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Who is Shirley Ballas? Strictly Come Dancing 2017 head judge who has replaced Len Goodman this series

SHIRLEY Ballas shocked everyone when The Sun revealed she was set to be the new head judge on Strictly Come Dancing 2017, taking over from the fantastic Len Goodman.

But who is the champion ballroom dancer who beat the likes of Anton Du Beke and Brendan Cole to the top job? Here’s all the information you need…

Shirley Ballas is the new favourite to replace Len Goodman as Head Judge on Strictly Come Dancing
Shirley Ballas is the replacement for Len Goodman as Head Judge on Strictly Come Dancing
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Who is Shirley Ballas, how old is she and what is her background?

Shirley Ballas, 56, is a British ballroom dancer who specialises in Latin dance and has won several championships earning her the nickname, The Queen of Latin.

She grew up in Wallasey in the North of England with her mother Audrey and brother David.

Her love of ballroom dance started aged seven when she took her first class in her local hall.

The talented youngster then started competing in competitions from the age of eight and, at 15 she moved to North Yorkshire to compete with British Ballroom Champion Nigel Tiffany.

They got engaged when she was 16 and a year later they moved to London.

However, she was then asked to try out to be Sammy Stopford’s partner, they fell in love and got married and went on to become one of the fastest rising couples in ballroom dance.

Shirley couldn’t wait to step into the role
PA:Press Association

They danced together from when she was 18 to 23 and won all the major titles worldwide.

The pair then parted ways and she met Corky Ballas, who she married and had a son Mark in 1986.

Corky and Shirley competed together and won their first professional Latin title in 1984 and went on to win it a further eight years in a row.

In 1990, they moved back to the UK and went on to win the Open British Professional Latin title in 1995 and ’96.

Shirley and Corky were married until 2007

What is Shirley Ballas’ relationship with Derek and Julianne Hough?

In 1997, Shirley was a teaching trip to Salt Lake City when she met the now famous dancers Derek and Julianne Hough.

Their parents were going through a divorce when they were aged about eight and 11 and Derek asked Shirley if he could come and live with her in the UK.

He went to live with his coaches Shirley and Corky and Julianne joined him a few months later.

They only intended to stay for a year of training but Derek stayed for 10 and Julianne returned to the US after five years.

Derek and Julianne Hough were coached and lived with Shirley Ballas and her husband Corky in London
Derek and Julianne Hough were coached and lived with Shirley Ballas and her husband Corky in London
Getty Images

Derek and Julianne, along with Shirley’s son Mark, were trained by the couple at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, learning everything from song to dance and gymnastics.

Mark and Julianne danced together and became the youngest couple to the win the British Open and the World Junior Championships.

All three went on to work as professional dancers on the American version of Dancing With The Stars with Julianne winning seasons 4 and 5, Mark won season 6 and Derek finished top on five separate occasions.

While Derek credits the couple for his success as a dancer, Julianne claimed she was  “abused, mentally, physically, everything,” during her time in London.

Shirley is the favourite to replace Strictly’s Len Goodman, second left, after dazzling bosses at a secret screen test
Shirley replaced Strictly’s Len Goodman, second left, after dazzling bosses at a secret screen test
Getty Images

What TV experience does Shirley Ballas have?

Shirley was previously a judge on the American version of Dancing With The Stars and a source said she was “complete natural” during her audition for Strictly Come Dancing.

She even outshone job rivals, show favourites Anton Du Beke and Brendan Cole, who also tried out for the plum role.

Speaking about landing the top job, she told The Sun: “I am so excited and over the moon to have been given this wonderful opportunity.

“I can’t wait to get in to the ballroom and be part of the incredible and respected judging panel. Strictly is so loved by the British public, I have always been a massive fan.  I just can’t wait!”

Is Shirley Ballas married?

Shirley has already been touched by the Strictly love curse when her ex-husband Corky left her for former Strictly pro Kristina Rihanoff after he became her teacher in 2003.

She divorced her second husband in 2007 but his relationship with Kristina is said to have fizzled out the following year — her first season on Strictly.

Kristina, 39, is now with former England rugby star Ben Cohen, 39.

They were partnered on the show in 2013 and have a daughter together.

In an interview with  The Sun, Shirley admitted she understands how the Strictly curse happens.

She told Dan Wootton: “If you’re locked up in a room and you’re coming out in your little sensual clothing and men are baring chests and you’re there every week and you have to do romance, it’s difficult not to have chemistry.

“I mean we need chemistry on the show. Who’s to say who falls in love with who?”

She explained: “I understand life. I wouldn’t say particularly it’s down to Strictly.

“Maybe they were having problems before Strictly. It depends doesn’t it? We’re not inside those doors to tell or to judge really.”

When is Strictly Come Dancing on TV?

Strictly Come Dancing launched on September 9 on BBC One, with the live shows kicking off on September 23.

Strictly always airs on BBC One in two parts. The main show is on Saturday normally around 7pm and the results show airs on Sunday at a similar time.

There will be a Christmas special again in 2017, with the celebrity participants expected to be announced in early November.

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