The British Olympic boxer Nicola Adams will be competing in the next season of the BBC’s flagship dance show Strictly Come Dancing, partnering with a woman in the first same-sex pairing in the programme’s 16-year history.
Adams, 37, made history by winning a gold medal for Britain in the London 2012 Olympics — the first time women’s boxing was included in the games. She defended the title in Rio in 2016 and was awarded an OBE in 2017 for services to sport, before retiring last year.
And now the boxing icon, nicknamed “The Lioness”, is forging a new path once again, only accepting an invitation to compete on Strictly on the condition that she be paired with a woman, she revealed on BBC Breakfast on Wednesday.
The show has long faced calls to include same-sex partners, and so for Adams, who is bisexual, dancing with a female partner is finally an answer.
"I asked the show about it. They wanted to know if I wanted to be on the show and I said, 'Yeah, I'll do it, but I want to dance with another female dance partner,” she said.
She said it was an important step for the long-running show. "I think it's really important," she said. "It's definitely time for change."
"It's definitely time to move on and be more diverse, and this is a brilliant step in the right direction… It will be nice for the LGBT community to be able to see there are same-sex couples on the show as well,” Adams added.
The show — which is one of the most-watched programmes on Saturday night television, with 11.3 million viewers on average watching the final in 2019 — pairs a celebrity with a professional dancer. The couple then work on routines that are performed every week in a 13 week season normally starting in late September.
Strictly did feature two male professional dancers perform a one-off dance in 2019, but so far all the the pairs competing throughout the season have been cisgender men and women.
Adams joins BBC Radio 1 and One World: Together At Home presenter Clara Amfo; Max George, a singer from the band The Wanted; TV presenter Ranvir Singh; actor Caroline Quentin; and American football player Jason Bell, out of the celebrities announced so far.
Celebrities, former contestants, and campaigners welcomed the decision to finally have a same-sex pairing, including Matt Evers, a professional figure skater who was paired with Ian ‘H’ Watson in ITV’s Dancing On Ice show in January this year.
People in the UK from the LGBTQ+ community are disproportionately likely to be trapped in poverty, purely because they are more likely to suffer discrimation, be subject to hate crimes, and face reduced employment prospects because of such prejudice. Indeed, more than a third of LGBTQ+ workers have reported that they’ve hidden their sexual orientation at work out of fear.
And what’s more, since people who are LGBTQ+ are less likely to have access to quality health care and more likely to have insecure accommodation, they are also more affected by COVID-19 than other groups.
It’s therefore crucial that those communities are represented in all areas of society, especially on prime time television, to create a universally safe environment where LGBTQ+ communities do not face discrimination in health care, housing, or employment. That can sometimes start by normalising same-sex relations on screen.
Adams herself is looking forward to the experience, but hints that she will find it difficult.
"I can't dance at all, so this is going to be a totally new challenge for me," she said. "The only thing I've been doing is TikToks, and that's about as far as my dancing goes."