Strictly Come Dancing judge Shirley Ballas defends ‘perfect gentleman’ Giovanni Pernice

Strictly Come Dancing judge Shirley Ballas has defended Giovanni Pernice, after he was axed from the show amid allegations of poor behaviour toward contestants.

Ballas is head judge on the popular dancing contest and is the first one to defend Pernice, calling him a “perfect gentleman”. The 63-year-old called the allegations “gossip” and said “things are blown way out of all proportion”.

Pernice, who had been a staple on the competition since 2015, has faced a flurry of allegations of poor behaviour after several former celebrity contestants, including Amanda Abbington, Ranvir Singh, and Laura Whitmore, raised questions about his teaching methods while on the show.

The 33-year-old broke his silence last week as he called out “untrue stories” about his behaviour, saying he was looking forward to “ultimately clearing my name and establishing the truth.”

Speaking at a panel to promote her forthcoming crime novel, Ballas emphasised that she was still close with Pernice as she said: “I just spoke to Giovanni 30 minutes before coming here and I am going to one of his ballando classes to teach the jive. He is coming to my party on Sunday.”

Reflecting on the allegations, The Sun reports that the Murder on the Dance Floor author said, “You know, I can only talk from my own perspective. I have known Giovanni for ten years. He has always been to me — and I will make that clear, to me — a perfect gentleman.”

She continued, “I know he is a hard worker. He wants people to do the very best that they can do. Obviously, in my life, I was bullied a lot. I don’t condone bullying on any path.

“But I don’t believe gossip because things are blown way out of all proportion and it can turn into a great big snowball. So my feeling for Giovanni is, let them do this investigation and the truth will come out. So we don’t judge anybody until I know absolutely, 100 percent.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Ballas, who joined the show in 2017 when she replaced Len Goodman as head judge, added that she had only ever had a positive experience with Pernice, “I have never ever, ever, ever experienced any ill will, bad feeling or bad sportsmanship or rudeness from him.

“My mother loves him. It does not matter when he is on tour, or where he is or what he is doing, he will make his way across and he will say ‘Lovely to see you Shirley. Lovely to see your mum.’”

During a recent appearance on This Morning, former Strictly professionals James and Ola Jordan commented on Pernice’s exit, with James stating it is “very sad” that the situation reached this conclusion.