Ulrika Jonsson addresses the ‘Strictly Curse’ after Gladiators contributed to her marriage breakdown
Ulrika Jonsson has addressed the ‘Strictly Curse’ after Sophie Ellis-Bextor revealed how her time on the show ‘took such a toll’ on her marriage that her husband ended up in counselling.
In a column penned for The Sun on Saturday, Ulrika, 54, said she understands how work trips and office parties can create ‘insecurity and excitement for both partners’.
The Swedish-British TV presenter, who hosted Gladiators from 1992, recalled how her time on the show eventually led to her marriage breakdown with John Turnbull.
‘I came home a much-changed wife’: Ulrika Jonsson, 54, revealed in a column for The Sun on Saturday how her time hosting Gladiators contributed to her marriage breakdown and ‘subsequent unfaithfulness’. Pictured in a promo shot for Gladiators in 1994
Ulrika recalled how she ‘faltered’ during the second year of the show’s recording (1993) when a camera crew member ‘caught her eye’ at a party towards the end of filming.
‘We ended up dancing together, albeit not Strictly-styley. Not intimate but enough for me to get a taste of something enticing and forbidden,’ she wrote.
‘Nothing happened but I developed feelings for this man and came home a much-changed wife. I didn’t want to be at home.’
Ulrika explained how the excitement of the show made her feel ‘more than just a wife’.
Honest remarks: Ulrika recalled how she ‘faltered’ during the second year of the show’s recording (1993) when a camera crew member ‘caught her eye’ at a party towards the end of filming. While nothing eventuated, she admitted to coming home ‘a much-changed wife’. Pictured on the Loose Women TV show in 2019
Over: Ulrika eventually divorced John Turnbull in 1995. ‘My marriage broke down and I was subsequently unfaithful,’ she wrote. Pictured together in 1994
Unlike Sophie, who was able to repair her marriage, Ulrika eventually divorced John in 1995.
‘My marriage broke down and I was subsequently unfaithful. Eventually we did manage to reheat the marriage souffle, but I completely understand how going away on work trips and office parties creates an insecurity and excitement for both partners,’ she said.
In an abridged extract from Spinning Plates, by Sophie Ellis-Bextor, published by The Mail On Sunday this month, the singer, 42, recalled how her time as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing in 2013 was ‘the best of times’ and also ‘the worst of times’.
Marriage breakdown: Ulrika explained how the excitement of the show made her feel ‘more than just a wife’. The TV presenter eventually divorced Richard in 1995. Pictured in 1991
‘Some of the show was pure joy and exhilaration. But some of it was seriously intense and, even for a strong marriage like we have, it gave our foundations a good old shake,’ she wrote, referencing her marriage with Richard Jones.
‘In the launch show where we met our Strictly partners, I looked absolutely terrified. It wasn’t that I was terrified to be paired with Brendan Cole – I liked Brendan.
‘We’d got on when we’d met to learn the group dance for the launch and I secretly wanted to be paired with him as he was the only professional to be married and a dad, so I knew this would give us things to talk about other than footwork.’
Sophie said she felt ‘uncomfortable that there was a slight weirdness in forming a new ‘couple’ when you’re both two married strangers.’
‘In the show, I found that kind of thing just didn’t sit too easily with me – even though Brendan was a complete gentleman throughout,’ she wrote.
‘Why do they fetishise the ‘couples’ aspect so much? Dance partners, yes, but a couple has a different nod.
Tested: In an abridged extract from Spinning Plates, by Sophie Ellis-Bextor, published by The Mail On Sunday this month, the singer, 42, recalled how her time on Strictly Come Dancing ‘took such a toll’ on her marriage with Richard Jones. Pictured together in 2017
‘I had found this really innocent when I’d read it in the newspapers, but when it was me, with another man, and Richard watching on, I didn’t find it quite so innocent.’
Sophie recalled how Brendan shook Richard’s hand in the crowd when they were first paired and was very much a gentleman.
‘He had good advice for me. ‘If you want this to work well, involve your friends, involve your husband.’ I think it did make a difference,’ she wrote.
While she enjoyed the dance routines and ‘sparkly costumes’, Sophie revealed the ‘downside’ of being on the show.
‘At home my head was distracted. I’d get in exhausted, and while listening to what had been going on with the kids, I could feel my thoughts getting foggy as I went over and over some step I was finding hard,’ she wrote.
‘I still feel bad that I was so absent. Especially at Christmas time as the final approached. The number of people still in the show dwindled and the intensity ramped up.
Challenges: Sophie revealed how husband Richard ended up in counselling. She also revealed the physical closeness on the show was something she struggled with throughout. Pictured: Sophie on the show with dance partner Brendan Cole in 2013
‘I could see some of the other contestants’ marriages and relationships were under strain. There were three marriage break-ups in my year and two Strictly babies have been born from fellow contestants and their dance partners.
‘That is not meant to trivialise any of those incidents. I have no idea what was going on in the marriages that broke down, and hey, working together is sometimes how you meet people.
‘But the concentric circles of these real-life situations, changes and developments definitely started to change the atmosphere of the programme. I can’t think of any word other than ‘intense’.’
She continued: ‘By the final week, I was done. I can remember standing beside the dance floor with Abbey Clancy and we were both saying how ready we were to go back to our husbands and our normal lives.
Sophie wrote: ‘Richard was feeling left out in the cold. He was worried he was losing me. Not that I was going to run off with anyone – he liked Brendan and knew that nothing was going to happen there – but I think he thought that something was awakening in me and he felt he wasn’t part of my future’
‘All the while, Richard was feeling left out in the cold. He was worried he was losing me. Not that I was going to run off with anyone – he liked Brendan and knew that nothing was going to happen there – but I think he thought that something was awakening in me and he felt he wasn’t part of my future.
‘I never, ever felt like that, but I couldn’t convince him. He could see that I was completely wrapped up in the show and consumed with the intensity of it and the constant learning, learning, learning which you share with one other person – your dance partner.
‘Richard became unusually insistent on knowing where I was all the time. If I didn’t reply to a text, he’d spiral.
‘Supporting me in all that I do usually came so easily to him, but with Strictly I think he was just waiting for it to end. He’d message me all day when I was rehearsing, extra keen to know my schedule.
‘We would argue when I was home about how distracted I was and about whether I’d get through to the next week. He just felt as if I might slip into a new life that left our family behind.
‘I had no such desire, but was too spent at the end of the day to give the reassurance he needed. I think the only real reassurance could come with the show finishing.’
Sophie revealed how Richard ‘began seeing a counsellor’ after she had ‘been in the show a month or so’ and that ‘it really helped’.
Repairing the marriage: Sophie revealed how Richard ‘began seeing a counsellor’ after she had ‘been in the show a month or so’ and that ‘it really helped’. Pictured together in September
‘For all the glitter and sequins and stagecraft it taught me, I had to pay quite a heavy price, and Richard, too. Luckily what Brendan said was true: if you start off happily married, you’ll leave that way too. But it wasn’t immediate,’ she wrote.
Sophie and Richard were able to repair their marriage, with Sophie writing: ‘Richard and I took care of each other. We went away, just the two of us. A lot of it wasn’t spoken about. We didn’t really talk about how hard it had been for a long time – not properly. It was too tender. We never doubted our love for each other but I think Richard worried that I just wouldn’t want our life again.
‘But of course I did. To me, my family is everything.’
Abridged extract from Spinning Plates, by Sophie Ellis-Bextor, published by Coronet on October 7 at £16.99. To pre-order a copy for £15.29, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193 before October 23. Free UK delivery on orders over £20.
Going the distance: We never doubted our love for each other but I think Richard worried that I just wouldn’t want our life again. ‘But of course I did. To me, my family is everything,’ she wrote