Since whirling on to UK TV screens as the newest judge on Strictly Come Dancing in 2019, Motsi Mabuse has become a firm favourite with viewers on the popular BBC show. Having joined WW (Weight Watchers) as an ambassador, in our exclusive interview, she talks about her wellbeing journey, being a Black role model and how she is living her best life.
Since replacing Darcy Bussell as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing, South African born Motshegetsi “Motsi” Mabuse has won a legion of fans who warm to her glamorous personality and passion for the world of dance. Older sister to Oti Mabuse, also linked to the show as a dancer, Motsi first found TV fame as a dancer on the German version of Strictly, called Let’s Dance, before becoming a judge on the show.
Having based there for more than 20 years, Motsi still considers Germany to be home, where she runs a popular dance school along with her husband Evgenij Voznyu, and where they became parents two years ago to a baby girl.
However, even with a background in professional dancing, when it comes to keeping healthy and positive, we can all use a little help. 2020 was a year of challenges, for Motsi too. When it was time to focus on her health, she turned to a family favourite – WW (Weight Watchers reimagined). She wasn’t alone. Research from WW shows that 30% of Brits want to ‘be a healthier person’ after the lockdowns of 2020, and what better than the start of a brand-new year to give us the gumption to start our wellness journey.
Following the announcement that 39-year-old Motsi has joined WW as an ambassador, we took the opportunity to ask her about how she prioritises her health and wellbeing, her role on Strictly, and how she keeps a positive mindset to be the best version of herself.
What is the best thing about being a judge on Strictly?
You get to come back every week. It is a fun show, so entertaining, so emotional, people are so committed to it and so professional and you can feel the buzz. I don’t feel the buzz so much as I always travel but this year is different.
It is rare to see a beautiful, mature Black woman on primetime TV. Do you feel the pressure of this in any way?
I don’t feel any pressure as much as I have been doing this job for almost twelve years in the UK. I do feel that as a Black woman, the love and support from my other Black sisters. With a lot of people, if they have a career you see their career going up in front of their eyes. For me to internationally join Strictly people don’t know who I am, they don’t know my struggle, they don’t know where I come from. I have just been placed in the UK’s top show. It will always need time to connect but I feel it is very important with such a show that is so popular in the UK that you see diversity and a different type of diverse Black woman because we are not all the same and everyone has their own story and journey, if that makes sense.
I do feel that as a Black woman, the love and support from my other Black sisters.
It does indeed. Your daughter is two years old; did you enjoy your pregnancy?
I did. She was wished for from the bottom of our hearts and I enjoyed seeing the change in my body. I never dreamt myself as being pregnant and I never knew if it was there for me so when it happened it took about two years to realise that I am a mum. I am like ‘Am I the same person’ and she says ‘Mummy’ and I am like ‘Oh my goodness’. It was something that I could not have dreamt of and it just wasn’t in my head.
Were you one of those women who snapped back to your pre-pregnancy weight?
No, not necessarily. I joined up with WW because I was a dancer before and having gained that much weight, working through it was a journey and when I had the opportunity to get help with that, I took it. It took quite a while and to be honest I feel that since becoming a mum, my body has a different definition now. It is about going with the flow, knowing what my limits are and trying to introduce a healthier relationship to my body weight. When I was a dancer, I may have been the thinnest person on the floor, but it wasn’t healthy. Now it is about being healthy and fit.
Did having a daughter change you in any way, how you view yourself in the world?
It has changed me enormously and she is priority number one which has made me in some cases much clearer about what I want. I don’t have a lot of patience and if people are ridiculous now, I don’t take that or have any of that. It has made me vulnerable in some cases because some things are out of my control. It has woken me up to be even more of a genuine person because I want to be a great example to her. I really do want her to love herself and I cannot fake that. Being able to give that message to my daughter means that I have to go through the process of loving myself which all comes back to a healthy inner structure including mental health, body and confidence and so many other aspects that having a daughter has made in my life.
Being able to give that message to my daughter means that I have to go through the process of loving myself…
You have been a dancer for most of your life and you look amazing, why did you want to join WW as an ambassador?
I have always loved WW. It has been in my life a long time as my parents and mum in South Africa were all involved. I am a great fan of Oprah [also a WW ambassador] and her mission and vision. She is such a role model for me. This comes from my inner core, it is not just about losing weight but a whole way of living and that is the new us now and to be aware of who we are right now and how we want to change our lives. Life is moving so fast and everyday new things are coming in. Having a structure for the way you want to live and consume food is something that WW is all about. I love the message that they carry. I only work with a few people and I only work with authentic brands. This is a journey, and it works so well with other things I have going on in my life. As a community we help each other and work together, and I want to connect with everything in my life so it all works together.
How long have you been doing WW personally?
About 10 to 13 years ago as a dancer I was going through some personal stuff and I was out of shape and I used WW then and it worked. When I fell pregnant two years ago and had my baby, I decided to do it because it works. I joined WW through a friend and that is what WW is, people connecting with each other.
Do you cook any South African dishes and what examples can you share with us?
There are a lot of different nations in South Africa and so one type of food is difficult. I do love maize meal with tomato sauce and any type of meat and it is the thing that most reminds me of home. It is great that I can get it in the UK now.
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How easy is it to incorporate your favourite dishes within the WW point system?
It depends as in South Africa we eat a lot of meat, protein, white chicken. I have also grown to love fish. I have discovered salmon and incorporate it in different ways in my meals.
Good health is also about having good mental health, how do you self-care?
I have my support community, my close friends that I trust, and we have a lot of communication. I have my husband and friends and my sisters. Being able to communicate and open up and be vulnerable is something I had to learn. To say “I need help” when I needed help. Those are things that help me with my mental health. When you grow up in South Africa it is not a normal childhood, you see aggression throughout your whole childhood and those things come up now. It is about always checking yourself and continuing to grow and finding ways to overcome the pain and anxiety and all the things that come with trauma.
It is about always checking yourself and continuing to grow and finding ways to overcome the pain and anxiety
Are there any particular steps that you take or do that calms you and helps you centre and relax yourself?
For me dancing is meditation and also important for me is spending time with my daughter, switching my phone off and putting it aside. Watching a movie or taking a walk helps me to achieve silence. I do want to incorporate meditation in my life and I have tried but you need to keep on going at it.
If you could change one thing about your figure what would it be and what do you like most?
I like my booty most [she laughs]! If there was one thing I could change, I would love to have big abs. I know it takes a lot of work to get a six pack but that would be a dream.
How do you juggle being a mum, your dance studio and Strictly? We hear a lot that we can have it all, do you think that is true?
I am going to quote Oprah again; you can have it all but not at the same time. You can prioritise and right now my priorities are my child and my relationship with my husband and my other job opportunities, and they come in that order. It is always about checking myself, checking myself and where I am right now. That is important to have that going on with yourself. I am always checking how present I am in situations. In the past I have not been present while making decisions and I have tried to change that; in fact, I am changing that.
…you can have it all but not at the same time
What do you do to keep fit?
I have discovered online work outs and I have created my own online community on my Instagram and am joined by women from Austria, Switzerland, Germany. It started off just as dancing but now it has become dancing, mental health talk and is on its own journey. We have about 100 women who join me every Friday.
Where is your favourite place in the world and why?
I would say home, South Africa, I have a deep connection with there. My home in Germany as well but when I want to go and think and get energy, then home with my mum is my place.
Finally, what’s next for Motsi?
There is no next for me it is all about now. I am so lucky to be able to be living my dream life. I asked for all these things and have received them and now it is about appreciating them, growing them and working hard to keep them. I am not going to ask for a million-dollar cheque, I might maybe!
I am not about material things. I want a deeper meaning in my life and connection with people and to stay genuine. To not lose my fire for life. The more people you know, the more they want from you. For me, I just want to stay connected with my people.
This New Year WW (Weight Watchers reimagined) has launched the new myWW+ app to support people with their wellness goals. myWW+ is a comprehensive approach to wellness built around four pillars that can have a measurable impact on weight loss success: food, activity, mindset and sleep.
Join Motsi and start your own weight loss and wellness journey with WW – Weight Watchers Reimagined.
To sign up to myWW+ go to ww.com