Strictly Come Dancing star John Whaite has praised fellow contestant Tilly Ramsay for being a “role model” after she was eliminated from the dance competition over the weekend.
The TV baker topped the leaderboard on Saturday with a dazzling Argentine tango, while Ramsay missed out on a place in the quarter-final after she faced CBBC presenter Rhys Stephenson in the dance-off.
Whaite, 32, also revealed that he deals with social media trolls by sending them the number to the Samaritans helpline, as he finds people who send hurtful messages are often suffering themselves.
He told the PA news agency: “I think Tilly is a remarkable young woman, I said it on social media and I said it to her.
“I think the way she’s conducted herself with grace, integrity, decorum over this entire thing. She’s a role model to young men and women everywhere because she had some knocks with being in the dance-off but she pulled herself back up and dusted herself off and she cracked on.”
The 20-year-old social media star spoke out against LBC presenter Steve Allen, 67, during her time on the show after he called her a “chubby little thing” live on air.
The CBBC presenter criticised Allen in a statement posted to Instagram which said she “won’t tolerate people that think it’s okay to publicly comment and scrutinise anyone’s weight and appearance”.
Whaite has been supportive of his fellow contestants throughout the series and spoken out against hurtful comments, including those against Ramsay.
He told PA: “I think because it’s a competition, Strictly, people feel that they can say what they want about the people that they don’t necessarily vote for.
“Whereas I want people to realise that even though it is a competition, I am fiercely protective over every single person in that competition because we are all showing a very vulnerable side, we’re all doing something very challenging.
“We’re putting ourselves on a dancefloor in front of 10 million people every single weekend, and we’re enjoying ourselves, but with that comes vulnerability.
“And I just wanted to say that I will stick up for any of those people, I will stick up for anyone that has been trolled or bullied at the risk of losing followers, because that is what we should do as human beings.
“People preach about being kind and looking after one another and then, unfortunately, a very small minority of people feel completely free to say very hurtful and unnecessary things to people.
“I mean, criticise our dancing, that’s fine, that’s what we’re there for, criticise the outfits if you want, but don’t personally attack people.”
The Great British Bake Off winner said he sends people who troll him the contact details for the Samaritans, a charity helpline for those struggling with isolation, mental health issues or suicidal thoughts.
“I often find that people who have the need or the urgency to say something very hurtful and personal directly to somebody, they often are suffering themselves,” he said.
“And so they get personal back and try and retaliate with a clever witticism.
“I just say, ‘here’s a number for the Samaritans and I hope you find the peace that you’re looking for’.”
Whaite has teamed up with American Express to create a festive Shop Small Sandwich recipe especially for small businesses.
The campaign aims to support small businesses by encouraging the nation to shop small throughout the festive season and beyond.