HANDSOME Strictly Come Dancing star Brendan Cole was once as famous for his romances as his rumbas and rumbles.
But the one-time bad boy of the show insists those wild days are in the past now he is happily married to Zoe Hobbs.
The 31-year-old model gave birth to their first child — called Aurelia — on Christmas Day, on the same day he appeared on a pre-recorded special edition of the BBC1 hit show.
“The bad boy bit was fun for a while, but I’m extremely happy now,” he said.
“A few years ago my dancing was first and foremost.
“But now it’s the right time and I’m in the right place to have my career and private life in an ideal balance.”
The millions of Strictly fans love him and Cole is one of only three male dancers to have starred on the show every year since it first hit the screens in 2003.
“If I’m sometimes outspoken on Strictly it’s because I feel wronged,” he said. “If the judges are unfair then I feel that needs to be addressed.
“It doesn’t take much to wind me up, but I can’t let a problem stew.
“I have to let it out, but my anger comes from the right place and once it’s passed I forget about it.
“You meet people you like on Strictly and others you don’t. That’s life isn’t?
Cole partnered Olympic gold medalist Victoria Pendleton in the last series of Strictly — but the cycle star was voted out of the series way before the final.
“It was really exciting to partner Victoria, she was a diamond to work with,” said Brendan.
“But it is not fun for everybody, and she found it really tough going. “I don’t think Strictly was a show for her.
“It wasn’t right for Victoria and I don’t think she embraced it.”
It is difficult to believe, though, that the friendly New Zealander who has conquered the world on the dance floor used to hate dancing.
“I often think back when my mum said I had to go dancing — I loathed every minute of it,” he said.
“But then I started winning competitions and I liked all the pats on the back and the trophies.”
Now Cole has created his own dance show, Licence to Thrill, and promising all the Ballroom and Latin dance routines seen on Strictly, Brendan says it has proved his biggest challenge.
Cole’s brother Scott, who is also a dancer, appears in the all-star cast with up-and-coming Aussie talent Melanie Hooper and Germany’s Patrick Helm.
“I want the audience to see the real me: a level-headed, decent bloke who loves to entertain his audience,” said Brendan.
“People often ask what was my favourite Strictly was — it would have to be when I lifted the cup with Natasha Kaplinsky.
“That was special, but professionally this is the best thing I’ve done.
“It beats winning Strictly Come Dancing by a country mile.”
- Brendan Cole’s Licence to Thrill, The Lowry, Salford Quays, Thursday, January 31, and Blackpool Opera House, Friday, February 1.