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Where Dancing on Ice judges are now – secret romance, kicked out and living in tent

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The Dancing on Ice judging line-up has changed more times than contestants have fallen on the ice.

Since the popular skating show hit our screens in 2006, there have been more than a dozen judges scoring the celebrities.

At the very beginning there were a whopping five judges sat behind the desk, while on other years it has fallen as low as three, but it has currently stabilised at four.

From skating sensations to pop stars and even former contestants, the judges have come with varying credentials that have been lauded and criticised.

The judges are never far from a controversy and have clashed with celebs, pro skaters and even each other during live shows.

Sitting on the current panel are Olympic legends Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, Diversity star Ashley Banjo and former Strictly Come Dancing pro Oti Mabuse.

So what happened to all of the judges once they left the ice rink?

Robin Cousins







Robin was the first ever head judge
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ITV)







Robin still watches the show
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Manchester Evening News)

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Robin Cousins appeared in the very first episode and was Dancing on Ice’s first ever head judge.

The former competitive figure skater, who won Gold at the 1980 Olympics and was 1980 European champion, spent eight years casting his eye over the celeb skaters.

Robin remained on the panel until 2014 when the show was taken off the air and did not return to Dancing on Ice when it made a spectacular comeback in 2018.

Robin has been busy with his own ice skating performance company, which has toured the world, while also appearing as a commentator and presenter for BBC Sport.

The skating sensation has also performed on stable ground in stage performances of Cinderella, The Rocky Horror Show and in pantomimes.

He joined the Art of the Olympians programme in March 2016 and appeared on TV shows such as Family Fortunes and Tipping Point.

Just because he’s no longer on the panel, doesn’t mean Robin hasn’t been watching the celebrities on the ice.

“I love the fact it’s getting such high viewing figures,” said Robin in 2018 after the revival.

“One moment it’s glory and the next it’s catastrophe. It’s great entertainment and nice that figure skating is being seen that way again. I had a great time on the show.

“If I had a penny for every time someone asks me about Todd Carty then I’d never have to work again!”

When Gemma Collins had her dramatic fall on the ice in 2019, Robin liked a tweet brutally branding her a “lazy, publicity hungry harridan”.

Karen Barber






Karen was one of the original judges






Karen and Chris are a couple
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PA)

Another of the original judges, Karen stayed on the panel until 2011 when she became head coach.

The former ice dancer, who competed at two Winter Olympics with fellow judge Nicky Slater, helped the contestants with their routines in 2011 and 2012.

Karen was at the centre of one of the biggest scandals in Dancing on Ice history when she clashed live on air with Jason Gardiner.

After disagreeing with Jason’s criticism, he spitefully referenced the fact she had been replaced, nastily quipping: “If your opinion mattered you’d still be on the judging panel.”

Karen marched over to ask Jason to repeat his rude remark, then gave him a piece of her mind which resulted in pregnant host Holly Willoughby having to intervene.

She was married to skating coach Stephen Pickavance, who is the father of her teenager daughters, but they split after 21 years in 2011.

Then came the surprise announcement that Karen was in a relationship with Christopher Dean, who had been her friend for more than 30 years.

News of their romance broke just months after the breakdown of her marriage, while Chris had split from American skater Jill Trenary the year before, but Karen felt it shouldn’t have been such a talking point.

In 2013, she told The Mirror: “It was hardly a scandal, was it? We were both separated and middle-aged, and got together after knowing each other for 30 years.







Karen got into a heated row with Jason
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Ken McKay/REX FEATURES)

“But let’s face it, it’s difficult for anyone going through a separation when new relationships start up.

“So when everyone seems to be talking about it, it’s even trickier. All anyone wants is to protect their families.”

Karen was reinstated to the judging panel in 2013 and 2014, but the old rivalry with Jason emerged once again when he hinted she had only got her judging role back because she was dating Chris.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Karen over Jason’s jibe in 2013.

“We’re never going to be friends, but saying things like that is low, even for Jason.

“To suggest my relationship with Chris has anything to do with my position on the show is pathetic.

“Jason and I don’t speak. We don’t see eye to eye, but I’m professional and I hope other people will be the same.

“The thing with Jason is he seems to enjoy intimidating people. But he needs to pick his battles because I’m not scared of him.”

Karen did not return as a judge when the series was brought back in 2018 but has remained as a skating coach and is often seen with the contestants.

Jason Gardiner







Jason was ‘Mr Nasty’ of the ice
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Rex Features)

The ‘Mr Nasty’ of the ice, Jason Gardiner became famous for his acid tongue and savage insults.

The Australian choreographer and theatre producer was one of the original judges on the British show as well as the version Down Under.

Jason left the show for the first time in 2011, replaced by his close friend Louie Spence, but returned in 2013 after a one-series absence, but was the only judge to be brought back to the ice panel when the show was revived in 2018.

As well as the previously mentioned clash with Karen, Jason’s most infamous moment came in 2019 when he was embroiled in a slanging match with Gemma Collins.

Fed up of his brutal comments, Gemma hit back during a live show by accusing Jason of “selling stories” about her to the press, then accused Jason of “bullying” her and targeting her with “personal” comments.

Jason consulted his lawyers after Gemma’s allegations and vehemently denied her claims before announcing he had quit the show in August 2019 in the wake of the scandal.

Posting a video on Instagram, he revealed: “After all these years I feel it’s time for me to say goodbye to my judging role and return to things I have been putting on hold and have been on the back burner for a while.

“To all of my DOI fans I really thank you for your support and encouragement over the years, I know we’ve gone through some controversies and I’m glad you got my unique judging style and honestly.”







Jason decided to live in a tent
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File)

Last year, Jason described his feud with Gemma as “traumatic” and admitted he was still hurt by the saga.

“By the end the show was too toxic,” Jason told The Sun. “I went through some very dark times after it all played out and I realised I wasn’t valued in any way, shape or form by ITV.”

Jason then decided to enjoy life out of the limelight and swapped his showbiz lifestyle to become an eco-friendly farmer in Portugal.

He hit rock bottom when the pandemic hit as he had spent years working on a solo show, which got shut down due to lockdown and was forced to close his company and let go of his staff when he was ineligible for government help.

The former judge ditched bustling London for rural Portugal where he completed a biodiversity and sustainability course and now now describes himself as a ‘Nomadic Permaculture Designer’.

He is now living in a tent after shunning his successful TV career in favour of a more relaxed and stress-free lifestyle.

Jason explained: “I have gone on many adventures, met the most amazing people and acquired the most amazing qualification. I have found a new life that isn’t about the toxic environment of the TV industry.

“My tenure on Dancing on Ice was always marred with controversy and lots of issues but the problem is, I didn’t realise how toxic it was until I left. It took me a while to decompress from it, I’ll be honest.”

Nicky Slater







Nicky (left) had some controversial opinions
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Ken McKay/ITV/REX)

Dancing on Ice wasn’t Nicky’s first TV skating show, as he appeared a judge on BBC One spin-off Strictly Ice Dancing in 2004.

Nicky got a spot on the Dancing on Ice panel in 2006 and also worked on the tour – and was already very familiar with one fellow judge.

He skated with Karen Barber for Great Britain at two Winter Olympics and they won bronze at the 1983 European Championships.

But Nicky and Karen had a blazing row on the show in 2008 over his low mark for actress Suzanne Shaw which spilled over into the ad break

Afterwards, Nicky said: “Karen coaches the celebrities and spends a lot of time with them, so I think she gets too emotionally involved, whereas I find it easier to stay subjective.”

After five years as a judge he did not return for the 2011 series, but did make a one-off comeback in 2014 when Robin Cousins was off commentating at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Ruthie Henshall







I’m A Celeb star Ruthie was a surprise judge
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Ken McKay)







Ruthie went on I’m A Celebrity
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Kieron McCarron/ITV/REX/Shutterstock)

Theatre performer Ruthie Henshall was placed on the judging panel in 2008, but her appointment was marred in controversy as some critics pointed out she was the only judge without any actual ice skating experience.

However, the Cats and Chicago star pointed out that she was no there to cast judgement on the technical side of the performances.

“You’ve got quite a few people on the panel who are experts on the skating and I just don’t think it only comes down to that,” she explained.

“I’ve had nearly 22 years in the business and so I really want to bring that experience of watching people doing very, very different shows; everything from Chicago to Cats.

“I’ll really be looking at how people throw themselves into it and the kind of risk they’re prepared to take. I don’t mean a physical risk but not worrying about looking silly, whether they commit, whether they’ve taken criticism from the week before and advice and applied it. They have to learn from what everyone says and develop.”

After two years, Ruthie left the show and returned to the role of Roxie Hart in Chicago.

Since then, Ruthie has appeared in Blithe Spirit, Billy Elliot the Musical and in an episode of HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm.

In 2020, Ruthie went into the I’m A Celebrity castle in Wales to face a number of gruelling trials before finishing in 11th place.

Emma Bunton






Emma Bunton on the Dancing On Ice Panel

Spice Girl Emma Bunton ice replaced Ruthie on the ice panel in 2010 – but left after just two series to focus on new opportunities.

“I loved working on Dancing On Ice – it was so much fun and I loved the team,” said Emma in 2011.

“I made this decision as I have to prioritise all the exciting projects lined up for me next year, as well as my Heart radio show, and juggle these with being a busy mum. I wish everyone on the show the best of luck.”

Since then, Emma has teamed up with the Spice Girls to launch their musical Viva Forever and to perform at the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony.

Emma got back into the studio and released her fourth album, My Happy Place, in 2014 which reached the Top 20 in the UK charts.

She has also turned to radio, hosting Heart Breakfast with Jamie Theakston from January 2013 until December 2018.

The singer appeared in the Absolutely Fabulous movie in 2016 and was a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars in 2018.

Emma is currently the host of the US version of The Great British Bake Off, titled The Great American Baking Show.

Louie Spence







Louie showing how flexible he was as a judge
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Pineapple Dance Studios star Louie Spence was the surprise new judge in 2011, replacing Jason Gardiner on the panel.

But he only lasted one series before Jason was brought back into the fold.

“What can I say? I thought I was pretty fabulous myself but, no, I’ve been kicked to the kerb,” said Louis on This Morning.

“That’s showbusiness. One day you’re in, one day you’re out. Dancing On Ice always change up their panel.

“I think it’s a great idea because then they’ve always got different opinions. If you watch some of these shows, judges always repeat the same things year in, year out. I think having the change up is great.”

Louis went into the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2013, and was was evicted just two days before the final, as well as taking part in The Jump in 2015 and Celebs on the Farm in 2018.

Before the pandemic, the star had a national tour of dance master classes scheduled but was forced to postpone them due to Covid.

Louie announced he was jetting off to Benidorm in Spain where he planned to work behind a friend’s karaoke bar.

In September last year, Louie shocked fans by revealing he was cooking his mother’s ashes to dry them out after she ‘turned to sludge’ in the garden.

Katarina Witt







Katarina was the German judge with plenty of skating experience
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Ken McKay / Rex Features)

German figure skater Katarina Witt, who won two Olympic gold medals for East Germany in 1984 and 1988, became a judge in 2012.

Katarina’s outfits caused a frenzy among some viewers, who claimed they were seeing too much of her cleavage.

The German skater revealed she had not been ordered to cover up and joked that she hoped people paid as much attention to her words as to her plunging necklines.

“And the thing is when you wear those dresses and you try them on in the dressing room you are standing up – but when you sit down, everything slides down a little further so I should’ve watched it and I’m watching out now,” she explained on This Morning.

She added: “I hope they still listen to me about what I have to say and they don’t just look at the dress.”

The two-time gold medalist broke down in tears on live TV last month while discussing teenage Russian skater Kamila Valieva, who found herself in the middle of a doping scandal.

“What has happened is exactly what she should have been protected from,” said Witt. “She is 15. She’s a child. I’m sorry. When you see her sitting there, shattered.

“She was a shadow of herself,” she continued. “She couldn’t win in this whole game whether she had skated perfectly and became Olympic champion. Yes, it would have been debated, but what has now happened is the absolute worst.”

Ashley Roberts







Ashley Roberts on Dancing on Ice
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ITV)

Having finished as I’m A Celebrity runner-up in 2012, Ashley Roberts won a spot on the judging panel just months later.

The former Pussycat Doll spent two years on the judging panel until the show went on hiatus in 2014.

Ashley continued hosting Ant vs Dec on Saturday Night Takeaway until 2016, then appeared as a judge on BBC musical contest Let It Shine in 2017.

The following year, Ashley took part in Strictly Come Dancing with pro partner Pasha Kovalev.

The pair made it all the way to the final but lost out to Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton.

While she may not have won, Ashley left with a boyfriend as she started dating Strictly pro Giovanni Pernice.

However, the pair split at the start of 2020 after dating for more than a year.

Ashley was due to go on tour with some members of the Pussycat Dolls last year but it was postponed due to Covid and was completely scrapped earlier this year.

The singer is currently the showbiz correspondent on the Heart Breakfast show.

John Barrowman







John Barrowman joined Dancing on Ice as a judge in 2020
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ITV)

Jon Barrowman spent two years on the ice panel before he was moved off the show.

In May 2021, John came under fire after it was claimed he had repeatedly exposed himself on the sets of shows.

His co-star from Doctor Who, Noel Clarke, told fans at sci-fi convention Chicago Tardis that John exposed himself ‘every five seconds’ on set when they worked together.

Barrowman admitted to “tomfoolery” not he BBC show set, but said he had evolved in the years since.

He added that his “high-spirited behaviour” was “only ever intended in good humour to entertain colleagues on set and backstage”.

John confirmed that he was seeking therapy for the trauma of being ‘cancelled’ and said that he was drawing a ‘thick black line’ under the past.

The actor said that due to the nature of filming, everyone on set would have been aware at least 48 hours in advance that he would have been recording a nude scene so flashing his genital area was a way of making the situation less awkward.

He said: “I’ve never been someone who’s embarrassed about his body so it didn’t bother me if anyone saw me naked. The motivation for what I’d call my ‘tomfoolery’ was to maintain a jokey atmosphere. There was absolutely nothing sexual about my actions and nor have I ever been accused of that.”

In October last year it was announced that John would not be returning to Dancing on Ice and he would instead be working on the ITV show All Star Musicals.

An ITV spokesman told The Mirror : “We thank John Barrowman for two brilliant years on the Dancing on Ice panel and are pleased to be working with him again as host of the forthcoming All Star Musicals specials.

“John is thrilled to be returning to work for ITV as host on the new All Star Musicals.”

*Dancing on Ice airs Sundays on ITV at 6pm

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