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Dancing With The Stars judge Camilla Sacre-Dallerup's healing homecoming

The DWTS judge is so comfortable on our shores, she’s thrown away her tight jeans and inhibitions!

By Fleur Guthrie
On a blustery Auckland day, Dancing with the Stars NZ judge Camilla Sacre-Dallerup bursts into the lobby of her rented accommodation, carrying an armful of roses and apologising for her appearance.
Of course, she doesn't need to. Wearing a sweatshirt printed with the word "Happy" over a picture of a rainbow, she's just made a mad dash in the rain to buy flowers for our photo shoot.
As she settles on the couch with a pastry and discovers a new-found hole in her sock, she says if she's learnt anything from the pandemic, it's to let go of perfectionism.
"I've never owned so many sweat pants in my life," smiles the 48-year-old. "Anything that's too tight is a no go. All my unstretchy jeans have gone to the charity shop.
With fellow judges Elektra Shock (left) and Lance Savali.
"I'm glad we have a world now where people are starting to show themselves in a less-than-perfect sweaty light. I mean, who cares? Beauty is an inside job anyway."
In the three years since Los Angeles-based Camilla has sparkled on our screens as Head Judge, the former ballroom champion had gone through some other personal changes in her life.
She's become a US citizen and following her stint on the 2019 DWTS season, her father Benni passed away in Denmark after illness.
"I knew towards the end of the show that he was not good," she shares. "But we were still hopeful. I left New Zealand in June and unfortunately he passed a few weeks later. It was really tough on my mum. She lost her husband of 50 years and then the world went into lockdown.
"Dad was and always will be my hero. I feel he is totally guiding me."
Camilla with her mum Jytte
With her and husband Kevin working from home during the pandemic – together they run Camilla's life-coaching and hypnotherapy business – she says there were two saving graces of the months-long California lockdown.
Firstly, they're lucky they like each other ("Because so many people discovered they didn't, right!") and that a spontaneous decision to bring home a rescue pup just before lockdown was the right one.
"We already have a little terrier, Charlie, but then this dog Hunter pops up on a rescue page and I said, 'Kev, you see this dog? I'm going to work now and I need you to go pick him up,'" she recalls. "He's like, 'You're so funny!' But Kev got him. He felt what I felt too.
"Hunter was supposed to be a medium-sized dog, but he's humungous and weighs over 31kg. He spreads so much love in our household and Charlie loves him too."
During this time, Camilla became strict on her self-care routine too. Because, as she points out, if she's not "mentally okay", then it's impossible to guide others.
'I thought he was cute, but I wrote him off because he was an actor and I didn't want another relationship in the public eye'
So her non-negotiables now include 10,000 daily steps, along with 15 minutes of both meditation and strength training – "So that my bones will support me when I'm older. That's a real thing for women over 40 I keep getting told!"
She and British former soap star Kevin also gave up alcohol. It was never a big part of her life as a dancer, but she says it didn't make her feel good even in small amounts.
"Through my coaching business, I had a lot of clients going through sobriety, and giving up drugs and alcohol, and I just thought I didn't really want it either. Kevin decided to join me."
The couple met when Camilla joined Kevin on the 2008 British reality series The Underdog Show, which saw celebrities paired up with rescue dogs to train for a competition.
Camilla, who was wary after her failed engagement to Kiwi dancer Brendan Cole, remembers, "I thought he was cute, but I wrote him off because he was an actor and I didn't want another relationship in the public eye."
However, the pair soon became friends and after Kevin got Camilla's number from a crew member, he asked her out for a drink.
Exactly a year after their first date, Kevin popped the question on the Italian island of Capri. Twelve months after that, in 2010, they tied the knot in a star-studded seaside ceremony in Ibiza.
The icing on the cake was recently becoming US citizens, where Camilla could not hold back the tears when officials called her name and said "Congratulations".
"It was so emotional!" she tells. "It was such a far-fetched dream to come from a little town in Denmark with a hope to one day live in America.
"I'm glad I pursued my dream, no matter the obstacles in the way, and I'm glad I chose to start over there in my forties. And I tell you, I've loved my forties!"
On the dancefloor in Denmark
Do you ever struggle with imposter syndrome?
Oh, yeah. I think most people feel like an imposter. When Cliff Richard performed on Strictly Come Dancing in England, he made a comment to me as we were walking onstage along the lines of, "Everybody feels like an imposter, but we just have to go for it anyway." And I thought if somebody like him, who's had this amazing, long career, says that, then we should all feel encouraged. It was one of the most magical moments with anybody I've ever danced with on the show.
Are you going to dance at the end of this series?
I don't think so. But I didn't think I was going to dance last time either! I had to be convinced.
How would you describe yourself?
I'm an extroverted introvert and a highly sensitive person. After doing live TV, I'm straight home in my pyjamas.
What are the special moments for you as a judge?
For me, it's not about who's the first celebrity to go out and be amazing. It's the ones who undergo a transformation, where it almost catches them by surprise. Like, they don't think they're going to fall in love with dance, and suddenly they care so much and their heart is in it. And as a judge, we're like, "Wait, did he just glide across the floor?" Those are the moments that pull on my heartstrings.

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