Strictly star John Whaite opens up about ‘falling in love’ with dance partner Johannes Radebe

John Whaite with Strictly Come Dancing partner Johannes Radebe in 202.

Great British Bake Off champion John Whaite has opened up about how he “fell in love” with his dance partner Johannes Radebe while competing on Strictly Come Dancing.

Whaite, 34, shot to fame back in 2012 after winning the third season of The Great British Bake Off, but the most groundbreaking moment of his career didn’t arrive until nearly 10 years later.

In 2021, the baker was announced as one of the 15 celebrity contestants on the 19th season of Strictly, with Whaite’s pairing with Johannes Radebe becoming the first same-sex partnership in the show’s history.

The pair’s chemistry was evident both to the judges and viewers at home, as they danced their way into the final two before losing out on the trophy to Eastenders actor Rose Ayling-Ellis.

In addition to storming the competition and making Strictly history, Whaite and Radebe bonded over the fact that they had both experienced homophobic bullying when they were younger, and ‘vicious’ bigotry when competing together on the show.

Speaking to The Times about his time on the show, Whaite has revealed that his affection for Radebe extended beyond the Strictly ballroom, explaining that he “fell in love” with his dance partner, and had to spend some time away from his fiancé Paul Atikins as a result.

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John Whaite said that due to him and Radebe having “so much in common”, their time together as dance partners became “dangerous territory”.

“When you’re physically pressed against another man for 10 hours a day, things move emotionally … I fell in love with him,” Whaite shared.

“I can’t speak for him – because I’m not allowed to, legally – but it felt like there was love there.”

Strictly Come Dancing has birthed several high profile relationships in its near 20-year time on air, with celebrities including TV presenter Rachel Riley, Pussycat Dolls star Ashley Roberts and journalist Stacey Dooley all finding love on the dancefloor.

The most scandalous romance, though, came in 2018 when comedian Seann Walsh was caught kissing his dance partner Katya Jones, while both were in other relationships.

Whaite has disclosed that he decided to be open about his feeling for Radebe, and discussed them with his partner Atikins “all the way through”.

“Paul of all people deserved to understand how I was feeling,” he said. 

“You go through life being told that you’ll fall in love with someone, you’ll get married, you’ll have children and that’s it. But love can’t just be directed to one person. The heart can easily split into two or three or four. And those loves aren’t mutually exclusive.”

Johannes Radebe and John Whaite
Johannes Radebe and John Whaite made Strictly history. (BBC)

He and Aitkins briefly “spent some time apart” once Strictly had ended, but soon reunited, while Whaite and Radebe now only speak “occasionally”.

“I love him to bits and I worship the ground he walks on, but I have to be mindful that there’s more than my own desires to consider here and if it would be tricky for Paul for me to be in contact with Johannes, then it’s a sacrifice that I have to make,” he shared.

“And also for Johannes. He needs to move on with his life too. I hope I always am in contact with him. We shared something really important and that will never be taken away from us.”

Earlier this year, Whaite also disclosed that he had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“I’ve often questioned whether I have some personality disorder, deep-rooted psychological trauma, or just a brain that isn’t quite wired right,” he wrote in a social media post.

“I’ve been impulsive and borderline addicted (to sex, porn, shopping, food, drink, drugs), and have made some very questionable decisions. But these weren’t decisions, they were compulsions, because of the neurological functioning inside my head.”

The celebrity line-up for Strictly‘s 2023 series has recently been announced; it features openly gay actor Layton Williams, and actor Amanda Abbington, who has been criticised for “transphobic” remarks – allegations which she strongly denies.