I’m a Celeb contestant Arlene Phillips reveals biggest fear before entering reality TV show

Former Strictly judge Arlene Phillips is “definitely not a camper” so it’s a surprise she’s signed up for ITV show I’m a Celebrity.

The star will be the reality show’s oldest ever contestant at 78.

She thinks she will be absolutely fine living on the basic 700 calories-a-day rice and beans diet… but there’s something bugging her.

Arlene’s main concern is the show’s notorious creepy-crawlies.

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She once admitted her worst nightmare would be to be placed “in a box underground covered in worms and cockroaches, like they do on I’m A Celebrity!”

In an interview with OK magazine, the star revealed: “I’ve done weekly fasts for a malaria charity I work with, so that wouldn’t bother me.”

She says: “My family always laugh at me because they all camp and I’m definitely not a camper! My partner went camping when he was a kid and my girls have, and I’m like, ‘No, I’m not lying on that and I’m not going to live in a tent!’”

Arlene joins I’m A Celebrity- Get Me Out Of Here! contestants

At least she won’t be in the Aussie jungle, with the hammocks again set up at Gwrych Castle in Abergele, North Wales, due to Covid rules.

So now that experience is looking like a certainty, how does she feel?

“All I can say is that I am the biggest coward in the world, I’m not courageous,” she says. “Every time I watch the show, I admire those people who fearlessly enter into it.”

What Arlene has is a steely determination and drive, which are a huge element of her success as a world-leading choreographer on screen and stage. It was through her work she met set designer Angus Ion, her partner of 35 years.

She’s not remotely bothered by being the most senior camper ever. Arlene jokes that she’s “used to always being the oldest” in any TV scenario.

She’s been busier than ever. Her most recent project was choreographing a new musical in Birmingham called What’s New Pussycat.

A gruelling schedule meant she could only see Angus and daughters Abi, 30, and Alana, 42 for one day a week.

But if she prioritises work over fun, then it’s because she knows the opportunities dance can afford.

Last month she presented a National Lottery Award in the Art, Film and Culture category to “extraordinary” Emily Jenkins, who launched a therapeutic dance programme for women with cancer to boost their mental and physical health in 2016.

Arlene Phillips attends the Pride Of Britain Awards 2021

Arlene said: “The women have said it’s helped them in ways that they never thought they could be helped.”

Arlene had a difficult childhood and takes nothing for granted. Not even the Damehood she was awarded for her services to dance and charity in June. “It was such a surprise!” she says.

“I could never have imagined that this little girl from Manchester who dreamed of dancing would ever be made a Dame.” She broke down in tears as soon as she heard the news.

So will she insist that fellow contestants call her Dame Arlene?

“No!” she laughs. “Nobody calls me Dame!” But if she does as well as her friends predict, it might soon be Queen Arlene… of the castle.

The new series of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! Starts at 9pm on Sunday on ITV.

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