Leeds born Olympian boxer Nicola Adams has become the first contestant to dance in a same-sex couple on the popular BBC show, Strictly Come Dancing.
On October 24th 2020 Nicola Adams and her dance partner Katya Jones took to the dance-floor as Strictly Come Dancing’s first same sex-couple.
Despite the response being largely positive with many applauding the BBC’s efforts to support the LGBTQ community and break stigmas, it has also sparked a debate online about the BBC’s motives.
This follows the recent controversy about new director-general Tim Davies implying that BBC staff can not attend pride events. Despite Mr.Davies releasing a statement that this was not the case, it continues to cause tension.
Vik Brown, a mum, wife and member of the LGBTQ community stated:
“I’m not a fan of the show but 3 of my children are and as they have lesbian mums it’s lovely seeing them get so excited about representation on tv in their favourite reality show.”
Highlighting how whilst there may be some political and social conflicts in the BBC’s recent actions it’s still important that mainstream media shows accurate representation and promote inclusivity.
Ian Lamond, Chairman of the staff and student LGBTQ community network at Leeds Beckett spoke about how he is “thrilled” about having a same-sex couple on Strictly.
However, he stressed his worries about the BBC being “tokenistic” and to “tick boxes”. This being said, like many others, he stressed that its “important for people to see themselves on screen” and he “hopes this is the start of a greater awareness and openness”.
Tim Whitehead, is an LGBTQ performers manger and manages and works with famous performers such as Jink Monsoon and Ben de le Creme famously known from RuPaul’s Dragrace. Tim is also the Artistic Director at Happy Valley Pride.
Whitehead said how over his 20 years of working in the industry “the shift in attitudes towards LGBTQ performers seen has been remarkable”. In relation to Nicola Adams and her participation in strictly, he stated “any representation is better than non, she sees herself as an out proud woman, a trailblazer for LGBTQ community”
In response to whether or not he thinks the BBC is just trying to tick boxes: “I don’t personally see it as tokenism, these things have to start somewhere, better that it starts in a small way and representation can move forward in the future”
The BBC was forced to publish a statement on the choice to include a sam-sex pairing after it received complaints to OfCom following the release of the line-up for the latest series back in September.
In the statement, they claimed “Nicola Adams requested an all-female pairing, which we are happy to facilitate. The show is first and foremost about dance, the sex of each partner within a coupling should have no bearing on their routine.” Indicating it was Adams who pushed for the same-sex pairing.
This isn’t the BBC’s first step towards creating a more inclusive and representative mainstream media. In January 2020 Ian Watkins from Steps became the first celebrity to be partnered in a same-sex couple for Dancing on Ice. It was further revealed that Watkins had requested the BBC give him a same-sex pairing when they approached him for their show ‘Tumble’ back in 2004, a request that they did not meet.
Furthermore, in the previous 2019 series of Strictly Come Dancing the BBC featured the first-ever same-sex routine between professional dancers Johannes Radebe and Graziano Di Prima. It was reported that the BBC and Ofcom received over 300 complaints following the routine; once again proving how far we still need to go as a society in being inclusive and accepting.