“Great British Bake-Off” Winner John Waite is forgoing intense competition in the kitchen for the heat of the dance floor. The 32-year-old star has officially been cast for the 19th season of BBC’s popular reality dance competition Strictly Come Dancing. At the same time, history is made.
Waite, alongside his new dance partner Johannes Radebe, will be the first-ever same-sex male couple on the esteemed reality television stage. The BBC announcement easily crosses over to the States and teams up with the queer buzz surrounding JoJo Siwa, who was recently cast as half of another historic, same-sex dance couple for the 30th season of ABC’s Dancing With The Stars.
Side-by-side, the two announcements foreshadow the coming of a big year for queer representation in reality dance competitions. The hefty responsibility of representation aside, both Siwa and Waite are granted the rare opportunity to whole-heartedly compete as their authentic, queer selves – the freedom of which has already made the competition infinitely more interesting.
Deep in the preseasons for DWTS and Strictly Come Dancing, queer drama has—and always will—prevail as television’s hottest and most compelling entertainment. Before the dancing begins, Siwa already has fans in a frenzy by accidentally revealing the highly anticipated identity of her same-sex dance partner. Mid-interview with E!’s Daily Pop, Siwa mistakenly spilled her dance partner’s name when gushing over how adorably jealous girlfriend Kylie Prew was of said partner.
Before thinking it through, a young and in love Siwa divulges to E! that Prew told her, “Tell Jenna, she needs to leave room for Jesus.” It was then that Siwa’s same-sex partner was discovered to be DWTS pro Jenna Johnson. The drama of it all! Step for step with DWTS, the British counterpart dance Strictly Come Dancing is equally as entrancing in it’s preseason. Already, the British duo Waite and Radebe seem to be a match made in rhythmic heaven.
Though the news of star baker Waite’s casting broke back in August, BBC drew out Radebe’s announcement deliciously, waiting until September to introduce the two men as a team. The partner’s video reveal, dropped via Twitter, features Waite and a suspiciously human-sized, sparkly cake. On queue, Radebe bursts out of the cake’s glittery top to spring the news on Waite.
Something between a squeal and a gasp escapes a pleasantly stunned Waite; but seemingly more spooked than surprised, he then swears the amazingly gay cake of shimmering silver was nearly a dead giveaway. “What I saw it was a big, sparkly cake, I thought, ‘Oh come on, it’s got to be Johannes.” Clearly in tune with his instincts, Waite was right. Still, even with Radebe right in his face, he has trouble fully believing the almost-too-good to be true news, “And when he popped out of it, I’m blown away.”
The two men hug and when the excitement settles, Waite’s initial astonishment is replaced by an understandably profound gratitude, “It means the world that we’re doing this together,” he tells Radebe. Without hesitating, Radebe insists, “It’s my pleasure.”
Unspoken between them is the acknowledgment that together, Waite and Radebe will take on a terrifying and historical first so as to ensure they are not the last same-sex male couple to grace Strictly Come Dancing’s stage. In an interview with the UK’s Independent, Waite recalled how being cast and coupled appropriately as a gay man in mainstream media was and is a huge “step forward.”
As a queer person who has recently come to realize he’s moving in the right direction, Waite aims for a prize much greater than being the last couple standing. Instead, he hopes most of all to be a role model, “Little kids who watch the show, to have same-sex role models will give them a little bit of hope for the future and it won’t make them grow up with the same shame that I grew up with.”
“But also it’s not just about queer people, it’s about everyone, straight or gay. I hope that this is going to break down that notion of toxic masculinity, especially in Britain.”