Choreographer & TV Judge Arlene Phillips

150 150 Rob McGibbon

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Published: 12 January 2013

Choreographer & TV judge Arlene Phillips:

 ‘People think I am tough and nasty, but they meet me and say, ‘I never thought you’d be so nice!’ 


We ask a celebrity a set of devilishly probing questions – and only accept THE definitive answer. This week: dance judge Arelene Phillips


The prized possession you value above all others...A bottle of 1950s perfume that belonged to my mother, Rita. She died from leukaemia when she was only 43 and I was 15. It was devastating – I doubt I’ll ever truly get over it.

The unqualified regret you wish you could amend...Being so strict with my daughter Alana [now 33]. I was too demanding about homework, extra lessons – everything. Children need freedom to grow and not have such a firm hand restricting their development.

The way you would spend your fantasy 24 hours, with no travel restrictions...Breakfast with my husband Angus at the Hotel Cipriani in Venice, then off to New York for a shopping spree at Bloomingdale’s – with no spending limit! After lunch at a fish restaurant at Double Bay in Sydney with Alana and my other daughter Abi, 22. I’d begin the evening with a fabulous fruit cocktail at the Savoy hotel in Moscow, then have sushi before watching the Bolshoi Ballet do Swan Lake. I’d end the day with Angus at the George V hotel in Paris.

The temptation you wish you could resist...Ice cream from the Marble Slab Creamery in Toronto. They have the most amazing varieties – I like birthday cake flavour with rainbow sprinkles.

The book that holds an everlasting resonance...Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I’ve read it 100 times and it’s taught me so much about families and relationships.

The priority activity if you were the Invisible Woman for a day...I’d visit hospitals to check the elderly are being cared for properly. I get so upset when old people are mistreated.

The pet hate that makes your hackles rise...Rudeness in all its forms.

The film you can watch time and time again...West Side Story has everything – laughter, love, passion, sorrow, tragedy. It makes me cry every time.

The person who has influenced you most...My mother, who was so generous, kind and gentle. I’ve always wanted to be like her, but I think I fall short.

The figure from history for whom you’d most like to buy a pie and a pint...Fred Astaire. I’d ask him where the inspiration for his dancing came from. No one has ever come close to his brilliance. Maybe we could have a dance.

The piece of wisdom you would pass on to a child...Only behave the way you expect others to behave towards you.

The unlikely interest that engages your curiosity...I’ve been collecting children’s antique sewing machines for 25 years and I have about 70 now.

The treasured item you lost and wish you could have again...A Tiffany pen given to me by the Australian film director Russell Mulcahy in the 1980s as a thank-you for all the videos we worked on together, including Duran Duran’s Wild Boys. It reminded me of those wonderful, crazy days.

The unending quest that drives you on... To leave a financial legacy to my kids and my extended family. I had a tough childhood and came from nothing, so I know how hard it is to work your way up. I’d be so proud if I could leave them a little something to help.

The poem that touches your soul...Daffodils by William Wordsworth has resonated with me ever since I was very young. These days it always gives me a sense of peace.

The misapprehension about yourself you wish you could erase...That I’m the super tough Queen of Mean. It began from the Hot Gossip days in the 1970s because I was such a hard taskmaster and it carried on with Strictly. People meet me and say, ‘I never thought you’d be so nice.’

The event that altered the course of your life and character...Watching a jazz dance class by a teacher called Molly Molloy in Covent Garden in 1966 when I was 23. I was down from Manchester for a week of lessons but I phoned my father to say I wasn’t coming back. My life was changed forever.

The crime you would commit knowing you could get away with it...I’d break into Selfridges at night and raid the clothes, shoes and bags departments.

The song that means most to you...I’m Still Standing by Elton John from 1983. I choreographed the video in Cannes and we had the most magical four days of fun filming. But the lyrics also strike a chord with me. Despite all the knocks I’ve had, I’m still standing.

The happiest moment you will cherish forever...My 40th birthday party. It was a wild night that ended with Andrew Lloyd Webber playing The Everly Brothers on the piano.

The saddest time that shook your world...Losing my mum so young was awful, but my world was shaken when my manager Michael Summerton died from cancer in 2009. He was lovely.

The unfulfilled ambition that continues to haunt you...To play the piano.

The philosophy that underpins your life...Wake up and get on with it.

The order of service at your funeral...There won’t be much of me left, as I’m leaving my body to science. The rest will be cremated. I want a fast ceremony with as little fuss as possible.

The way you want to be remembered...As a loving mum.

The Plug...For tickets for the new production of Starlight Express visit Follow me on Twitter at @arlenephillips.