Deborah Meaden: 'Robin is hot stuff!' Strictly star says she understands how relationships with dance partners develop
- Says her husband of 28 years has nothing to worry about
By Amy Oliver for The Mail on Sunday
Published: | Updated:
Millions will know her as a formidable business woman with a penchant for power suits and an impressive line in withering put-downs.
But now Dragons Den ice maiden Deborah Meaden has revealed a hitherto unsuspected saucier side by declaring that Strictly Come Dancing partner, Robin Windsor is ‘hot stuff.’
Speaking ahead of Saturday's dance off, the married 54-year-old told the Mail On Sunday: ‘My husband is not in the least bit worried,’ she says, laughing.
Dragons' Den ice maiden Deborah Meaden has revealed a hitherto unsuspected saucier side - by declaring that her Strictly Come Dancing partner Robin Windsor is 'hot stuff' but that her husband has nothing to worry about
‘Though he did come to rehearsals and noticed that, for once, I was doing what I was told. I had to tell him not to go getting any ideas.
‘When Robin and I are dancing, of course there is something, but it’s momentary and fortunately for me I’ve got a great sense of reality. Don’t get me wrong, dance is very sensual and you have to convince your audience. You’re very close, it’s very intense and you’re going through a lot together.
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‘I’m not particularly tactile,’ she says. ‘One of the things I knew I was going to struggle with was getting up close and personal with somebody. But Robin is lovely and he’s taking it very slowly with me. He’s made me understand that standing two foot apart doesn’t look as good as me coming into him and making a connection.’
‘I’m going to be dancing live in front of 11 million people and Robin is my rock. I rely on him. We’ve had very long days together, laughed together and had lunch together. All of that has broken down all that “ooh don’t want to get too close”.
Deborah says she doesn't have any body hang-ups and describes the other women on the show as 'gorgeous'
'I’ve begun to feel why it is important to get closer - I’m fine if I understand there’s a reason for it. We’ve been doing the Cha Cha, where you rely on your partner more. When Robin says: “You’re going to have to get sassy,” I get it. I don’t get what sassy is but I understand that I need to try.’
Given the close working environment, it is hardly surprising that Strictly has become a by-word for off-screen romance.
Smouldering Welsh boxing champion Joe Calzaghe dated his dance partner Kristina Rihanoff, EastEnders star Kara Tointon moved in with her partner Artem Chigvintsev, Former Hollyoaks actress Ali Bastian and Brian Fortuna were romantically linked and starred in their own West End show.
Earlier this year, actor Jimi Mistry this year became engaged to his partner Flavia Cacace.
‘I completely understand how those relationships develop,’ Deborah added. ‘You do spend more time together than you would on a normal dating processs and it’s a great way of finding out if it does or doesn’t work. The dance sparks something so if there is that spark and you’re single then great. Why not?'
But the businesswoman dismissed any chance that she would become romantically involved. ‘After 28 years together, my husband is not worried about me. Robin and I could be cuddling on the sofa and Paul would not be worried.'
‘Obviously Paul is fully involved whether he likes it or not. I’ve got to go home and practice and Paul has occasionally found me up against the kitchen unit doing strange moves. He now understands how he has to stand if I’m going to practice being sassy. I’ve tried to cha cha cha in a sassy way and we’ve fallen into a heap on the floor, which is not so attractive.
‘The whole thing has left our dogs totally bewildered. Dogs like normal and I’m behaving in a totally abnormal fashion at the moment. They’ve started whining whenever I break into dance at home.’
Does the long-suffering Paul not object to her description of Robin as ‘hot’? ‘My husband is hot as well. Obviously.’ And her fellow Dragons? Now Deborah begins to wriggle.
‘Peter Jones is hot. Oh, Duncan has something. We’ve had our tiffs and rucks in and out of the Den, but there is something very charming and lovely about Duncan. He’s got a wicked sense of humour. I would say Duncan was hot. But I’m not rating. I’m certainly not grading the Dragons. I’m surrounded by hot men. It’s great. How lucky am I?’
But the normally controlled and self-assured Meaden admits Strictly has taken her far out of her comfort zone.
‘I’m terrified,’ she admits. ‘I’m not great at taking compliments because I always find the thing I could do better. The one thing I do accept is that I’m brave and this is the bravest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I’ve never been on the stage and have never acted, so it’s daunting.
‘Two weeks before I was asked to do Strictly I told an interviewer that I wouldn’t do it. I felt that there was a time when I would have loved to have done it, but now I was a lady of a certain age and wasn’t sure if I could give it my best.
'Peter Jones is hot. Oh, Duncan has something. We've had our tiffs and rucks in and out of the Den, but there is something very charming and lovely about Duncan,' she says of her co-stars
‘But it was the fear I felt when I was actually asked to appear that made me change my mind. I realised that it was a real challenge and rose to it. The minute I think “Oh God, I don’t want to do this because I’m scared”, is the moment I have to do something, whatever it is.
‘I certainly didn’t think it would be easy so I cleared my diary, which is telling. I didn’t make the mistake of thinking I will fit this in. I’ve said to my 19 businesses that they’re on their own for a bit.
‘In my life I’m generally in control and I’m the leader. In this rehearsal room I’m out of control for the first time and being told what to do. I’m in a situation where I know nothing and I have to listen to the expert otherwise I’ll be no good. It’s quite something and I reckon more business people should do it.
'Just remembering what it’s like to be totally out of your depth is a good lesson and actually, I’m enjoying it. I have to concentrate and take things in, but I don’t have to be the leader. It’s actually a nice holiday for me. I don’t think I could do it all the time though.
‘Peter Jones is hot. Oh, Duncan has something. We’ve had our tiffs and rucks in and out of the Den, but there is something very charming and lovely about Duncan'
‘Ultimately, I hope Strictly will allow people to see a different side to me, but I make no excuse for the person I am in the Den,’ she adds.
‘You will never, ever see me apologising or explaining for that. It’s me in that situation, but I hope people realise that nobody is like that all of the time. My life wouldn’t be worth living if I was like that all of the time. I’ve earned these laughter lines.
‘I’ve lost a bit of weight and I’m definitely more toned, but I didn’t do Strictly to lose weight and get fit. Well, maybe that was part of it. OK it IS part of it. It’s not the uber reason, but I hope that it will get me to a place where I can reset the weight button. As you get older a few pounds creep on and you get a little less fit so hopefully Strictly will take me back a few steps.
‘Will it make me more emotional? That’s an interesting one and I don’t really know yet. The rumba is the dance of love so that’s the one to look out for. I suspect there will be a time when I need to let emotion come through into the dance because you can see it in people’s eyes, but I’m not there yet. I’m on my first dance. Robin and I’s relationship is only a week old, we’re still learning about each other.
She and husband, Paul have been together for 28 years
‘Who knows, I might come out of this a completely different person. At the moment it’s like I’ve stepped through the Looking Glass and entered this world of Strictly and I’m slowly becoming a part of it.
'I also understand that I’ll step out of it. But, who knows, maybe you’ll see me in the Den with a sequined jacket and a spray tan or I’ll sashay into my next board meeting? Actually that might scare people more than usual.’
‘I dream of how far I can get but I’ve seen the other dancers and some could probably win it now. They’re younger, they’re fitter and they’ve been to theatre school. Robin keeps saying to me ‘channel Carmen’ – I keep thinking there’s two things wrong with that: one) I don’t know what that means and two) I can’t act.’
So is it daunting to compete with women younger and more glamorous than herself? ‘Not at all,’ she replies. ‘Rachel Riley is gorgeous and smart. But why would it daunt me? That’s not me. I’m annoyingly happy with the way I am. I don’t look at other women and think I wish I were her. I look at other women and think she’s lovely, she’s gorgeous.
‘In my head I think I have a lovely figure - that’s a joke by the way. Because I focus my life on business, it’s business that defines me; it’s my shop window.
'My world isn’t about am I the tallest, am I the prettiest, have I got the loveliest figure? My world is about, am I making the right decisions and investments; are my business doing well? Don’t get me wrong, I love clothes and shoes, but they’re not the thing that defines me. I can appreciate other people’s beauty. I like looking at Rachel Riley and Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Susanna Reid they’re gorgeous.’
But as befits a Dragon, Deborah is working on the principle that she can win Strictly. ‘I’ve got to hope I can win. Otherwise what’s the point? I completely understand that there are an awful lot of steps between me and that glitter ball, but wouldn’t it be amazing? Unbelievable but amazing.
‘For me, it’s all about people’s expectations. I expect people think I can’t dance at all. I couldn’t dance at all, but I’m learning.
'I’ll be gutted if I go out first. Gutted. I’m just hoping I’ve put enough time in. I think people know. It’s the ones who just turn up and do a bit who don’t go down so well with the public and I’ve been doing nine-and-a-half-hour days.’