Johannes Radebe opens up about poor childhood in South Africa

Strictly Come Dancing professional Johannes Radebe has spoken of how his mother encouraged his ballroom dreams despite them struggling financially.

Radebe, 33, was raised by his mother Jacobeth, 61, in the township of Sasolburg, South Africa, after his father died when he was 12.

Radebe told Hello! magazine: “We struggled financially but whatever we lacked she made up for with love.

Strictly Come Dancing 2019
Johannes Radebe with celebrity partner Catherine Tyldesley on Strictly Come Dancing (Guy Levy/BBC/PA)

“I learned that as long as you have a hot meal, a bed and roof over your head, you should be grateful.

“Above all, mum taught me how to love and for the people around you to feel loved.

“I respect and applaud her. She has done a phenomenal job and she’s unique, my best friend.”

Radebe has been with his family in Sasolburg since lockdown began.

He said: “This is where I began my journey. To have mum with me now is so special. It’s rare to find her dancing but I know she can move.

“I’ve watched her when her favourite music is playing. She’s such an elegant woman so I think ballroom would be perfect for her.”

Strictly Come Dancing Launch 2019 – London
Johannes Radebe (Ian West/PA)

His mother told the magazine about the homophobic bullying her son, who is gay, experienced when he was growing up.

She said: “I couldn’t fight the world for my son but I made sure he was loved and that he treated everyone with respect and kindness.

“Where are those bullies now who were mocking the very thing that launched him into his destiny?

“I’m immensely proud and happy for him. When I watch him dance it feels surreal. What blows my mind is that it’s real and he’s my son.”

The BBC has confirmed Strictly will return to screens later this year, but with a shorter series than usual due to coronavirus.

“I’m as intrigued as anyone,” said Radebe.

“Fingers crossed they find a solution because we can’t face the winter without Strictly. People won’t be able to cope.”

Read the full interview in Hello! magazine, out now.

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