After a challenging chapter, Strictly’s Karen Hauer has emerged feeling more confident than ever. Gabrielle Fagan reports.
Wednesday, 1st July 2020, 11: 45 am
Along with millions of Strictly fans, Karen Hauer – the longest serving female professional dancer on the show – is eager to hear whether the series will return in 2020.
It’s not in this determined woman’s character though to just to sit around waiting. Instead, she’s “staying busy, active and positive and taking it day by day”. This includes promoting her online Hauer Power fitness programme, sharing home workouts, and recently joining fellow Strictly star, Oti Mabuse, to set up the Home Festival online community.
In truth, Hauer is no stranger to facing and overcoming challenges. Born in Venezuela, she moved to New York aged eight – her dad left shortly after though and Hauer has previously talked about the “hard” times growing up.
Two years ago, she dealt with the breakdown of her marriage with Strictly pro Kevin Clifton from Grimsby – but Hauer, 38, has emerged “transformed” this year, with a new look and approach to life.
“My separation from Kevin led me to a path of prioritising myself. I’ve made a lot of life changes. It’s been so worth it because I don’t think I’ve ever been this happy and content in my own skin,” reflects the dancer, whose long dark hair has been replaced by a glamorous crop.
She’s talking from the home she shares with her partner, opera singer, David Webb, 36, and their three rescue dogs. Clearly blissfully happy, the pair delight in performing together online. “I’m in such a good place. Before, I was always worrying about what people might think of me. Now I feel so good on the inside and, for the first time, free to be myself,” says Hauer, who joined Strictly in 2012.
She and Clifton quickly became one of the show’s golden couples. But the pressures of the work and preserving a relationship proved tough and the pair, who married in 2015, eventually split. “The year we broke up was traumatic and heartbreaking,” Hauer says quietly. “A marriage ending is never something you expect to happen, or want. It was a shock for us both, but I think it was a long time coming and we ignored the signs. We got caught up in the whole work, work, work thing – we were living and breathing it 24 hours a day – and it kind of overwhelmed our relationship.”
Hauer, who’s remained friends with her ex and gets on well with his new partner, Stacey Dooley, adds happily: “Kevin and I will always be friends, which is wonderful and I love Stacey to bits. When I look back, I don’t think we were ready for marriage. We were still growing as performers, as people, as lovers, and sometimes you just can’t find a way to fix things.It’s certainly nothing to do with the Strictly ‘curse’ – I don’t believe in that. Relationships breaking down can happen to anyone and it’s just life.” The chapter has led to a new perspective on life. “I realised I had to sort myself out and make changes,” she says.
“Now I feel grounded and comfortable with who I am – I don’t want to fit the mould – and I realise beauty isn’t about being perfect.”