Strictly’s Zara McDermott admits she is struggling to spend time with her boyfriend Sam Thompson amid intense rehearsal schedule

Strictly star Zara McDermott has revealed that her gruelling rehearsals mean that she is struggling to spend enough quality time with her boyfriend.

The former Love Island contestant, who has been paired with Italian hunk Graziano Di Prima, confessed that their 11-hour per day sessions mean radio DJ partner Sam Thompson is at work when she gets home.

Ms McDermott, 26, who insists that she will not be a victim of the show’s Strictly curse, even says that she has to practice her steps with one of her cats Albus or Cedric because he is not around.

She said: ‘We did 11 hours last week, 8-7pm and we really didn’t stop.

‘Sam does his radio show every evening so when I come home from training, he’s at work so I rehearse on my own or use one of the cats.

Hard: Strictly’s Zara McDermott, 26, has admitted she is struggling to spend time with her boyfriend Sam Thompson amid intense rehearsal schedule

Clashing schedules: The former Love Island contestant confessed that their 11-hour per day sessions mean radio DJ partner Sam is at work when she gets home

‘But he has been amazing… we talk all the time on the phone, especially because I’m at rehearsals a lot. 

‘He is always at the end of the phone if I need to chat and he’s super supportive. He’s very positive.’

Ms McDermott has repeatedly batted off questions about whether she will be affected by the Strictly curse despite her cheating on Mr Thompson with music boss Brahim Fouradi in 2019 while she was appearing on X Factor: Celebrity.

Meanwhile, she has admitted she is unlikely to have been approached to star on Strictly if she had only appeared on Love Island in 2018.

The reality star, who is the first ever contestant from the ITV2 dating show to be asked to take part in the BBC One dance extravaganza, says it’s only because she did serious documentaries afterwards that bosses decided to have her on. 

Ms McDermott said: ‘I don’t think there was necessarily a ban or anything like that on Love Island contestants or reality contestants at all.

‘I just think it’s who fits right for the show and I don’t see myself as just a ‘Love Island contestant’ that’s something that I did when I was 21 but I’m 26 now and for the last four years I have been working so hard to make the documentaries that I make so that’s had a lot to do with the reason why I’m on the show now because of the work that I’ve done in addition to Love Island and not just because of that.

Communicating: ‘But he has been amazing… we talk all the time on the phone, especially because I’m at rehearsals a lot,’ Zara confessed

Leaving the past behind: Zara has repeatedly batted off questions about whether she will be affected by the Strictly curse

‘I am not in any way shape or form ashamed of my past, I think every single thing that I have done has been a steppingstone to becoming the woman that I am today, and it has given me an amazing platform, so I don’t think there’s necessarily a stigma around it to be honest.’

Since leaving the villa, Ms McDermott went on to front BBC documentaries that explore issues such as rape culture, eating disorders, and revenge porn.

One of her shows was Gaia: A Death on Dancing Ledge, where she delved deeper into the disappearance of teen Gaia Pope.

Mr Di Prima, 29, praised her for her work, saying: ‘I have seen Zara’s documentaries… I am Italian, aside from Strictly and dancing and eating, apart from those things, I don’t have time to watch TV to be honest with you.

‘But I obviously knew her, and Sam and I started to do my research about her documentaries, and I love that she’s worked with so many inspiring people.

‘I am the type of guy that I feel emotional every time… I was crying watching a video at someone being extraordinary the other day so imagine me watching her documentaries.

‘We have spoken a lot about it, what it feels like to be in front of people that are struggling in life, I am a person that wants to learn a lot, so I have been asking questions about how it works. I have been learning in our lunch breaks.’

The pair danced the quickstep on Saturday night’s show to George Ezra track Anyone For You after beginning their Strictly series with the cha, cha, cha during last week’s first live broadcast.

Strictly professional: Zara has been paired with Italian hunk Graziano Di Prima who has praised the star for her documentary work

Friends: Zara and Sam have been spending time with Graziano and his wife Giada Lini

Zara, who’s never danced before, aside from in TikTok videos with boyfriend Sam, says there isn’t a routine that doesn’t ‘intimidate’ her, but she does look forward to learning the rumba, which is known for its sensual hip action and seductive storytelling.

She said: ‘For someone like me that has never danced every single dance is going to put me out of my comfort zone in some way shape or form.

‘I am intimidated by all of them in completely different ways to be real with you. I am really excited to something like a rumba because I learned a lot of technique in the cha, cha and it’s kind of like a slowed down version of that…

‘It’s going to be scary learning something brand new every week and learning technique, but I am taking my life day by day, hour by hour and trying not to look too far ahead and focus on the here and now.’

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