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‘Strictly’s Johannes Radebe recalls the ‘terrible’ homophobic bullying he suffered as a child

The South African dancer discusses his journey in our new December issue.

By Steve Brown

Words: Steve Brown

Strictly’s Johannes Radebe might fill the dancefloor with confidence each week as part of the BBC One show’s dance ensemble, but the South African dancer has overcome many a hurdle to get to where he is today.

The 31-year-old, who reached the final of Strictly Come Dancing South Africa twice before joining the UK series says that the world of dance provided him with a safe place to express himself after facing “terrible” anti-gay bullying as a child.

As he poses for an exclusive new shoot in the December issue of Attitude – available to download and to order globally now – Johannes recalls: “It was verbal, it was… Everything terrible you could possibly think of.

Johannes Radebe, shot by Markus Bidaux exclusively for the December issue of Attitude

“To this day, what still boggles my mind about it is that there were adults who used to have a name for it [being gay] as well.

“Kids called me this name [which translates as] ‘sissy boy’, bringing attention to who I am, and, at that time, of course, you don’t want to be the centre of attention, you really don’t.

“I used to hide from the world. It was terrible. They used to call me names, they used to beat me. For what, you don’t understand. ‘Why are you hitting me?’

“I don’t think any child should ever experience that.”

He adds: “But I’m thankful for dance, because that was the one place I could be who I am.

“No one teased me, or if they did, my coach was on them.”

Strictly made history in September when it broadcast its first same-sex dance rountine between two professionals, and although Johannes is not partnered with a contestant this year, he says he would welcome a same-sex celebrity partner in the future.

“I would be the first person jumping up and down with joy,” he says. “Representation is really important.

“When, or if, the BBC do, it will be fantastic. I would be all up for it.”

Read Johannes’s full interview in the December issue of Attitude, out now.

Buy now and take advantage of our best-ever subscription offers: 3 issues for £3 in print, 13 issues for £19.99 to download to any device.