Strictly's Shirley Ballas says friends think she's 'lost the plot' ahead of 'terrifying' CALM challenge

Virgin Radio

30 Jun 2023, 13:53

Shirley Ballas

Credit: Getty / CALM

Strictly Come Dancing’s head judge Shirley Ballas will show off her daredevil side when she hits the skies for her incredible new campaign with CALM. 

(TW: Suicide)

The dancer has joined forces with the charity (Campaign Against Living Miserably) to create a Skyathalon - a trio of daredevil challenges to raise funds for the suicide prevention charity.

Shirley is ditching the dancefloor and facing her fear of heights by taking on the world’s fastest zip line, a 700ft wing walk AND a 15,0000ft skydive in August - all to help stop more lives being lost to suicide.

It’s a cause incredibly close to the TV star’s heart, after losing her brother and a number of friends to suicide, and during an exclusive interview with, Shirley explained why she chose the adrenaline-pumping stunts over something on the ground. 

The talented star said: “I've always been kind of thinking with CALM what I could do to raise awareness and raise money for the charity Campaigning Against Living Miserably. So I thought, should I bake a cake? Should I cut grass in gardens, and then I thought no, that's not going to get people's attention. So at 63 years old, I decided I'd take on this Skyathalon, I think I'm mad, but that's okay!”

Grabbing attention for the cause is the most important part for Shirley, despite her friends and family believing that facing her biggest fears in such a dramatic way might mean she’s “lost the plot.”

She continued: “[People] might donate to your charity, but I think generally, even friends think I've absolutely lost the plot, but they're going to donate and they're going to follow the journey and face my fears of heights. I think that the whole thing together, it just makes you one bonkers 63 year-old. You’re going from glitz and glamour and hair and eyelashes to just strip back naked really, when it comes to all those things in a boiler suit, jumping from an aeroplane.

“My son [dancer Mark Ballas] hasn't said too much at all, but friend over the road thinks I'm absolutely mad! She thinks I'm mad at any challenge I do at my age. My mum's just doesn't want to see something go wrong. She thinks I’m tempting fate in case something goes wrong but I'm sure it will be fine. I do feel I have to put myself out there to draw attention to this great cause, which is CALM.”

Adding that her mum was “disturbed” upon hearing about the Skyathalon, Shirley said the triple-threat plans are just something has “has to do”, as baking cakes “won’t open up people’s hearts” in the same way. 

She continued: “I think people really need to understand that there is somewhere to go. You don't need to give up your life. I know people get low, we all get low, I get low. People tap you on the shoulder say, ‘oh, you'll be fine. You're fine. You're fine.’ Maybe not. So this is a helpline that you can go to and talk to somebody.”

To donate to Shirley Ballas’ Skyathalon for CALM, visit JustGiving.

At Virgin Radio, we are committed to improving the wellbeing of our audience wherever possible. Whilst we ourselves are not Mental Health experts or qualified to directly assist those in need, we have compiled useful resources to help point you in the right direction, should you need help, at