Shirley Ballas breaks silence on Giovanni Pernice row after the professional is axed from Strictly

Shirley Ballas has hailed Giovanni Pernice as a "true gentleman" following his 'Strictly Come Dancing' exit.

The 63-year-old star serves as head judge on the BBC Latin and Ballroom competition and after the news that Giovanni,33, will not be part of this year's professional lineup amid allegations of "threatening and abusive behaviour" towards his former partners, she has described him as a "hard worker" who always tries his best.

She told Best magazine: "I think everybody in the 'Strictly' cast is fantastic and I've known Giovanni a long,

long time. I've known him probably longer than a lot of people have known him and I can only talk from personal experience. He's got a work ethic that is the same as mine. He works hard and he wants the best for anybody who wants to learn. He's a true gentleman, and of course, he always looks drop-dead gorgeous."

Shirley noted that Giovanni is an incredibly considerate person in general who goes out of his way to make someone feel "super-special".

She added: "He always puts his best foot forward and is always on time, he's one of those very thoughtful people. He called me the other day to invite my mum to a show he was doing because they love each other. As popular as he is, he will always try and make his way to any fan who wants to see him and will always make them feel super-special.

Earlier this month, the BBC unveiled the list of professionals who will take part in the upcoming series - which is due to air from September - and it included Dianne Buswell, Nadiya Bychkova, Graziano Di Prima, Amy Dowden, Karen Hauer, Katya Jones, Neil Jones, Nikita Kuzmin, Gorka Marquez, Luba Mushtuk, Jowita Przystal, Johannes Radebe, Kai Widdrington, Nancy Xu, Carlos Gu, Lauren Oakley, Michelle Tsiakkas and Vito Coppola.

Giovanni has rejected all the claims made against him and said he "looks forward to clearing [his] name."

The dancing champion first took part in the series in 2015, when he and 'Coronation Street' actress Georgia May Foote finished as runners up and in 2023, he competed with 'Sherlock' star Amanda Abingdon, but their time on the show was short-lived when she left and cited "personal reasons" as the reason behind her early exit.

Immediately after the news broke, Amanda deleted her social media platforms on Instagram and X.