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Photography: Dan Collins

Giovanni Pernice first came to our attention in the UK as a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing, joining the show in 2015. Gio has been an outspoken straight ally for LGBTQ+ people, calling for the inclusion of same-sex couples on the show. He also wants to encourage more young men, including LGBTQ+ people, to dance.

I began by asking Gio what made him want to become a dancer and how he ended up on Strictly?
In Sicily, where I’m from, it wasn’t considered normal for a boy to want to dance. I moved on my own to Bologna to train full time. It was tough, but it was the best decision I ever made. I went on to compete in competitions around the world and in 2012 I won the Italian Championships. It was in 2015 that I got the call for Strictly – a total dream come true and something I still have to pinch myself that I get to do. It’s been the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication. I hope to stay on the show until my legs don’t work!

Is there any chance we might see you working with a male partner on Strictly?
I would love that! I thought Katya [Jones] and Nicola [Adams] were brilliant last season. It’s such a shame they didn’t get to continue, as I think they would have gone really far in the competition. As a professional dancer, I welcome the technical challenge of dancing with a male partner. It changes the dynamic and, of course, the execution of the steps – that’s exciting. I don’t know what the big bosses have in store for this year, but I am definitely up for it!

Do you think that young men get bullied for wanting to dance?
I think there is still stigma around it. My choice definitely wasn’t accepted in the place I am from. I had to grow a thick skin very quickly. I receive many messages from parents of young boys whose dream it is to perform, but they’re scared to do it because of what other people might think or say. It’s hard, but you have to focus on what you want rather than what other people expect you to do. Things are changing for the better now – so many more styles of dance are cool thanks to shows like Strictly. We’re seeing boys and men really shine in Latin, Ballroom and Ballet – it’s great to see!

What was the highlight of the most recent season of Strictly for you and why?
Seeing Ranvir [Singh] progress and improve was a highlight. It was clear she had natural ability, but she worked so hard – and believe me, I can be a tough teacher – and it paid off. I also really loved the tribute to Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Johannes [Radebe] and Gorka [Márquez] absolutely stole the show with that routine – they were so inspirational to me. I think that routine is one of the best we’ve ever done on the show. If you’ve seen my Instagram, you’ll know I love to dress-up and I’m a huge fan of drag, so I’m up for more things like that for sure.

What would your advice be to any young LGBTQ+ people who would like to pursue a career in dance?
I will always say to never give up. It takes a lot of dedication – blood, sweat and tears – but the results are worth it. Find and talk to other LGBTQ+ people who share your passion and give each other confidence. The dance community is very welcoming of LGBTQ+ people and I hope that never changes. Go for it – and I hope to see you on the dance floor soon!