Shirley Ballas fought back tears as she remembered the last hug she shared with Len Goodman.
The Strictly chief judge, 62, appeared on Loose Women on Wednesday to pay tribute to Len, who died in hospice Saturday night after a brief battle with bone cancer – just days before his 79th birthday.
Shirley, who had known Len since she was nine years old, said the last time she saw him she knew he was secretly fighting with his health behind closed doors.
The TV star visited her son Mark Ballas on Dancing With The Stars last year and recalled that even though Len looked “rather weak,” he still beckoned her for a hug.
Of his loss, a heartbroken Shirley said, “I think it’s very hard for all my particular industry, because I’m getting a divorce. I have my own industry that we have, Strictly and Dancing With The Stars.
Heartbreaking: Shirley Ballas fought back tears as she remembered the last hug she shared with Len Goodman
A huge loss: Len passed away after a short battle with bone cancer – his fans had no idea he was even sick
“But I’ve known Len since a very small child and have a lot of good friends in the industry and we all loved Len.
“He was a very big part of our lives and he was an icon and humor. He could make the rain go away and he was such a beautiful person.
“Of course I trained with him later in my career. He was probably responsible for you know, he said to me, “Shirley, you can take your job seriously, but stop taking yourself so seriously, because I was one of those people who wanted to learn all about the engineering.
“And he taught me more about the human mind. So and I will take that with me forever. He was just so great. He really was.’
Shirley said her son Mark called Len ‘Uncle Len’ as he had known him since he was a baby and that she last saw him when she flew to the US last year.
“I went to the launch show last year when Mark decided he was going to do Dancing with the Stars and I saw Len there and I got my last and last cuddle with him there,” she said.
“It was quiet, even though it was getting pretty brittle. I thought because I hadn’t seen him in a while.
He was still full of humour. “Come here” you know and he loved to cuddle. I felt like he didn’t look as good as I had seen. As a philosophy in the dance industry. We knew everyone was staying close, we didn’t put it all out there. ‘
Of what Len taught her, she said, “He said don’t take yourself so seriously, the audience knows a lot about dancing. I really enjoy all the performances, it’s not just about the forward walk.
“He taught me a lot about how to pick yourself up when things are really bad. That’s what he did.’
On starring in the next series of Strictly, she added before choking, “I’m very excited. I don’t think I could ever fill Len’s shoes, but could handle my fluffy slippers. He was always cheerful. He was extraordinary and will be sorely missed and I will think of him every step of the way in this new series.”
Predecessor: Shirley joined the show as chief judge after the ballroom legend stepped down in 2016 (pictured alongside Craig Revel Horwood, Darcey Bussell, Len and Bruno Tonioli)
On Monday, Shirley appeared on Good Morning Britain just minutes before hearing her predecessor Len has died.
Shirley was invited to the show talk about returning to the dance series later this year, just before Len’s death was announced in a statement from his family.
Len was head judge of the beloved BBC dance show for 12 years from 2004-2016, with Shirley taking over a year later.
He was also a judge on Dancing With The Stars, in which her son Mark, 36, starred as a professional dancer.
Appearing on GMB on Monday, Shirley spoke about rumors she may not be returning to Strictly Come Dancing amid a pay dispute with the BBC and a spate of online attacks from trolls last year.
She said: ‘There was no argument with the BBC over pay. We are in a cost of living crisis. It’s absolutely not true. There’s no raise, there’s no fighting.
“We are vigilant about the nurses (on strike) and the cost of living crisis. I don’t know where those leaks come from.’
It was revealed last week that the Strictly Come Dancing judges had reportedly pulled out amid their wage spat with BBC bosses.
Shirley, Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse and Anton Du Beke are said to be seeking an 11 per cent salary increase ahead of the new season of the BBC dance competition show.
But according to The sun they accepted an offer of between 3 and 5 percent, although Shirley told GMB there were no pay increases.
Shirley is reportedly already earning £500,000, Motsi and Craig earn £200,000, while Anton is reportedly earning £180,000.
“There was a real deadlock between the judges and the Beeb on this issue, with neither side willing to budge for weeks,” the publication reported.
Fortunately, they have reached this resolution and can now breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to the new series.
“The show just felt that curing a cost-of-living crisis, and at a time when the license fee has been frozen, they couldn’t justify an 11 percent increase.”
During the interview, Shirley also insisted that she would return, despite attacks from online trolls last year.
She said, “You have to make choices and decisions. It took me a minute after trolling last year.
“People would write things. But this year I have a man who manages both my social media and my son. I am optimistic and hopeful. But this year it will be filtered before it gets to me.”
Moving on: The TV appearance came days after Strictly Come judges reportedly backed out amid their pay row with BBC bosses