'Strictly' judge Motsi Mabuse emotionally recalls tough childhood under apartheid

Amy Johnson
·3-min read
Motsi Mabuse laughs during the 2nd show of the 13th season of the television competition "Let's Dance" on March 6, 2020 in Cologne, Germany. (Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Motsi Mabuse laughs during the 2nd show of the 13th season of the television competition "Let's Dance" on March 6, 2020 in Cologne, Germany. (Photo by Mario Hommes/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Motsi Mabuse explained she was having to “suppress the tears” during an interview on Loose Women on Thursday as she recalled growing up in South Africa during racial apartheid.

The show shared a picture of the 39-year-old as a child which led Mabuse to explain that it was not an "easy childhood".

“I have to be honest, you just showed that pic of me as a little girl, I had to suppress the tears," she told the panellists. "I still feel like now when we speak about this subject, everything keeps coming back from somewhere that I hid right back… it wasn’t an easy childhood. Our parents did their utmost that we felt loved, that we had everything that we needed, but we knew in what kind of atmosphere we were growing up in.

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The Strictly Come Dancing judge spent the majority of her childhood in Pretoria with her parents and siblings, including sister and fellow dancer Oti Mabuse.

She went on: “If you look at that little girl there, she had to learn from the onset that she had to fight, that this is going to be a really tough life she’s going to live. You never felt anything is fair unless you honestly succeeded in absolutely everything you did. If I was running, I had to run to be the best. If I was in the school concert, I had to be in the front row – it’s the mentality I grew up with.

"You toughen up, but as a little girl, it was not an easy life."

Mabuse added that separate dance competitions would be held for black children and white children.

"There were moments that you can feel it doesn’t matter how well you danced, that would never be acknowledged. From the onset, it was quite clear who was meant to win this competition and it was never fair,” she remarked.

Motsi Mabuse became tearful upon seeing a childhood photo of herself. (ITV)
Motsi Mabuse became tearful upon seeing a childhood photo of herself. (ITV)

Mabuse has previously explained that when she and her sister struggled to find a dancing school their mother Dudu hired out a room and enlisted a teacher to help.

They have both gone to great success in the dancing world with Motsi appearing on the UK Strictly judging panel as well its German counterpart Let's Dance.

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Meanwhile, Oti has won thousands of fans from her time as a professional dancer on Strictly, winning the 2019 series with Kelvin Fletcher.

She also sat as a judge on The Greatest Dancer for two series, although the programme has not been renewed for any further seasons.