Strictly Come Dancing’s Jamie Laing will propose to girlfriend Sophie Habboo if he wins show

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Make no mistake about it, despite the fact he’s all smiles on the dance floor – and he’s positively grinning from ear to ear during our exclusive shoot – Strictly Come Dancing’s Jamie Laing has had one hell of a tough year. And that’s not even factoring in pandemic problems.

The likeable Made In Chelsea star was left devastated last September when he was forced to quit Strictly before the live shows even began, after he injured his foot during practice with his professional partner Oti Mabuse.

Jamie could only sit on the sidelines and watch (presumably through gritted teeth) as his replacement, soap star Kelvin Fletcher, went on to win the hearts of the nation and, awkwardly, the Glitterball trophy.

Even though it led to a “very anxious time” for Jamie, there was always the hope he’d be given a second chance at ballroom glory, and over the weekend he took that chance and ran with it. The boisterous blond and his lookalike new dance partner Karen Hauer made their debut on the live show, performing to the socially distanced judges, a limited studio audience and millions watching at home. And for Jamie, 31, it’s been a long time coming.

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“It was a rough time,” he tells us during a break in our shoot where he’s been posing up a storm for OK ’s photographer. “But losing Strictly made me appreciate what true happiness is. I’m so grateful they asked me to return.”

Someone else who’s thrilled to see Jamie waltz his way back on to our screens is his supportive girlfriend, Made In Chelsea co-star Sophie “Habbs” Habboo. The pair, who have been dating for over a year, are stronger than ever and certainly aren’t worried about the Strictly curse – Habbs, 27, is more concerned that Jamie might propose live on TV!

“It would be her worst nightmare,” he laughs. “She already thinks I’m the world’s biggest attention-seeker!”

Be that as it may, we’re not complaining – super-confident Jamie is fun, charming and great company.

Here, he tells us how he’s bounced back from injury, about life with his best pal Spencer Matthews and their royal connections, and why he’d never risk his relationship for a dalliance with his dance partner…

Jamie, we’re thrilled you’re back! How’s the Strictly experience been second time around?

I’m really enjoying it. I’m getting stuck in and having a great time so far. I’m super grateful that I have an actual job to do, so I’m thankful for that. But it’s nice to have a routine. Strictly’s one of those things that people really love and look forward to. It’s epic for everyone.

How’s training with Karen going?

We were practising the cha-cha all week and it’s bizarre how quickly you learn. At first it’s incredibly confusing, but, like learning a language, it suddenly falls into place. I’m certainly no Chris Brown but I could be Mick Jagger!

Were you pleased when you got Karen as your partner?

Oh, absolutely. She’s just wonderful. In my opinion she’s one of the best and without really knowing me she’s got me down to a tee. I’m having a blast with her.

What was the feedback like after your first show?

My dad actually said, “You look great on TV, but you need to loosen your hips! You look like you’re trying too hard.” Which I thought was hilarious – he already had his critique at the ready. Then my mum asked me what time it was on! It was hilarious. But on the whole I’m super happy with how it’s all started – I feel really positive. And the fans have been amazing.

Well, it’s good to see you smiling – especially after last year…

Oh my God, last year I was so excited to be a part of all this. When you’re in it it’s one of the best things in the entire world. But then to injure my foot, well, it was a rough time. And leading into this year, what with lockdown and all. Everyone was in the same boat, but now I’m in a place where I feel happy. As cheesy as it sounds, as you grow older you do realise what’s important.


So how did you feel when you had to leave Strictly the first time?

There are lots more important and worse things happening in the world, but it’s all relative. When I was 17 years old I dislocated my knee playing rugby. I tore a ligament and I couldn’t play sport again. It was the biggest blow in the world. The one thing I loved was taken away. And with Strictly it was the same feeling. It was a moment I’d been teeing up and planning for – and it was the one TV show I’d always wanted to do. So for it to be taken away? Well, it was gutting. I was really, really upset.

How did you get through it?

I’m not going to lie, I was pretty upset by the whole thing and it only really hit me a bit later. I’m a big advocate for mental health and I think I went through a very anxious time. But I try to keep fit, I keep my mind focused. I have my business [Jamie is the co-founder of gourmet sweets brand Candy Kittens], I do a podcast, I still film for Made In Chelsea, so I was OK – but I had to focus on keeping positive, looking forward and reminding myself that it’s just a TV show.

I was definitely upset, yes. I was anxious. But I came out the other side and the amazing thing was… they asked me back again this year. What a privilege!

How did it feel to watch Kelvin win, though?

I hated it. I hate that guy! What a mean, horrible person! [Laughs] No, I’m so happy for both him and Oti. She’s the most incredible person and to be partnered with someone who can actually dance, I was thrilled for her. I mean, did you see his hips?

They practically dislocated every night! I don’t have a jealous bone in me. If he wasn’t very good I’d have been feeling a bit guilty for Oti, but as it stands I like to think I’m responsible for giving the world Kelvin and his hips! You’re welcome, everyone. I take eternal credit for it.


Oti must have been delighted with the way it turned out!

[Laughs] She was so supportive of me. She stayed in touch. We’ve become good buddies. She’s got a fantastic energy. She’s excited I’m back, which is lovely.

Are you worried about injuring yourself again?

No, I’m OK – I tore the plantar fascia ligament in my foot and that means it’ll never be as strong as it was before. Is there a chance of it tearing again? Yeah, there is. But with the physio I’ve done and the exercises I’ve done, and the amount of lacrosse balls I’ve rolled across my foot – fingers crossed it’ll be OK for nine weeks of dancing.

Nine weeks? Do we take it from that you’ll be staying the course?

I hope so, I mean, I’d like to! I think that the competition this year is really strong. The advantage I have is that I did it for a short while last year, so I sort of understand that initial process, and also I’m pretty determined. And competitive. Would I like to win? Of course I’d love to! Do I think I will win? I have no idea.

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What sort of a dancer are you?

Unbelievable. No, I’m kidding – but I think I have a bit of rhythm. And I’m good at being coached and told what to do. To have a fierce, strong partner like Karen who can coach me into it, that’s a good thing. Initially I wanted Anton. And I swore if I didn’t get Anton I’d throw the biggest hissy fit. [Laughs] But no, I’m very happy with Karen. Though I feel sorry for her! Viewers don’t actually realise how incredible these dancers are. They’re a different breed of athlete.

Are you disappointed to be filming with a limited audience this year?

I’d be lying if I said it was ideal. We would love everything to go back to normal but we have to be careful. I’d love to be able to hug everyone, be in an ensemble, have all the audience there. My mum would’ve loved to have come to Strictly with the whole family. All she ever wanted was for me to do it, but now everything’s limited. After last year that is a bit of a blow. It’s disappointing, but at the same time I get to do the show! With or without Covid I’m super lucky to be doing it – and I never want to lose sight of what a great experience it is regardless.

Did you have any weird panic dreams before going live?

I had this big fear that I was going to start my dance and be so nervous that I vomited on myself, and would have to continue to do the dance with sick all over me. I’m scared of doing something embarrassing like that! Imagine?! My girlfriend would be mortified!

And speaking of Habbs, we should really ask what she thinks about the infamous Strictly curse…

[Laughs] Listen, I date one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met in my entire life, because she is better than me in every single way, and you never want to lose something better than you.

How will you make sure she feels secure while you’re doing a raunchy rumba with Karen, though?

Look, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been married 40 years or dating for two weeks, the curse has been hyped up to be this big thing but we have to remember – it’s just hype. You make a choice if you want to sleep with your dance partner. And from my side I’m totally in love with my girlfriend and one way to show how much you love someone is by not cheating, right? It comes down to respect and trust. I’d never want to hurt her. She’s my best friend.

Can we expect a proposal when you lift the Glitterball?

You know what? Maybe I should do that. When I lift the trophy I might propose to her at the same time. Honestly, she would be furious if I did it on the Strictly dance floor, on the TV. It would be her worst nightmare. So, between us, I will propose to her when I win Strictly. [Laughs]


So marriage is on the cards?

Yes. The goal in life is to have a family. The meaning of life is to love, isn’t it? And of course I want children with Habbs. And if she wants to do it, I’m game! But we’ll see what happens.

You’re already godfather to Spencer’s daughter Gigi. Is that good practice?

I love that child so much, but it’s made me realise that kids are a lot of work. And you have to be really ready to have them. I don’t have time for a child at the moment. But without a doubt I want to have kids in future and if I have them with Soph, they would look pretty beautiful, I think.

On the topic of Spencer, his brother James is married to Pippa Middleton. Do you all hang out together?

I’m never invited to those parties, that’s for sure! It would be nice to see Kate and Wills – people think me and Spencer sit and play Heads Up! with them! But you know what? Spencer’s very coy about the whole thing. They’re all very private and as much as I wish I was hanging out with royalty all the time, sadly I’m not!

Strictly Come Dancing, Saturday, 7.15pm, BBC one

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