She didn't have the easiest of first tenures as the glitter ballroom's head judge last year. Viewers were divided over her decisions, there were rumours of a spat with professional dancer Brendan Cole (which both deny), and she was (unfairly, I'd argue) held responsible for Aston Merrygold's shock early departure by some fans. So will Shirley Ballas return to Strictly Come Dancing? It turns out, she has been asked, but BBC bosses haven't confirmed if they are willing to give her equal pay to her predecessor Len Goodman.
During an appearance on Loose Women, Ballas said that she had been invited to return to the dancing competition, but hasn't yet received a contract or confirmation of her pay. It was previously reported in The Mirror that the former World Champion earned less as head judge than Goodman — something Loose Women panellist Janet Street-Porter was quick to address on the show. She said: "I hope you're going to get the same pay as Len Goodman used to get. Because the BBC have been very criticised for their gender pay gap and a lot of the leading men on the BBC have taken salary cuts so that the women can be paid more. So?"
Ballas responded by confirming her support for equal pay, but defended the BBC's decision to pay her less than Goodman, insisting her first year had been "a trial" to see if she was up to the role. "I do believe if a woman is doing the same job then everyone should be on equal pay," she said. "But I do also understand that my first time on Strictly was a trial, you’ve got to see you can do the job. So I felt that everybody was really happy and I’m sure they’ll be fair."
"So you're getting a pay rise," pressed Street-Porter. "I have absolutely no idea," replied Ballas.
You would hope, given the scandal over the gap between the earnings of some of the BBC's top male and female talents, that the organisation would be doing everything in its power to ensure equal pay moving forward. Especially as (if you ask this journalist) the reason behind much of the criticism and backlash around Ballas' judging decisions was her gender.
Previous Strictly head judge Goodman was notoriously grumpy in his last year on the show, but if you ask me, didn't receive nearly so much flack for it as Ballas did for simply stating her opinions and making difficult calls when contestants end up in the bottom two (aka doing her job).
Ballas has spoken in the past about how she's used to being treated differently due to her gender in the male-dominated dancing industry. But she also told The Express that she nevertheless had faith in her judgement, even when others criticised her choices.
"Don’t anyone tell me how to do my job [sic] — I’ve been doing this since I was 16," she said. "I will judge on technical ability. I don’t think about whether I upset someone. I’m doing my job.
"People at the top of the industry have given me a difficult time for many years. My industry is a male-dominated one. But I’m still standing. It’s a difficult place if you are a woman."
So, aside from being Ballas' due, ensuring the judge is paid equally would be a fantastic way for the BBC to show it's got her back against the haters and send out the message that she's just as valued as any of her male equivalents, past or present. Not that she needs their help, mind you, as she said herself — she's still standing. Roll on Strictly Come Dancing 2018.