Rachel Riley, 33, competed on Strictly Come Dancing back in 2013 and was paired up with Russian-born professional dancer Pasha Kovalev, 39. She later struck up a romance with Pasha after divorcing her husband, Jamie Gilbert. In an interview with Alastair Campbell, 61, for British GQ, the Countdown favourite insisted a romantic connection isn’t necessarily a part of the partnerships on the BBC show, making it clear nothing happened between her and her now beau while she was still married. “I just assume that if there’s a bit of a zing they’re going to dance better together,” Alastair pressed.
“No,” Rachel replied firmly. “Honestly, that’s nothing to do with it.
“What was interesting is that it was the first time I had to kind of surrender, in a way, and listen to someone else,” she recalled of her time training with Pasha.
“I’m quite independent and been brought up that way.”
When the journalist and broadcaster continued to sound sceptical, quizzing her about whether there was a spark of sexual chemistry between her and the dancer, Rachel said her time on the show had made her feel decidedly un-sexy.
“I can’t dance and I’m standing there, looking like a prat,” she explained. “You feel like the least sexy person in the world because you’re vulnerable and you’re having to listen to someone else.”
“Exactly. So, you’re giving yourself over to this guy…” Alastair intimated.
“Yeah,” she replied, slightly sarcastically as she looked dubious.
“That’s what happens! So, when was the moment you thought this was more than a dance relationship?” he asked.
“Not for a long time,” Rachel said. “Because I was married when we did Strictly.”
“These things happen…” Alastair hinted, at which point the Countdown presenter waved her hand dismissively, quipping: “Yeah, yeah…
“You’re literally just focused on the dance,” she told him. “You’ve got from Sunday to Saturday to learn a brand new dance.”
On the subject of her ex-husband Jamie, Rachel said: “I’m still friends with my ex-husband. He’s great, he’s a brilliant guy.
“We were together since I was 19 and it wasn’t right.
“What Strictly did was give me distance and it was the emotional distance that I needed to break away,” she added.
Rachel split from her Jamie during her stint on Strictly after just 16 months of marriage.
The former couple had met while studying at Oxford University.
The following year, Rachel and Pasha confirmed their relationship and have have been together ever since.