Former Strictly Come Dancing professional Kevin Clifton has spoken up in defence of contestant Maisie Smith, following the trolling she has experienced on social media.
Despite being one of the strongest dancers in this year’s competition, the EastEnders star has had a difficult journey on the BBC ballroom show, ending up in the bottom two twice during the series.
Kevin, who partnered Maisie when she appeared on a one-off Children In Need special of Strictly last year, has now named her as one of the people he’d like to see win the show after she received negative comments online.
Speaking to HuffPost UK, Kevin said: “I feel quite protective of Maisie because we did the Children In Need special together.
“I know that people are being mean to her on social media and stuff, and she’s a kid, she’s a 19-year-old girl, so I feel quite defensive of Maisie.”
Maisie, who is paired with pro Gorka Marquez on the series, previously addressed the negative comments she has faced, admitting she struggles with her confidence.
“People forget I am a 19-year-old girl,” she told The Mirror. “I’d ask people maybe not to judge my character on certain faces I pull when I’m dancing and maybe don’t be too quick to guess who someone is.
“I’m not confident in myself at all and I’m trying to be more confident, let’s not hate.”
Kevin also said he had been impressed by Made In Chelsea star Jamie Laing, who is partnered with his ex-wife Karen Hauer.
“Jamie has really surprised me,” Kevin said. “When I watched him on week one, I thought ‘he’s probably going to go out early’, but the improvement he’s made from week one to now is huge, he’s made such a massive leap that I just think he’s really deserving to do well, so there’s part of me that wants to see Jamie win as well.
“Like if Bill Bailey wins – no one is going to question it! He’s great! But if someone had said beforehand ‘Bill Bailey is going to win’, you’d have laughed at whoever said that. And now, if he wins, you’ll be like ‘fair play, he deserves it’.”
Kevin was also full of praise for Anton Du Beke’s recent stint on the judging panel.
The pro dancer sat in for regular judge Motsi Mabuse for two weeks earlier in the series after she was forced to self isolate.
“I thought it was a really nice touch to put him on the panel,” he said.
“He reminded me of when Len Goodman was still on the panel. I thought he was wicked.”
Kevin quit Strictly earlier this year after seven years as a professional dancer to tour with a production of Strictly Ballroom.
While it was subsequently cancelled, the tour has now been rescheduled for next year.
“Fingers crossed that 2021 is going to be a version of what 2020 was supposed to be – for everyone in the world!” Kevin said.
Now watching Strictly from home, Kevin has been outspoken about some of the judges’ scoring this year, in particular he criticised the panel for “slaughtering” Clara Amfo after her Samba with partner Aljaz Skorjanec.
Admitting he gets “annoyed” when he disagrees with the scoring, Kevin said: “On the whole, I think they do a good job. It’s just me as a fan basically going, ‘why did they hammer her, she was amazing?’, but it’s all a matter of taste, I suppose.
“But when they hammer someone that I think is really good, I get annoyed.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.