Strictly's Motsi Mabuse says 'Germans told me I'd never make it because black people are lazy – I showed THEM'

IT’S the start of Black History Month today and The Sun is marking the occasion by ­celebrating some of ­Britain’s most ­inspirational people.

From Parliament’s ancient corridors of power to the ­football field and even the shiny dancefloor of Strictly Come Dancing, we will be showcasing the nation’s wealth of black talent.



In their own words, the big names will tell of their pride in their ­brilliant achievements.

Today, we hear from Strictly judge Motsi Mabuse, 40, who writes about how she went from a dance-loving little girl in apartheid-era South Africa to becoming one of the top stars of telly’s biggest show.

WHEN I was a little girl, ­people made fun of me because of my small nose.

Now I sit on the judging panel of the UK’s biggest show and I have young black girls thanking me and my sister, Oti, for being role models.

We’ve seen so many Hollywood stars changing their looks. People altering themselves. Bleaching their skin.

I’m so thankful I was strong enough to accept how God made me, as a South African woman.

I have learned to love all my features that were not seen as beautiful.

Last year, when I had to unexpectedly return to Germany for a couple of weeks during Strictly, I called in from my sofa, with my natural Afro hair on show.

I had so many people writing to me to say doing that made them feel included.

I’m so proud of where I am today and how far I’ve come from that little girl who was always throwing a pose for photographs, my feet pointed in ballet position.

I was a performer right from the start. When my mum, Dudu, did her exercise videos, I would be right there in front of her, dancing along.

I wanted to sing, act and feed my artistic soul. I adored Whitney Houston and South African singers like Brenda Fassie and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.

FEELING OF FREEDOM

But there were very few stars who looked like us, we had no social media then and there were no possibilities to get into entertainment.

Dancing was really the only way I could live that life.

I became addicted to the feeling of freedom when I was dancing. I felt seen, and I knew I was good at something.

But when it came to competitions against white children, I was made to feel unwelcome in the beginning.

I didn’t fit in, I didn’t have the right costumes because we couldn’t afford them. There were structures in place to make sure the black dancers would never win.

That kept me hungry.

If I had won early and easily, I wouldn’t have gone through the journey I’ve been on, and that has made me stronger.

When I moved to Germany at 18 and was told, “You’ll never make it because black people are lazy”, well, that gave me the energy to prove them wrong.

I danced the Latin American dances, which originated in Africa and Latin America, yet I was told I was doing it wrong, I had to relearn and adapt something I believed I instinctively had. So I did everything I needed to do to improve and fit in.

That is something I had learned from school, when Oti and our middle sister Phemelo and I were lucky to be among a very small number of black children at a private mixed school.

I became addicted to the feeling of freedom when I was dancing. I felt seen, and I knew I was good at something.

We were faced with the harsh reality of South Africa every day. Our parents, Peter, a judge, and Dudu, who founded a preschool for young black children, instilled in us that as black girls, things will be more difficult. Full stop.

They would tell us to “get up and chase your dreams and do something about it”.

My dad was strict and always concerned with education, education, education. But he is so proud to see us on Strictly. He texts us the sweetest messages before every show.

I was nine years old when Nelson Mandela was released and apartheid came to an end. You only realise what you have been through when you have a certain distance from it, and then you realise how hard it was.

I saw my female cousin get a tooth knocked out by big white boys on the bus to school.

That was scary.

You’re witnessing these things and there were no repercussions. No police complaint, nothing.

Then I’m having to go to school with those same boys.

I’m still, to this day, afraid of big dogs because they were used as weapons against us. We didn’t fully understand what was going on as children, but we took in those images and feelings and trauma, as well as the fears of our parents.

It was only when I had my daughter that I realised all that hurt and aggression had built up a hard, hard wall of protection around me, and that started to come down when I became a mum.

It’s amazing how sensitive I am now. I want my daughter to have a connection to South Africa, and for her to travel back there to see her family and be in a place full of diversity.

Her dad Evgenij Voznyuk is from Ukraine, I’m from South Africa, and she is growing up in Germany. She is a multi-cultural person and she needs to have a sense of belonging on this planet.

There are about one million people of colour in Germany, where we live, out of a population of 83million. I carry a proudness of coming from South Africa and knowing who I am.

I’m proud of my dance school and my 15 years as a judge on the German version of Strictly.

But I feel there are so many traumatised souls around me because they are living in a country that says: “You don’t belong here.”

The UK is much more diversified. We have to think about where we want our daughter to grow up so she feels respected, accepted, seen and not alone.

The minute I step off the plane in London, personally, I just breathe differently. I’m surrounded by people of different colours. After the Euros football this summer, when those poor boys missed the penalties in the final, people in Europe were shouting about how racist the UK is.

This is not just a UK problem — all European countries should take care of what is going on in their households before pointing fingers, because Germany, Italy, Spain . . . you are in ground zero for racism.

MY GOAL IS TO INSPIRE

The UK is a step further along than those countries in terms of visibility because of immigration from Commonwealth countries.

Black History Month is important to highlight the diversity of what people are going through now, and also that we don’t forget about the past. I don’t think we will forget about apartheid because there are repercussions still today.

Oti is of the generation we call Born Frees, because they were born after Nelson Mandela was free, but the history still affects them.

We need to remember the work that has been done for our freedom otherwise I wouldn’t be here on Strictly, and to highlight where we want to go as a human race.

It’s hard for people of colour who are successful, because you feel people are questioning whether you’re actually good at what you do or whether you’re ticking a box as a black person. But at the end of the day, for some people, what starts as ticking a box might change and make a difference for others.

Representation matters.

I’m proud to be on Strictly because I see how they are leading the way with diversity.

Look at this year — we have people of all colours, we have someone who is deaf and we have our first all-male couple.

Strictly has a responsibility as the UK’s No1 show to be representative, and they take that very seriously.

My goal is to inspire young girls, whatever colour they are, to achieve their ambitions.


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