Kevin Clifton's been hit by Strictly Curse twice, battled depression and has been married three times – so why do viewers and dance partners adore him so much?

The pro dancer’s long-awaited triumph on the BBC show was a popular result, coming after four previous defeats in the final and the recent collapse of his third marriage.

His celebrity partner this year, documentary maker Stacey Dooley, 31, led the plaudits, paying tribute to “King Kev” in her victory speech.

His years of heartache on the Strictly dancefloor may now be over — but there could be more to come off it.

By his own admission, Kevin, 36, can get consumed by the show.

When he crashed out in week ten of last year’s show with comedian Susan Calman, he publicly apologised to his now estranged wife and fellow pro, Karen.

He said: “When Strictly is on I’m not the easiest person to live with. I go a bit mad. So I’d like to say first of all thanks to my wife for putting up with me.”

Tellingly, Karen later described the speech as “really lovely and sweet because I do have to put up with him — he looks sweet but he’s a bit intense sometimes”.

She previously hinted at cracks in their marriage, which ended in March amid rumours Venezuelan Karen, 36, had moved on with accountant Stuart Wood.

Despite the split, the pair have stayed friends — and Karen rushed to be among the first to congratulate Kevin on Saturday’s final.

Beaming with pride, she shouted: “You did it, Kev!” while banging her hand on his chest.

The former couple still tour together, with Kevin describing dancing as “the glue that has held us together for years”.

But it has also repeatedly been at the centre of his failed relationships.

His first marriage — believed to have been to Russian Anna Melnikova, then his Latin dance partner — fell apart after three years.


The pair tied the knot when Kevin was 20 but ended in 2005 after he decided to turn his back on professional dancing.

He said: “We got to a stage where we were at the top of our game but hadn’t won a world championship.

“We were approached and told if we paid the right people, took certain classes with certain pro teachers, we would be guaranteed the title.

“It would cost more than £10,000 in all and I just felt somewhere it had all gone wrong.


“My parents believed we could win without it, but I wanted to walk away from the whole thing.

“I fell out of love with it. My wife divorced me because it was her life.

“I fell into depression because everything I’d put my life into had burst apart.”

The Grimsby-born dancer went on to fall in love again, not only with dancing but also pro Clare Craze, who he met in a London salsa bar.


They married in 2007 but split in 2010, with Kevin later admitting: “I was never particularly happy and wasn’t myself, a lot of my friends and family were telling me that.

“It was just a bit of a weird time.”

Kevin met Karen a year later, when they were both part of international ballroom stage show Burn The Floor.

With his divorce from Clare finalised in 2013, he proposed to Karen during a performance and they got married in 2015.

Kevin said: “When I met Karen I could get on with her in a completely different level and everything was happy and rosy.

“We were friends first and it went from there.

“To be honest, I didn’t ever think it would happen. Karen is sort of a few leagues ahead of me.

“She is sort of Champions League and I am trying to get into the play-offs of League One. So I never thought we would be together.”

His turbulent love life is in stark contrast to his professional relationships, which are incredibly strong.

Like all of Kevin’s celebrity partners before her, he and Stacey became incredibly close during their often gruelling Strictly run, which included 14-hour training days.

Susanna Reid, his first partner in 2013, and Louise Redknapp’s respective love lives fell apart after being paired with him, and even comic Susan became obsessed. When asked last month when she was at her happiest, Susan replied: “Genuinely — and my wife, Lee, knows this — dancing with Kevin Clifton on Strictly.”

Louise and Kevin were dogged by affair rumours during their time on the show in 2016.

The Sun revealed how Louise’s then-husband, former footballer Jamie, had become increasingly concerned about the impact Strictly was having on his 18-year marriage.

It prompted him to reach out to Kevin’s wife, Karen, who allegedly told Jamie: “Keep your wife away from my husband. She’s ruining our marriage.”

Louise and Jamie filed for divorce last December, three months before Kevin and Karen announced their own separation.

Some say it is Kevin’s quiet charm and gentle encouragement than women find irresistible.

Sun columnist Judge Rinder, a contestant in 2016, told The Sun yesterday: “The reason he gets so far is because he’s a brilliant teacher and an amazing choreographer.

“He’s incredibly emotionally astute, so understands exactly what his partners need.”

Asked why Kevin and Stacey won the coveted Glitterball, head judge Shirley Ballas said: “It’s five times the bridesmaid and he suddenly became this superstar. He became emotional so everybody got emotional. Stacey was so kind to him. He had given her the best choreography that I’ve possibly ever seen.”

Strictly producers pushed the fact that Kevin had made the final four times previously without walking away with the title.

He looked emotional as he featured heavily in Stacey’s pre-recorded sequences, and she kept repeating how she wanted to win it “for Kev”.

Dancing runs in his blood. Parents Keith and Judy are four-time Latin American champions and now run a dance school in Grimsby.

Kevin started lessons aged four and was in his first competition at six. Little sister Joanne was not far behind. She won family bragging rights in 2016, winning the Strictly title with TV presenter Ore Oduba.

Mum Judy was originally reluctant to let the siblings follow in their footsteps, but eventually gave in. She said: “You could see they had natural rhythm, and they also had their own will to want to do it.”

Dad Keith said: “It has been a long haul.”

On Sunday, Joanne, 35, posted a series of pictures of Kevin’s emotional victory, alongside a sweet snap of the pair as kids with their dancing trophies.

She wrote: “Still tearing up this morning seeing this picture. What a year he’s had . . .”

Kevin described it as “one of the craziest of my life”.

Speaking on Strictly spin-off show It Takes Two last week he added: “I’ve fallen in love with dancing all over again and Strictly all over again.”

There is no doubt the nation has fallen in love with Kevin, too.

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