How old is Dame Arlene Phillips?
The dancer, choreographer and TV judge is best known for her time as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing. Aged 78, she is the oldest contestant to appear on I’m A Celebrity. You can find the full 2021 line-up here.
Born in Lancashire in 1943, Phillips was inspired to start dancing by her mother, who died of leukaemia when she was 43.
In 1974, Phillips formed the dance troupe Hot Gossip, who were one of the earliest dance groups to appear on UK television. Phillips served as director and choreographer throughout the troupe’s time together. Over the years, many dancers performed with the group, who were known for their risqué routines, including “Toyboy” singer Sinitta and Phillips’s former Strictly co-star Bruno Tonioli.
As a choreographer, Phillips has worked around the world. She was assistant choreographer on the 1982 Annie film and directed the first production of Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance. She then choreographed stage productions such as The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz and The Cher Show.
In 2014, Phillips was one of the initial judges on the BBC reality series Strictly Come Dancing. Sitting alongside Craig Revel Horwood, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli, she became known for commenting on the “sex appeal” of the contestants.
Now known at the BBC for dance, she was also a judge on spin-off series Strictly Dance Fever, DanceX and So You Think You Can Dance?. Over on ITV, she created, produced and choreographed the 2008 series Britannia High, a musical drama set at a Fame-esque London theatre school.
In 2009, Phillips was dropped from the Strictly judging line-up and replaced by former winner Alesha Dixon. This led to mass public outcry, with the BBC accused of “ageist” discrimination against Phillips – something the corporation denied. Harriet Harman, who at the time was the Minister for Women and Equality, raised the issue in the House of Commons.
In 2021, Phillips was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE), having previously received an OBE in 2001 and CBE in 2013.
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Speaking about joining I’m A Celebrity, Phillips said that she expected Strictly judge Horwood to question whether she was “mad”.
However, she remains unfazed by being the show’s oldest ever contestant, saying: “I am always the oldest and so I am used to it.”
Phillips says that food on the show is “the least of my worries”, but that she’s concerned about the trials and does not like spiders and other animals likely to be faced at Gwrych Castle.
I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! returns Sunday 21 November at 9pm on ITV.