Lisa Riley struggles to film Emmerdale following Strictly co-star Robin Windsor’s death

The soap star Lisa Riley has opened up about her grief following the death of Robin Windsor, who was her professional partner on Strictly Come Dancing in 2012.

Windsor died aged 44 on 21 June following struggles with his mental health.

In a new interview, Riley has told The Mirror that she’s found it difficult to portray Mandy Dingle, the character she has starred as in Emmerdale from 1995-2001, and then from 2019 onwards. “There have been days when I didn’t want to go in front of the camera. I had to paint Mandy Dingle on – put the wig and lashes on and go out there. But it’s so painful.”

The Emmerdale actor, 47, compared the experience to when she lost her mother to breast cancer in July 2012, just before her appearance on series 10 of Strictly. “So to lose my best friend as well… It was like, ‘Why does God take the best?’ It’s a pain like no other. He was such a big part of my life.

“It feels weird. I should be ringing him and going, ‘Hi babe, do you like my make-up?’ That’s what I used to do. I’ve lost that.”

However, she added that her Emmerdale co-stars have been supporting her. “All of my friends at Emmerdale have helped me. The Dingle sisters all share a dressing room and I can’t thank those girls enough. There are six of us. And everyone in that room has been a godsend beyond words. They have given me the energy to keep filming. They have been a great therapy.”

On Friday 21 June, Riley accepted a special posthumous award on behalf of Windsor at the British LGBT Awards, alongside his sister Hayley and his aunt Alison.

Lisa Riley, Windsor’s aunt Alison and his sister Hayley accepted his award (Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)
Lisa Riley, Windsor’s aunt Alison and his sister Hayley accepted his award (Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images)

Riley said: “Mental health in the gay community is really bad, and if I can help in any way… then I’ve done my bit.

“I wish he was here, he should be on my arm covered in sparkles and having a ball, but the energy he had is imprinted on my heart.

“He would be shining down and laughing at us. His vibrancy, energy and zest for life was out there for everyone to see. He wasn’t a hidden gay man, he was a proud, proud gay man.”

Windsor had been an ambassador for the mental health charity SANE since 2018. He supported Stonewall’s campaigns for LGBTQ+ equality. In 2015, he performed at the Novello Theatre in the West End to raise money for The Make A Difference Trust, a charity which supports people with HIV.

Windsor appeared as a professional dancer in series eight to 12 of Strictly and in several Christmas specials from 2010 to 2015. He left the show due to recurring back problems.