Strictly’s Shirley Ballas went to doctor for first time in her career as trolls targeted her ‘bingo arms’ and ‘big ears’

Strictly Come Dancing head judge Shirley Ballas might be one of the most glamorous women on TV, but this year this star has told OK! that behind the scenes she's been struggling.

Shirley has had to deal with constant jibes and online trolling on this year's show, with some even branding her “sexist” for her critiques of the celebrity dancers.

But most shocking have been the comments from trolls ridiculing the size of her ears. In fact, It's become so bad that for the first time in a career spanning five decades, Shirley, 62, has had to consult her doctor about her low moods and anxiety.

She tells us she has never experienced the kind of hate she has had this series and she is unsure where it has all come from. “[I’m] emotional and low and I’m not going to lie to you, it did affect me this year for sure,” she told us. “I have [been to the doctor]. Fifty years, I’ve been in this industry! Fifty years! I’ve got awards for everything I’ve done. I’ve trained all the top people in the world. To get somebody who thinks I don’t understand what I’m talking about… Craig [Revel Horwood] says, ‘Oh, let it go, let it go, it’s not a big deal.’ But to me, it’s a big deal. I think that comes from being a young girl from a housing estate.

"You’re always trying to prove yourself, you just want to do the best job for the people watching," Shirley continued. "And then when it’s not reciprocated… Like I say, you don’t have to agree… ‘It’s OK, I didn’t agree with your mark, you sent the wrong person home.’ I’m fine with that. But when it gets personal, that’s cruel.”

Earlier this month in an interview for Notebook she told us: “Every year I get a little bit [of trolling], but this year it’s worse. Someone said, ‘When can we vote you off the show?’”

And it isn’t just Shirley who has been on the receiving end of cruel remarks. Even her son Mark, 36, a US-based dancer who has just won the US version of Strictly, Dancing With the Stars,with TikTok personality Charli D’Amelio, has come under attack – something she draws the line at. “It is hard because the other day, for example, my son’s on Dancing With The Stars in the US and somebody posted something about his hair and his look, and I forgot I was head judge on Strictly and I went on it like a mother.

“I said to the person, ‘I don’t mind you critiquing dancing, you can disagree all you want, it’s fine, I like that, I’m happy to explain to you something. But don’t go into how people’s physical appearance is, how their hair is, what the shape of their body is, my face is wrinkled and old or whatever – I don’t think we need to get into that.’ And the names I’ve been called! I couldn’t even repeat them to you.”

Luckily for Shirley, she has an amazing support network, including her son, her partner Daniel Taylor and her Strictly family. And bosses at the BBC hit have stepped in to offer her counselling.

“Danny doesn’t understand why I do social media,” she says. “But social media is where we go, it’s a big part of it.

“My son was dancing with Charli D’Amelio on Dancing With The Stars, who’s got 165 million followers and she’s 18, and I’ve seen what she’s gone through. Everybody gets it, it’s just unnecessary.

“The BBC have been phenomenal, they do offer counselling, they’ve been there for me all the time. They chat to me every week. You couldn’t get more support than they give. I guess I’m one of those people who, like Hamza [Yassin] with his animals, I want the world to be a beautiful place. I want people to be kind to each other and we don’t live in a kind world.

“But, you know, this is a TV reality show and at the end of the day, 15 million people have the final say, and if you put two people in the bottom two, I have to, or we have to, send somebody home.”

Shirley should be celebrating the show’s big win for Best Talent Show at the recent TV Choice Awards with her Strictly colleagues but it’s clear the pressure this year is getting to her.

“It makes you [go]… ‘Do I look right? Am I too heavy? Am I this? Am I that? Cover up your bingo arms. Should I wear a dress with sleeves?’ One person said, ‘Your ears are too big.’ So, I got a tape measure out and measured my ears. ‘I look like I have a glass eye.’ That’s because I wear one lens and the other eye rolls a little bit,” she says.

“I want to be honest with you, because I think if I go through that at 62, what about your daughters and what about your children? Why do we have such a suicide rate? Because people are so mean to each other online.”

For the next few weeks, Shirley wants to try to enjoy the rest of the series – which has seen tough competition from Hamza, Kym Marsh, Helen Skelton, Will Mellor and Fleur East. But she will also be taking a break from social media when it’s all over.

“I’ll have a little break over Christmas, anything I post will just be family-oriented,” she says. “Again, I want to say to the people who’ve supported me on social media, there are far more of them than there are trolling. The messages I’ve received have been absolutely fantastic – in fact, they are what have kept me going in this job, for sure.”

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