Mum-of-four Ulrika Jonsson fronted the ITV primetime show in the 1990s, years before Strictly Come Dancing hit screens, but she said there are similarities between how the programmes affect relationships and marriages
Image: Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)
Ulrika Jonsson can emphasise with couples affected by the ‘Strictly curse’ after presenting Gladiators led to the demise of her marriage.
The 54-year-old presenter was the host of the primetime ITV show during the 1990s, and admitted that was the reason why her marriage to John Turnbull ended.
Writing in her new column for The Sun, Ulrika said it was during the second series of the show – where average folk took on physical challenges against super fit athletes and bodybuilders – that she “faltered”.
In 1993 one of the cameramen “caught her eye” at a post-filming party.
She wrote: “We ended up dancing together, albeit not Strictly-styley. Not intimate but enough for me to get a taste of something enticing and forbidden.
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“Nothing happened but I developed feelings for this man and came home a much-changed wife. I didn’t want to be at home.”
Sharing her sympathies for stars who have had their lives changed by taking part in the BBC dancing show, she said that working on Gladiators made her feel “more than just a wife.”
Ulrika and John divorced in 1995, of which she said: “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.”
Ulrika and John have a son, Cameron, 26. She is also mum to Bo, 21, Martha, 15 and Malcolm, 12, with three other partners.
Her comments came after extracts were shared from Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s new memoirs, in an abridged extract from Spinning Plates.
In the book the 42-year-old explains how her time as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing in 2013 was hard on her marriage.
She was paired with Brendan Cole, and while they had a fantastic professional relationship, the change in the family dynamic saw her musician husband Richard Jones enter counselling.
Sophie recalls: “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.
“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.
“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.
“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.”