TV

Suzy Cato tells how being on Dancing With The Stars is a dream come true

'I'm loving what it's doing for me mentally and physically. I feel so much stronger and so much more mentally alert. And driving to the studio, I'm just buzzing!'

By Ciara Pratt

For someone who is a mother of two, owns her own production company, is a children's entertainer and now a ballroom-dancer extraordinaire, Suzy Cato could be forgiven for just wanting a cup of tea and a lie-down.

But instead, she's bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and absolutely beaming as she tells the Weekly of the positive changes she's experiencing thanks to her introduction to ballroom dancing.

"I'm loving what it's doing for me mentally and physically. I feel so much stronger and so much more mentally alert. And driving to the studio, I'm just buzzing!" she says of her five-day-a-week training regime for the past four weeks.

It could be said this is somewhat of a dream come true for Suzy (49), who admits to being a big fan of previous seasons of Dancing with the Stars and day-dreaming about her own foray onto the dance floor.

"I got a telephone call out of the blue, completely unexpected, and my jaw dropped," Suzy recalls of the moment she was asked to appear on the series.

"I had watched it previously and gone, 'Oh! Imagine if!' So when the opportunity came about, I said, 'That would be absolutely wonderful. Let me give it some thought and I'll get back to you.' But then I hopped off the phone and screamed with excitement to my husband!"

Obviously, the answer was yes. "Well, I did have to take my family into consideration, of course," she says matter-of-factly of her husband Steve Booth (52), daughter Riley (13) and son Morgan (11).

"We had to get everyone synchronised and working together as a team. My nephew did dancesport at college and he's now a dance teacher, so I gave him a quick call. We met in the studio to give a few steps a go and then I realised I could do this! And I love how our family is working together as a team more than ever."

The woman who has entertained New Zealand children with TV shows such as The Early Bird Show, You and Me and Suzy's World, is most excited about using her platform to raise money for her chosen charity, The Mental Health Foundation.

Suzy became a household name thanks to her 90's TV show *You and Me.*
Suzy became a household name thanks to her 90's TV show You and Me.

"One in five of us is going to be touched by a mental illness in one way or another. It's impacted me through members of my family. I have lost dear friends," she says, tearing up before continuing.

"If we can reach our full potential – our mental health impacts on us in so many ways – we can work to be the best we can be at all times. And what I love about the foundation is how they are now working with kids as well to give them coping strategies and teach them about resilience."

So what was Suzy like as a kid? Did she happen to be a dancing protégé? "I was knock-kneed and pigeon-toed," she laughs.

"I was given the choice of callipers on my shoes to straighten my feet or ballet. So off I went to ballet. When we moved to Kaikohe, I tried tap dancing but our tap teacher didn't last particularly long in the area. So I can tap backwards and forwards on my right foot but not my left, so I go round in circles."

However, as a 10-year-old, she had some dancing success. "I got a bronze for my waltz at the Kaikohe Memorial Hall and I haven't really danced since!"

That's why she's happy to be in the able hands of Dancing with the Stars partner Matt Tatton-Brown (33), who is passing on his time-honoured tips on how to remember her dance steps.

"The hardest part is the shoes," she says. "I'm learning all the tricks of the trade about how to scuff up the shoe. And I don't know how on earth I'll clean them because I'm told that if I've had my foot stood on, it's because I haven't moved it out of the way!"

Make no mistakes, Suzy is planning on sticking around for as long as she can.

"Am I competitive? When it comes to cards and sports no, I'm there for the fun. But I'm enjoying this so much, and I've got such a good charity that I'm supporting and what this is enabling so many people to do, I want to stay!"

With two weeks down, audiences have seen Suzy's fast feet in her quickstep, but as the competition heats up, how will she fare with more of the sultry Latin styles?

"Everyone keeps telling me about this paso doble dance," she laughs. "I'm having to put a totally different kind of game face on for this. But don't worry, if my visualisation worked to get me here, you're going to see lots of me!"

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