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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Tricia Martin

Oti Mabuse reveals Dermot O'Leary played a hand in her leap from dancefloor to TV host

News that Oti Mabuse had quit Strictly Come Dancing came as a shock to fans and her fellow dancers alike – but the 31-year-old had been considering the move for some time.

Despite her lifelong love of dance, Oti had been longing to try something new. And after presenting stints on Steph’s Packed Lunch and panel roles on The Greatest Dancer, The Masked Singer and Dancing On Ice, she felt ready to fly solo.

Talking ahead of her new show, Romeo & Duet – on which blindfolded singletons pick out the people whose singing voices they find attractive, then go off to learn a duet to perform with them – she says, “I’m challenging myself, you know? What I wanted to do, honestly, was grow. I want to, hopefully, be blessed with a long career, which means I can do other things, whether it be a sports show or a dancing programme.

"I did Morning Live. Hopefully, I can do all these things and actually respect what they’re about and bring that part of myself to those shows. So, yeah, I guess it was about growing outside of dancing.”

Oti Mabuse will present Romeo & Duet on ITV (ITV)

And as Oti takes on her first big gig since quitting the hit BBC contest, she reveals she hasn’t been short of advice. “I worked really closely with Dermot [O’Leary]. He came in once and taught me to work with an autocue – how to read it, how to edit it… I was texting him all the time! Steph McGovern has also had a really huge impact.”

Beyond her celebrity circle, Oti also has the support of her devoted husband, Romanian dancer Marius Lepure, 39, who she met at a dance trial in Germany in 2014.

After marrying, they moved to London in 2015, and Marius was part of Strictly’s pro line-up for the 2017 series. While his stint on the show was short-lived, his wife had huge success and became the first pro to win two years in a row – with Kelvin Fletcher in 2019, and Bill Bailey the following year.

She used to be a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing (BBC)
She last lifted the Glitterball trophy with Kelvin Fletcher (BBC/Guy Levy)

When asked if the concept of Romeo & Duet had worked for her and Marius, she jokes, “No! Most of the time, both of us don’t even know the words, but we’re not singers. He sings his Romanian songs and I have no idea what they mean. And I sing my South African songs and he doesn’t know what they mean!”

However, there is one celebrity Oti wouldn’t mind teaming up with for a sing-song.

“If I had to sing a duet, I’d go for Endless Love by Luther Vandross and Mariah Carey. Who would I sing it with? This is, like, a childhood thing… I would do it with Zac Efron! I don’t actually have anyone now who I’d be like, ‘Ooh, you’re my celebrity crush.’ But I remember High School Musical was definitely loved. That was my favourite.”

On Strictly, the costume team would create fabulous outfits for the dancers and their celebrity partners, and it sounds like
her kit on the new show won’t disappoint – she had a ball choosing her outfits.

“I had an incredible stylist, his name is Carl and he dresses Amanda Holden and Alex Scott as well,” Oti reveals.

“He came to my house and brought a whole rack of clothes. It was about picking the right colours. Also, I didn’t want to choose a dress that looked so over the top that we forget that the show isn’t about me, it’s about the contestants."

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