Exclusive - Kristina Rihanoff opens up to Sunday World on the year that changed her life
Dance queen Kristina Rihanoff barely lifted a finger over the course of her first pregnancy, she says, and now she is facing a race against time to spring back into tip-top shape for her first appearance as a working mum.
The Strictly Come Dancing star, who waltzed Daniel O’Donnell through his time on the hit BBC show last year, had her first child in June, with the traumatic arrival of little Mila causing alarm for the dance queen and her partner, former England rugby star Ben Cohen (below).
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday World, Russian beauty Kristina has opened up on the year that has changed her life, as she foxtrotted us through the 12 months that has featured so many ups and downs.
From revealing she was pregnant to a huge TV audience during her time as a contestant in the Big Brother house, to the traumatic birth of her precious daughter, Kristina is now getting her mind back on the job that has made her one of the biggest stars of the TV dance phenomenon.
“It has been an amazing few months and when I look back now, I have to say it has been one of my best years,” says the star, who looked stunning just a few months after giving birth as she met up with Magazine+.
“After I left Strictly Come Dancing, Ben and I had the wonderful news that we were having a baby and in that moment your life changes forever.
“I decided not to do any exercise during my pregnancy and just ate whatever I wanted, which was a very unusual experience for me.
“It was nice to have a few months where I did not worry too much about what I was eating and if I was putting on some pounds.
“The idea was to relax and enjoy the pregnancy, without worrying about my weight or anything like that.
“Then our little girl arrived in June and it was a difficult birth because the cord was wrapped around her neck.
“The most important thing now is that she is here, she is healthy and we are a wonderfully happy family.”
Kristina’s life has been transformed as she put a temporary halt on her career to care for her baby, with her schedule familiar to so many new mums.
“Milena is a very active baby during the day. She is waking up once for a feed at night and about 4am and then again at 7am,” Kristina says.
“I felt very tired the first six to eight weeks, but it is getting easier now. You get into the routine and when you see their little smile, when they squeeze your hand, it reminds you that it is all worth it.
“I’m breastfeeding at the moment, so it is all down to me to be there when she needs me, but Ben has been there for me in so many other ways.
“He has had kids before so he knows how this all works and his support has been wonderful for me, with our two mothers always there giving us so much advice and help. Now I am thinking about work again and I am doing a one-off show with my former Strictly colleague Gleb Savchenko that I need to try and get into shape for.
“I need to lose a few pounds, so I need to start working on it very soon.
“My body may never be the same again after having a baby, but I don’t mind because she is the most important person in my world now; she is more important than anything in the world to me.
“Will I have more babies? I don’t know. Ask me that question in a year or so.”
Kristina smiles as she reflects on her final year in Strictly Come Dancing, as she lifted the lid on the strains the show placed on the Irish icon she had on her arm.
“I’m proud to have partnered Daniel O’Donnell (above) because he is such a lovely man and we had a good time together, even though I know it was very stressful for him,” she reflects.
“The dancers are so desperate to help their contestants to enjoy the experience and get the most out of it and the celebrities put so much pressure on themselves to look good, which is understandable. They don’t want to let their fans down.
“I know Daniel was frustrated with himself last year because he is a performer and couldn’t understand why he was finding the dancing so challenging, but it is a very tough to learn in a short space of time.
“This show takes the celebrities out of their comfort zone and Daniel was not alone in finding it so difficult.
“I still keep in touch with Daniel and he and Majella sent me a lovely text to congratulate me on the arrival of Mila back in June, which was really sweet.
“I hope to go and see him performing on stage sometime soon.”
With RTE set to screen their own version of Strictly Come Dancing next year, Kristina has revealed that her most prominent supporter in Ireland believes she should play a pivotal role in the show.
“I was excited to hear that Dancing With the Stars is being launched on Irish TV,” she adds. “Daniel sent me a text saying I should be a judge on the show and I would love to do that if they would consider asking me.
“Every time I have been to Ireland it has always been such a great experience and hopefully we can take one of my own dance shows to Dublin next year.”
Kristina Rihanoff and Gleb Savchenko will appear in One More Dance at London’s Adelphi Theatre on December 11, in what could be a perfect addition to a Christmas shopping trip to London.