Anita Rani has suggested that she may have missed out on a place in the Strictly Come Dancing final because of her skin colour.
The Countryfile and Woman’s Hour presenter was eliminated in the semi-final of the 2015 series, after losing a dance-off to Katie Derham.
“I still find myself wondering whether I would have got into the final if I didn’t have a brown face,” she said. Ms Rani said similar thoughts had occurred to her over the years as a television presenter.
She told Radio Times: “There are various points in my career where I wonder what would have happened if I was blonde-haired and blue-eyed, and sometimes I don’t think things would have played out the same way if I was white.”
The women who made it to the 2015 final were Kellie Bright and Georgia May Foote, the soap actresses, and Ms Derham, the BBC presenter. But they were beaten to the glitterball trophy by Jay McGuinness, the pop singer.
Ms Rani addresses the subject in her recent memoir, The Right Sort of Girl. In the book, she writes of wondering often whether her Asian heritage has affected her career: “You would too, if every time someone looked at you, the first thing they thought was, ‘They’re Asian.’”
Strictly has often been accused by viewers of eliminating non-white contestants early in the competition.
The show was also mired in controversy in 2009 when Anton du Beke referred to his dance partner, Laila Rouass, as a “P—” after she had a spray tan. He later apologised for any offence caused and said he had used the term in jest.
At the time of her elimination, Ms Rani was gracious in defeat, saying: “I reached the semi-final as somebody who has never, ever danced before and to have pushed through and worked as hard as I have, and to have done the stuff that I have done, and it’s been amazing.”
The daughter of Punjabi parents, she was raised in Bradford, West Yorkshire, and began her career as a schoolgirl with a job at her local Asian radio station. She joined Countryfile in 2015 and earlier this year joined Emma Barnett as host of Radio 4 Woman’s Hour.
In her Radio Times interview, the 43-year-old said it was important to see diversity on screen, particularly in popular mainstream shows.
She said: “I still rush excitedly over to the telly if there’s someone Asian on it. And that’s why seeing a brown lass doing all right on Strictly meant such a lot to Asian people. It’s a national institution, and you don’t see many brown faces on it, certainly not many that do well.”