tuesday until Saturday
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