Arlene Phillips: Becoming a Dame feels like joining 'big grand club'

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Dame Arlene Phillips from London after she was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire by the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle during an Investiture ceremony. Picture date: Tuesday February 22, 2022.
Arlene Phillips was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire at Windsor Castle. (PA)

Arlene Phillips said she felt like she had become part of a "big grand club" as she was officially made a Dame at Windsor Castle.

The 78-year-old choreographer – star of I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! and Strictly Come Dancingaccepted her damehood for services to dance and charity from Princess Anne, the Princess Royal at a special ceremony on Tuesday.

Dame Arlene told the PA news agency: “I’m feeling very emotional, walking into that glorious room and then speaking to the Princess Royal was just so beautiful.

Read more: Arlene Phillips 'didn't have the strength' to fight BBC during 'Strictly' ageism row

“I was really overcome with emotion, I was chatting away and thinking ‘please don’t cry’.

Dame Arlene Phillips from London is made a Dame Commander of the British Empire by the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle. Picture date: Tuesday February 22, 2022.
Dame Arlene Phillips accepted her damehood from the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle. (PA)

“It’s means so much, my children, my partner and my siblings, the whole family can’t believe it.

“Coming from nowhere with little hope in my life to arriving at this moment and becoming a Dame feels like some big grand club I don’t belong in, but here I am belonging.”

The choreographer found fame when she created the provocative dance group Hot Gossip in 1974, and has gone on to choreograph musicals for the West End, Broadway and Hollywood movies including the original film of Annie.

She has also choreographed music videos for pop stars including Whitney Houston and Tina Turner.

Dame Arlene was a judge on Strictly Come Dancing from the show’s first season in 2004 until 2008.

Dame Arlene Phillips showed age is just a number when she appeared on <em>I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!</em> (ITV)
Dame Arlene Phillips showed age is just a number when she appeared on I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! (ITV)

She became the centre of an ageism row at 66 when she was replaced on the BBC dance show by Alesha Dixon in 2009.

Dame Arlene holds the record as the oldest celebrity to take part in ITV reality show I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! when she entered Gwrych Castle in North Wales last year, where she bonded with music producer Naughty Boy. She was the first contestant to be eliminated from the show.

Dame Arlene appeared as a guest judge on the latest episode of Dancing On Ice, where she awarded her old Strictly pal Brendan Cole the first 10 of the series.

Albert Finney, Aileen Quinn, Carol Burnett and others on stage in scene from the film &#39;Annie&#39;, 1982. (Photo by Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)
Arlene Phillips choreographed the 1982 film of hit musical 'Annie'. (Columbia Pictures/Getty Images)

She said of the ITV skating show: “I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I had the best time glammed up to the eyeballs.

Read more: Arlene Phillips reveals secret luxuries contestants enjoyed during castle evacuation

“I love judging and I realised how much I love judging that night sitting on the panel.

“Instinctively I actually want to help everybody, and I love seeing people grow and improve.”

Watch: All about Arlene Phillips

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