Bake Off star John Whaite has said the love he and Johannes Radebe received during Strictly Come Dancing outweighed any “trolling”.
He and professional dancer Radebe became the first all-male pairing on the BBC One show last year.
The couple made the final, but lost out to deaf soap star Rose Ayling-Ellis and her professional partner, Giovanni Pernice.
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Whaite said: “I guess we both kind of thought that it would be better if, when I got offered to do the first same-sex male couple, I thought maybe I should dance with a straight man.
“Because I just thought the flak we would receive as two gay men would be just insurmountable, because we’ve been conditioned to expect that – we were both bullied at school and trolling has never been as bad as it is now on the internet.
“But we both kind of felt that separately, and only when we came together on our Strictly experience did we talk about that and realise that we had that same trepidation, that same anxiety.
“But we were pleased to say that the love we received far outweighed any trolling, because we did receive some trolling… but we don’t focus on that because the block button is a very powerful tool and once people are out of sight, they’re out of mind.”
The 32-year-old TV star added: “And the amount of support we had from people saying… even when people say things like, you know, ‘I was very doubtful at first that this would work. But it’s changed my point of view’. How great is that? You know, you don’t have to be angry that they once had that opinion; what we have to celebrate is the fact that they were open-minded enough to watch us and actually change their opinion.
“And that is how change is created, isn’t it? Slowly, gently, small baby steps to fabulous music and lots of brilliant costumes, darling!”
Whaite and 34-year-old Radebe are part of the star-studded line-up for the forthcoming Strictly Come Dancing tour, which starts in Birmingham on January 20.
South African Radebe said of his Strictly experience: “I think it has given me a lot of confidence to go out into the world and just be and know that it is OK to be who you are. It was beautiful. It was absolutely beautiful. Because even my family back home, they’re different people because of this. So it’s really been amazing, as you can imagine.”
GMB presenter Richard Madeley, who said he is “obsessed” with Strictly, ruled out a turn on the dance floor, saying he is “too old”.
He told co-host Susanna Reid: “Physically, I mean – I’m 65 … it’s my back.”
Strictly finalist AJ Odudu was forced to pull out of the series and most recently the Strictly tour after injuring her foot.
She will be replaced by EastEnders star Maisie Smith, who was a finalist in the 2020 series.