Strictly Come Dancing professional Neil Jones has admitted he’s used to being called names as he once again addressed claims about his sexuality.
The ballroom dancer, whose divorce from estranged wife and co-star Katya Jones has been put on hold throughout the pandemic, insists he didn’t punch love rival Seann Walsh in a furious confrontation after the comedian made a gay joke about him.
“I’m ginger, anyone who is ginger is used to being called worse things,” the dancer said.
“I’ve developed a thick skin. I didn’t try to punch him or anything. I don’t like confrontation or drama.”
Two months after the December 2018 Snoggate scandal – in which Katya and Seann were pictured kissing on a drunken night out in London, hours after they’d performed a steamy Paso Doble – Seann had reportedly made a cruel quip at Neil’s expense at one of his gigs.
Introducing himself to the crowd, Seann had said: “I’m the guy who kissed a gay man’s wife.”
At the time, reports claimed Neil had angrily cornered Seann over the jibe in a confrontation that turned violent.
But Neil insists that wasn’t the case – and that Seann’s errant tongue actually had nothing to do with his and Katya’s split just 10 months later.
“We found that we’d grown apart like people do, so we were like, ‘OK, let’s go our separate ways’. We are lucky that we don’t have kids,” he told the Sun On Sunday.
“It had nothing to do with what happened [with Seann]. We were moving in different directions but we are friends again now. Katya is a great girl and I’ve got nothing bad to say about her.”
Neil did admit he didn’t fancy Russian Katya when he first met her, because it was all about whether they got on as dance partners.
“I didn’t think about fancying her at first. She’s a pretty girl but for me it was always dancing first… It was a few months before we got together. I think it was spending so much time together and we got to know each other,” he went on.
“I’m in a good place and me and Katya get on really well now.
“For me it’s something that happened in the past. We spoke about everything back then. We had a situation but everyone was supportive, so we got through it.”
Neil says the pair are in “no rush” to get divorced, which is just as well because the paperwork has been held up by the COVID-19 pandemic.
And it’s a good job the ex-couple are able to work together amicably, because they’ll be spending plenty of time together in close quarters this summer as the professional Strictly dancers isolate together in a hotel.
They’ve got to record all of this series’ group dancers before the show starts, to avoid the risk of spreading coronavirus as much as possible, so everyone involved will quarantine together in a large bubble.
Strictly bosses have also announced a shorter run this year to manage the risk, as well as fewer celebrities when the show starts in mid-October.