It started with a kiss. Last weekend, Seann Walsh and his Strictly Come Dancing dance partner Katya Jones were photographed kissing after, what they later described as, ‘a few too many’.
A standard work-place faux pas, that a lot of the nation can unfortunately relate to, made all that more severe by the fact that Katya is married to Neil, another professional dancer on the same show and comedian Seann has (or be that now had*) a girlfriend, Rebecca, of 6 years.
The photographs, taken on 8th October made the front page of The Sun on Sunday which was subsequently followed by various other front-page appearances throughout the week in The Sun, The Daily Mail and The Mirror.
Both guilty parties immediately posted short and standard apologies on each of their Twitter accounts in an obvious attempt at some damage control. However, it was the statement from Seann’s scorned lover, Rebecca Humphries, that really got people talking.
In a statement co-written by Public Eye, a PR agency who boasts big names such as Jamie Dornan and Suki Waterhouse as their clients, Humphries addressed the incident (which took place on her birthday- I mean, come on Seann?!) and reinforced that she ‘wasn’t a victim’ despite revealing that Walsh had been controlling, verbally abusive and called her a psycho for voicing her concerns over his fidelity.
Rebecca’s brilliantly written statement was retweeted over 12,800 times and saw her Twitter followers increase by over 16,500. Her statement also prompted support from celebrities including Myleene Class, Stacey Solomon, Carol Vorderman and Marian Keyes, many of whom gushed about an all too familiar situation and how she handled herself with such dignity and grace. The Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, Katie Ghose, even praised Rebecca for speaking out publicly about her experience and helping other women in similar situations.
This perfect example of crisis communications catapulted Rebecca into the spotlight, not as a woman scorned but instead as a voice for a new generation of strong, resilient and capable women.
However, a source from Strictly Come Dancing has said that, “It was written to bring him down, plain and simple, to chime in with the whole #MeToo moment and make it seem far, far worse than it was.” They then went on to say that “He’s a total a***hole but that doesn’t make him a monster.” – A view that surprisingly was shared by a lot of viewers.
Unfortunately for Seann and Katya, their joint appearance on midweek show “It Takes Two” didn’t do them any favours though. Through watching their appearance on the aptly named show, I can only imagine that the severity of what Seann had sacrificed (other than his relationship) was only starting to sink in. His uncomfortable, uptight presence throughout the interview portrayed a mind that was now counting his potential post-show opportunities slipping away alongside his inevitable sell-out comedy tour.
Whilst addressing his version of events, he made no reference to his (ex) girlfriend and came across as arrogant and overly defensive. Katya showed even less remorse than Seann by selfishly stating that her relationship was ‘absolutely fine and that’s what matters the most’.
But I couldn’t help but wonder, why hadn’t Neil weighed in on these terrible attempts to handle the situation? Was he indeed absolutely fine with his wife’s indiscretions? Was he going to drag Seann across the dancefloor by the throat whilst the band plays Copacabana? Neil’s response was something I’d never read before in any crisis communications text book- he completely ignored his wife’s indiscretions and instead posted this photo below on his Instagram page.
Whilst Rebecca addressed her public humiliation head on and inspired a nation of women, Neil simply taught us that if all goes wrong, you can always post a poorly photoshopped photo of your butt on Instagram that will be sure to distract from anything else going on in your life…
But Neil’s Kardashian strategy wasn’t enough to distract me.
Having never watched Strictly before in my life, I settled down on Saturday evening waiting to watch the shamed partners take to the floor to perform the Charleston (which I have to believe was picked deliberately by the Strictly producers as it is perhaps the most un-sexy dance they could have been assigned).
After sitting through the first 10 acts (another obvious ploy by the BBC to keep viewers watching the whole way through) they were on. Much to my disappointment, the ghost of Bruce Forsythe didn’t appear to cast shame on them both, but clearly I wasn’t alone in my anticipation to see these two face the music and dance. Twitter was on fire with both of their names trending the entire way through the show and viewing ratings even increased by 1.4 million compared to the previous week.
So were there any real losers at the end of this scandal?
Rebecca, although going through obvious personal trauma has had her profile heightened and gained the respect of a nation of women – all beneficial factors for an actress who, let’s face it, wasn’t a household name before. As for the pair in question, despite their horrendous handling of the situation, they have come out of this pretty well. According to Katya, her relationship is ‘absolutely fine’ and this is seconded by the silent support (and seaside selfies) of her husband. Seann even managed survived the first week of evictions post-scandal and the show is, as a result, boasting huge ratings figures.
Thanks to the ‘Strictly Curse’, which has claimed victims including Rachel Riley, Natasha Kaplinsky and Kristina Rihanoff, the nation is watching, talking and tweeting about Strictly Come Dancing 2018. A blessing in disguise.
*I personally think the most traumatic thing about this whole scenario has to have been the over-use of the word ‘snog’ in the press.
Lucy Sempey is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @LucySempey ; LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/lucy-sempey-482ab9130/