More than 'just some Italian stallion' Giovanni Pernice tears up our assumptions | Celebrity News | Showbiz & TV

Giovanni Pernice breaks down assumptions about him

Giovanni Pernice breaks down assumptions about him (Image: getty)

We’re backstage in Hayes, west London, for the opening night of his Made In Italy UK Tour and this Strictly star is on a mission to tear up all our assumptions about him. In the show, he frocks up and brings the roof down, gyrating around a lucky audience member to Joe Cocker’s You Can Leave Your Hat On.

There are lavish cinematic homages to La La Land, musical extravaganzas to Greased Lightning, slick patter and even a burst of opera.

“I want it to be a full experience,” Pernice – “Gio” to everyone – says. “Fantastic entertainment. More like a musical than just Giovanni from Strictly doing a waltz and a tango.

“I’m even attempting to sing. I don’t make it easy for myself, I’m doing Nessun Dorma! Pavarotti! I’m taking singing lessons, I always want to learn and be better. The bigger the better.

“I also want to show my personality, other sides of me. Fans always say to me afterwards, ‘Giovanni, you are funny! You have a sense of humour!’

“I’ve always been like that, but I understand why they’re surprised.”

Jowita Pryzstal and Giovanni Pernice

Jowita Pryzstal and Giovanni Pernice (Image: BBC)

From his 2015 debut on BBC One’s all-conquering Strictly Come Dancing, the Italian had been positioned as struttingly competitive, cockily sweeping into three finals and holding the record for the most “tens” awarded.

His touchingly-tender winning 2021 partnership with the deaf EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis was a major public and personal turning point on a show where the Glitterball Trophy moves on and “friend for life” declarations can sound like platitudes.

Rose remains a “true friend”, he says.

She also inspired Gio, 32, to incorporate a British Sign Language interpreter into the tour.

“People think we fake our relationships with our dancing partners,” he says.

“But you can see when two people don’t get along. It was very special with Rose immediately, and with Debbie McGee in 2017. Rose is genuinely a wonderful person. She taught me so much about awareness of others.

“She changed my whole perspective. We are always searching for more when we should just truly appreciate what we have.

“She helped people see me differently.

“For the first time, people understood that I’m not just this Italian lothario – there is a real person behind all this.”

Last year’s partnership with Richie Anderson was considerably less successful, rapidly eliminated in Week Three. Despite speculation about clashes behind the scenes, Gio remains philosophical.

“I absolutely wanted a male partner. John and Johannes were fantastic in 2021,” he says. “I wanted a challenge, to create interesting choreography.

“But the Hakuna Matata samba didn’t connect, it didn’t go the way we wanted it to.”

The Sicilian-born star channelled the disappointment into a passionate male duet in his new show. “I’m so proud of it,” he smiles. “In 2023 people should be happy to see two men dancing together.

Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice

Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice (Image: Getty)

“Done properly it is beautiful. It is time that we all champion diversity and inclusivity.

“It is why Strictly is important. Debbie was 59 years old and 15 million people were watching, saying ‘I want to give it a go’.

“They see Rose and think, ‘I can do that’.”

confirm his pal’s claim that his downstairs loo is a shrine to him, but happily confesses, “Anton is my Godfather figure.

“He is the biggest influence on me. Other Strictly people asked him to do tours and he said no, but he saw similarities in me and knew we would work together. It was such a privilege.”

Richie Anderson and Giovanni Pernice performing at Strictly

Richie Anderson and Giovanni Pernice performing at Strictly (Image: BBC)

Does Anton’s judging position on Strictly cause any stress or accusations of favouritism?

“Never!” Gio quickly replies. “Anton has always said he doesn’t judge me, he judges the celebrity.”

Away from the cameras are they more like father and son, I tease?

“More like big and little brother,” he grins, diplomatically. “We laugh all the time. We are very similar but very different. That is why it works.

“We are different generations. I need him to keep me level and he needs me to show him what social media is.”

Gio chose to become a dancer after watching Strictly’s forerunner, Come Dancing, in his teens.

Training in Bologna, he specialised in Latin style and won the Italian Open championship in 2012.

Giovanni Pernice reflects on his privacy

Giovanni Pernice reflects on his privacy (Image: Getty)

Going home keeps him level, he says.

“Obviously they see on Instagram that I am famous here, but they don’t understand how big Strictly is in the UK.

“If I go to Sicily tomorrow, the only people who will know me are my Mum, Dad and sister.”

Over here, his fame meant “my private life was suddenly gone” as relationships with Strictly celebrities Georgia May Foote and Ashley Roberts were splashed across the news.

“I understand that is the price we pay to be in the public eye,” Gio says philosophically.

“And I accept that. It doesn’t affect the relationship. We are all still human. But so much in the press is not true.

“My New Year’s resolution is to keep my private life private. I want to close the door at the end of the day and live my own life.”

Reports have feverishly spread that he is now dating 2022 champion Jowita Przystal, but Gio will only politely and firmly say, “I’m not going to talk about my private life to the press this year.”

Jowita is currently with celebrity partner Hamza on the main Strictly UK tour. None of the professionals will be told whether they are being asked back for the new BBC series until the end of February.

“Strictly changed my life and I am happy to do it for as long as they want me,” Gio says.

“I genuinely love it, love teaching someone that has never danced before. It is so rewarding.”

Like everyone, however, he definitely does not love the results show countdown. “It is petrifying. But if I am in the dance-off I just tell my partner, ‘Fight, fight, fight for your place.’”

What about after Strictly, one day?

“You never know what happens in the future. I have always loved musicals. You might see me as Aladdin, Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever would be nice. My dream role would be The Phantom Of The Opera but I don’t know if I have the stamina for that!”

He might be Made In Italy, but the UK holds part of his heart now.

Giovanni Pernice’s Made In Italy Tour continues

Giovanni Pernice’s Made In Italy Tour continues (Image: getty)

“Italians are so chilled about everything. London is crazy, always on the go all the time and I like that.”

I point out that we stereotype Italians as crazy drama queens.

“I am the biggest drama queen you will ever meet in your life,” he laughs. “But that is just me! Italians are always leaving everything for later where I want to do it now. I don’t say I feel British but my friends and my life are here. I miss my family, but this is home.”

Wherever he ends up, that famous Strictly pay-off line at the end of every show will always apply.

“I will always keep dancing,” Gio says. “It is my safe space. It is where I can be myself, whatever is happening in life.

“It is the place where I can express myself without talking, where I feel natural. I focus on my dancing and everything else disappears.

“Life is not perfect but I dance and everything is OK. And if it’s not, then make it better.”

You May Also Like

Star Wars’ Mark Hamill becomes voice of Ukraine’s air raid alert | Celebrity News | Showbiz & TV

Mark Hamill, 71, is voicing the English language warnings on the Air…

Transgender Nashville school shooter drew chilling images and cartoons

The 28-year-old who opened fire at a Nashville school on Monday, killing…

IRS visited Twitter Files journalist Matt Taibbi’s home as he gave evidence to Congress

The IRS visited Twitter Files journalist Matt Taibbi’s home on the same day…

Trans activists demand ban on ‘radical religious schools’ in response to Nashville mass shooting

Trans activists are demanding the ban of ‘radical religious schools’ in a…

Sky News’ Stuart Ramsay was half an hour from death after being shot | Celebrity News | Showbiz & TV

Stuart Ramsay, who is Sky’s longest-serving foreign correspondent, has recalled his horrific…

Horrified family warn over LED pet collars after pet pup Curly tore off half of their toddler’s ear

A family in Wisconsin has issued a warning about LED collars after…

Death In Paradise’s Josephine Jobert addresses if she’ll be in spin-off | Celebrity News | Showbiz & TV

Since her debut in the show’s second season, Josephine Jobert’s character has…

Pregnant Da Brat reveals sex of rainbow baby

Da Brat has a baby boy on the way. The pregnant rapper…