EXCLUSIVE Aljaz Skorjanec: ‘I love being a stay-at-home dad’

The Strictly star tells Shereen Low why he’s loving fatherhood

aljaz skorjanec and janette marara

by Shereen Low |
Published on

Life’s looking rather different for Aljaž Škorjanec these days. The Slovenian ballroom and Latin champion, 34, has swapped teaching celebs how to boogie on Strictly Come Dancing for nappies and play dates with his ten- month-old daughter Lyra Rose – and he’s loving it!

Since waltzing to the Strictly final with Abbey Clancy in 2013, Aljaž has danced his way into our hearts, standing out from the other pros with his cheeky smile, twinkly eyes, and, of course, those sexy moves. Ever likeable, we’ve rooted for him and his various partners, including Alison Hammond, Gemma Atkinson and Clara Amfo.

With a Glitterball trophy under his belt from his debut series, he decided to become a full-time dad, so that wife Janette Manrara, 40, can focus on her work on BBC’s Morning Live and Strictly spin-off It Takes Two. So, while little Lyra was having a nap, we took the opportunity to have a nice catch up…

aljaz skorjanec abbey clancy
clancy moves: dancing with abbey in the 2013 final ©BBC

How’s fatherhood treating you?

It’s been bliss. I’ve enjoyed every single day, really, for the last ten months. It’s been beautiful.

What’s surprised you the most?

How much love and care I have. I feel that grows exponentially when you have your own child. I never thought waking up at 4am was gonna be so easy. Before Lyra, there could be an earthquake around me and I wouldn’t wake up. But now, she makes a little noise and I’m up and running towards the nursery. Every day something happens – she learns something new, she develops a little bit more. Giving her food for the first time was absolutely hilarious. I’m loving it. It’s been amazing to witness all this.

Was being a stay-at-home dad an easy decision to make?

It’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I’ve always wanted to be a hands-on dad. I know how lucky and blessed I am to have that choice. I will never get this time back with her. The stage will always be there, dance shoes are always going back on my feet, but I was really chuffed that I could just be Dad for a while.

Are you looking forward to your first Father’s Day?

I cannot wait. Because in Slovenia, we don’t have an allocated day to celebrate dads as such, so as soon as I moved to the UK, I was like, “Oh my God. I can’t wait to be a dad.” To be a dad celebrating is going to be brilliant – I’m proper chuffed.

What have you got planned?

I think we’re just gonna be at home, all three of us together. I can take my girls for lunch and a lovely walk – we live in the countryside now, so that would be absolutely perfect.

What’s little Lyra like?

She’s happiest when she’s crawling around the kitchen. She’s really fast now, she’s standing up everywhere and wants to support herself. She has a play gym that she really enjoyed, but now she realises that it’s a confined space and a sharp coffee table is more fun to play around! She wears knee pads because she’s so energetic and her little knees, bless her, have started to bruise from all the crawling. The last month, she hasn’t slept through the night at all. I think it’s teething. She has four out now – two on the top and two on the bottom.

Does she have a busy social life with play dates and such?

We haven’t done much of that. She goes swimming once a week – she loves being around babies. It’s the best hour of the week. It’s a sight to behold – five or six babies in a swimming pool – and she’s the most vocal one! We’ve had a couple of play dates, but Janette and I are like her little play buddies. We’ve gone for a couple of brunches and play dates with Gemma and Gorka [Márquez] and the kids absolutely loved it.

Do you swap tips and advice with the other Strictly dads?

Yeah! I do that the most with Pasha [Kovalev]. He was here with his little girls a while back, so I asked every question that I possibly had. I think it’s very good to listen and to take advice from people who have been through it before.

Do you get twice the amount of attention now when you’re out with Lyra?

[Laughs.] Do you know what? No – now Lyra gets all the attention, which is the best thing ever. No one cares about me any more, which is brilliant. It’s all about her and that’s how it should be.

Do you think she’d follow in both of your dancing footsteps?

She’s wriggling already with her little bum! If she wants to, she has the good genes for it. But I think it’s important to support our kids and let them be who they want to be, because as much as you want to make them like a little you, they’re their own people with little personalities. So, whatever she wants to do – football, golf, art or singing – we’ll be 100 per cent supportive of her.

Do you miss working?

I miss certain things, yeah. With Strictly, I’ve always loved looking after celebrities and I miss teaching them. I miss seeing them go from learning the first step of the routine to them performing on Saturdays. I miss performing. I miss being on stage sometimes, but I’ve been so lucky and blessed with my career and what I’ve been able to do. I always count my blessings and I know I’m going to get back to it in some shape or form, but right now, the love and happiness I get from being an at-home dad outweighs everything.

You could band together with the other pro dads – Gorka, Pasha, Kevin Clifton and Neil Jones – for a show with the kids…

That would be brilliant. Kids would love it, too. Strictly babies having fun!

aljaz skorjanec gemma atkinson
a real gem: with Ms Atkinson in 2017 ©James Gourley/Shutterstock

Is there a WhatsApp group with the other Strictly dads?

No, but now that you’ve suggested that, I think we should set one up after this call. I’m really close to a lot of the boys who have kids. It’s lovely to compare how we’re all doing.

Will you be involved with Strictly’s 20th anniversary this year?

Not as yet. I’m a huge fan of the show and Janette is still very much involved, but I haven’t had any plans to be involved right now.

Have you seen the rumoured line- up with names like Brooklyn Beckham and his wife Nicola Peltz and Louis Theroux?

I’m excited to see the announcements, but I don’t believe the rumours. Every year, Strictly manages to outdo themselves, so I know they’ll do an incredible job and I can’t wait to see the line-up this year. But until I see it, I never believe any rumours. There have been so many people rumoured in the years that I was involved with the show and then we never saw them on the dance floor.

How do you deal with the backlash you’ve faced over your parenting set-up?

I’ve always been good with not reading the comments. I feel like if you work in the world of entertainment, because of my talent, now all of a sudden my private life is there for everyone to judge or have an opinion on. All I ever want to do is to be a good dad and husband, and that to me is a priority and I’m going to do that in the best possible way that I know how to do. For someone else, it might be the wrong way, but for me, it’s the right way and that’s the only thing really that I worry about. As long as Janette and Lyra are happy, I’m happy. That’s the most important thing because you never can please everyone.

What’s the best thing about Janette as a mum?

Seeing her and Lyra’s beautiful bond is my favourite thing to watch. It’s beautiful to witness a mother and daughter relationship from the best seat in the house. I’ve always known she’s going to be a great mum. Janette is so dedicated to anything she ever does, 150 per cent. She’s so passionate about whatever she commits herself to and being a mum is the same. I love how much love there is between the two of them and the bond they’ve created. It’s lovely and heartbreaking because whenever Janette goes away, the little one gets so sad when we FaceTime.

Is Janette being away the biggest challenge?

Our work life involves a lot of planning. We do everything with a lot of preparation and thought. It’s been very smooth so far. Being organised has been the biggest change.

Being organised is a big part of parenting, as well…

Totally. I could never imagine how many things a baby needs. My goodness – the whole house is now literally hers. There are a couple of little corners that I can have my own stuff, but everything else is Lyra’s now. Even when I go to the shops, I have to pack three nappies, just in case, and baby wipes because you never know.

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What are your plans for the rest of the year? Will you and Janette do your Christmas tour?

Yes, we’ve started our creative meetings and are now setting the direction we want to go in. We started early last month because we are very much involved with the whole process. We’re heading to Miami for Lyra to meet her Manrara side of the family, which is really exciting. I can’t wait for her to go to America for the first time.

That’s the noisier side of the family, isn’t it?

[Laughs.] I can say they’re very passionate and loud. They’re lovely. I adore them. I’m very lucky and blessed with my in-laws and my family there.

We know Janette’s a huge Disney fan – is a trip to Disney World on the cards?

I think that there’s definitely a Disney trip in there. Disney is such a big part of Janette’s life, it always has been, so I think it’s going to be a beautiful full circle moment for her to take her little daughter out to Disney. And me as a dad there with the camera in my hand, making sure I capture every moment.

WATCH: Strictly Come Dancing behind the scenes tour with Denise van Outen

Shereen Low is a News and Entertainment Writer across heat, Closer, Grazia, Bella, Yours and Crime Monthly magazines

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