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Oti looking over her shoulder at the camera next to text reading OTI I am here

Oti Mabuse Interview

Oti Mabuse discusses growing up, Strictly Come Dancingand her brand new tour I Am Here, coming to Leeds Grand Theatre in June.

Written by Ellen Carnazza.

You started dancing from a very early age, have you always wanted to be a professional dancer?

My sisters Motsi and Phemelo danced so my mom set up a school for us in South Africa and we all danced together. Phemelo was the best dancer! I’ve always danced and it’s my passion. I did train as a Civil Engineer, but dancing was always my first love.”

What’s been the most challenging part of your dancing career so far?

Following my dreams and moving to other countries. I left my family in South Africa to move to Germany where I met my dance partner, Marius, who is now my husband. I learned German as well. I was on Strictly Germany before leaving everything again to move to the UK to film Strictly here.”

Was moving to the UK to join the Strictly family a nerve-wracking experience? 

I’d done Strictly in Germany with my sister, Motsi, and my husband, Marius. Coming to the UK was really exciting but, yes, nerve-wracking too – and Strictly is a huge TV show here. I was nervous but I was lucky to be asked and the show was a dream come true for me. I don’t think I knew how big the show was here until I was on the TV.

Oti Mabuse in a white skirt and top

I Am Here

The show is called I Am Here – what was the inspiration behind the title?

The title is a translation of my name – Otlile – but it’s also a celebration and a thank you to everyone who has supported me in the UK and given me so many opportunities.

How does it feel to be taking your first ever solo stage show on tour?

It’s a dream! Due to the pandemic, we have had to delay it, so I can’t wait to finally get out on the road with the cast, band, and crew! It will be fantastic to visit all the different venues around the country and meet all the fans. I think we all need to have a good time!

What can people expect to feel sitting in the audience watching Oti Mabuse: I Am Here?

I hope they feel inspired, excited, and uplifted by the show. It’s my story but also a celebration and a thank you for the opportunities I have been given in my life. Most of all, I want everyone to just have a good time!

You’re taking the tour all over the UK and will be joined onstage by your husband, Marius. What’s it like working with your partner!?

We were dancing partners before we got together as a couple, so we’ve always worked together. We have set up our dance school together now as well. He is the perfect dance partner too. (Don’t tell him I said that!)

Oti Mabuse in a gold dress with backing dancers in black posing around her
Oti Mabuse and her dancers on stage in front of big gold and white letters says I Am Here four times
Oti Mabuse in a gold jacket and top hat

Strictly and The Cher Show

You’ve been a Strictly Come Dancing champion not once, but twice – how did it feel lifting the glitterball trophy for two years running?

“Incredible! I think with Bill – in the lockdown series – it was also extra special as the BBC team did an extraordinary job in such challenging circumstances just to get the show on. When they called our names, we couldn’t quite believe it! It will always be a highlight of my career.”

The Cher Show is making its UK premiere next year, how does it feel to be part of a strong, female creative team.

I’ve always been part of strong female teams so it’s what I know: my mom and sisters, the Strictly team, Jo Wallace, Lou Rainbow Sarah James, and many more on my other work in TV. 

I’m thrilled to be working on Cher with Arlene! Both are incredible women who I admire greatly. I mean, Cher and Arlene Phillips – what’s not to love!

Was theatre choreography something you’ve always wanted to get into?

“Yes. I did Ain’t Misbehavin at Colchester and Southwark. Also Kiss Me Kate at The Watermill. I love working in the rehearsal room and seeing talent shine.  I can’t wait to start on Cher – it’s going to be epic!  I love all types of dance and choreography – I’m lucky to have the chance to work across all genres.

Do you like the contrast of the theatre world to television?

“Yes – they are very different.  TV is instant but theatre is eight shows a week – singing and dancing. The choreography must allow the performer to sing and act too over the full show. I’ve had to learn to adapt. I love the rehearsal process – creating and seeing it all come to life.”

Oti Mabuse in a black and gold dance outfit smiling at the camera

Parting Thoughts

Your career has taken you on so many different journeys from TV and theatre, to radio broadcasting and recently writing a children’s book.  Do you have any dream job you’d still love to do? 

“Prime Minister, please! Would you vote for me? Haha.”

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in life so far?

“To be yourself. Listen and learn from others but always listen to yourself as well.”

Oti Mabuse shimmying in a gold outfit in front of the words I AM HERE in yellow lights

Oti Mabuse: I Am Here is at Leeds Grand Theatre from Thursday 16 – Friday 17 June. Book tickets now.