Eastenders star Maisie Smith was the firm favourite to win Strictly Come Dancing in the run up to the opening of the show in October. Bookies everywhere put odds on the 19-year-old to win the glitter ball trophy this year. With her stage school training, youth on her side, and last year’s victory on the Children in Need Strictly special behind her, early critics claimed Maisie was blessed with an unfair advantage. But her position in the dance-off in two consecutive weeks in November says otherwise.
On Sunday’s results show on November 22nd, Maisie and her partner Gorka found themselves in the dance off for the second week in a row, despite finishing second from top on the leader-board the previous night with a judges’ score of 27/30.
Each time Maisie has found herself in the bottom two, controversy has sparked between loyal viewers of the show, with some expressing their outcry and others eager to see her leave.
The bottom two couples are those with the lowest overall score when the judges’ points are combined with those from the public vote.
But, with Maisie finishing in the top half of the leader-board every week, finding herself in the dance-off for two weeks running suggests the public aren’t behind her…
She’s also a very beautiful girl, but there’s a sense that she knows it; plus, she doesn’t always hide her annoyance or disappointment well when she receives criticism
In my eyes, there’s no doubt Maisie is one of the strongest dancers, if not the strongest dancer, in the competition. Even setting her fitness and physique as an avid gym-goer aside, she has amazing skill and potential.
She’s the only female non-professional contestant to have dared any lifts in her routines, but halfway through the competition she’s already successfully pulled-off plenty, with a host of challenging displays in last week’s salsa.
However, the judges have consistently critiqued her footwork, and her youth and naivety mean she’s not always the best at taking those comments onboard.
She’s also a very beautiful girl, but there’s a sense that she knows it; plus, she doesn’t always hide her annoyance or disappointment well when she receives criticism. But, let’s not forget, Maisie is still a teenager and the youngest contestant this year.
Still, a lot of people have been put off by her apparent arrogance. In last week’s show she put her cocky façade down to nerves, admitting on an interview with This Morning that she’s actually very shy and lacks confidence in her dancing abilities.
But her displays of confidence may have already played its part in shaping the public’s opinion.
Head judge Shirley Ballas warned Maisie not to be too confident in an interview with The Sun, advising her not to ‘take anything for granted’. It seems like Shirley has had it out for the young star from the start
But the public aren’t the only ones who’ve expressed distaste. Before the competition was even underway, head judge Shirley Ballas warned Maisie not to be too confident in an interview with The Sun, advising her not to ‘take anything for granted’. It seems like Shirley has had it out for the young star from the start.
Ballas, a 60-year-old retired dance professional, is extremely hyper-critical of most of the female competitors; however, she’s often seen gushing over their male counterparts.
21-year-old HRVY, fellow contestant and arguably Maisie’s biggest competition, is one of Ballas’ firm favourites. She is almost always in awe of the young singer, awarding him the first 10 of the show only a few weeks in, much to viewers’ dismay.
Frankly, the persistent praising and standing ovations are bordering on embarrassing.
This led many viewers to see the hard-to-please head judge as the formulaic middle-aged cougar who dotes on young boys while simultaneously expressing a jealousy complex towards young, beautiful women
Others were shocked when Ballas opted to save The Wanted star, Max George, over Maisie in her first dance off in week 4. This led many viewers to see the hard-to-please head judge as the formulaic middle-aged cougar who dotes on young boys while simultaneously expressing a jealousy complex towards young, beautiful women.
Interestingly, according to a YouGov demographic poll, the majority of Strictly viewers are likewise women aged over 60. It begs the question whether the lack of public support for Maisie stems from similar feelings of envy and resentment.
What’s more, Ballas has a history of victimising female competitors on the show. In 2017, GMB host Charlotte Hawkins was heavily criticised by the head judge, causing tensions as her professional dance partner Brendan Cole expressed his discontent at their severity, accusing them of ‘belittling’ and ‘humiliating’ Hawkins. The following year, he was axed from the show.
However, it seems Maisie has found herself an ally in Craig Revel Horwood. The long running judge, infamous for being the Simon Cowell of the Strictly world with his harsh scores and reproachful remarks, showed Maisie pity when she found herself in the bottom two the second time running in week 6.
He showed compassion to the 19-year-old, calling her, ‘an amazing dancer’ and went on to say, ‘in this show, odd things happen, and sometimes it takes a long time to win the hearts and minds of the nation.’
He compared her situation to series 5 contestant Alesha Dixon who, like Maisie, found herself in the bottom two yet later went on to win the competition.
To me, it appears that older women just can’t celebrate a younger woman for being talented and confident. Rather, they’d prefer her to conform to the archaic feeble and delicate stereotype
It’s certainly clear that these two setbacks have knocked Maisie’s confidence. In her quick step this week she undoubtedly appeared more humbled, less gregarious, and had little to say in response to the judges’ remarks, despite their positivity!
But do we have to be reminded that Maisie is only 19? Her self-worth will certainly take a hit with all the incessant negativity. The countless critical tweets are all out there for the world to see and, as a young girl with social media at her fingertips, they’re sure to fuel her self-doubt.
Thankfully, last week’s quick step impressed the judges, with Maisie falling just one mark short of a 30. This week, Ballas commended her for showing more of her ‘vulnerable feminine side.’ Take of that what you will.
To me, it appears that older women just can’t celebrate a younger woman for being talented and confident. Rather, they’d prefer her to conform to the archaic feeble and delicate stereotype. In my eyes, the sooner Strictly has a progressive revamp, the better.
Featured image courtesy of Clive on Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.
In article image of @shirleyballas via Instagram. No changes were made to this image.
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