Bruno Tonioli — things you didn't know about the TV and dancing star

Bruno Tonioli on ABC's Dancing With the Stars.
Bruno Tonioli is hugely popular with Strictly Come Dancing fans. (Image credit: Getty)

Bruno Tonioli has become a household name on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to his brilliantly flamboyant and addictive personality. In the UK he is a much-loved part of the Strictly Come Dancing judging panel, while he is also known for his amazing humour and energy in the US as a judge on Dancing With the Stars.  

But what else is there to learn about the much-loved Strictly Come Dancing judge? Here are a few things you might not know.

1. His parents wanted him to be an accountant 

Despite now having a hugely successful career as a dancer and TV personality, Bruno's parents originally hoped he would grow up to be an accountant. During an appearance on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, he said: "As a kid I used to paint, I used to do collage, sculpture and design clothes. I used to sing and did singing competitions and plays... I mean, anything but being an accountant, which is what my parents wanted me to be. And I really had a lot of angst and conflict because of that. I didn't see any escape... I always felt I was from another planet, totally disconnected at times."

2. He got his big break purely by chance

Back when Bruno was just 18 years old he got his chance to shine as a performer while at an international arts festival. The leading man on a show walked out, and Bruno was asked to replace him purely because he shared an uncanny resemblance with the star. He also handily fitted all the costumes and could dance. The show was a huge hit, and went on to tour Italy, Paris and London. The rest, as they say, is history. 

3. He's worked with some of the most famous people in the world. 

Before becoming a household name in both the UK and the US with his eccentric ways on the Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing With the Stars judging panels, Bruno had a much more behind-the-scenes career as a choreographer. He has worked with some huge names like Tina Turner, Elton John, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Sting and Freddie Mercury. 

4. He enjoys his own company.

Despite the fact he is the life and soul of any party, keeping everyone entertained with his hilarious one liners and cheeky antics, Bruno has confessed that he actually really likes his own company. He told BBC Radio 4 that he would like nothing more than to be stranded on a desert island on his own... "A couple of years ago I went to the Maldives on my own for two weeks. I only spoke to order room service!"

Strictly Come Dancing judges

Bruno with his fellow Strictly Come Dancing judges, Motsi Mabuse, Craig Revel Horwood and Shirley Ballas.  (Image credit: Getty)

5. He started dancing before he could talk. 

You only get moves like Bruno's when you live and breathe dancing, and that's exactly what he has done all his life. He told MailOnline: "I started dancing before I could talk. Other babies learn to stand and then walk, I just danced. At the age of three I would leap on the table and dance if I heard music. It was something I had to do, as if my legs were moving for themselves. We didn't have a television until 1962 but my father loved Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, and I used to go to the cinema to see Hollywood musicals. In the evening I would go to the ballroom and watch my parents dance the cha-cha-cha."

Dancing With the Stars judges.

Bruno on the Season 29 Dancing With the Stars judging panel with Derek Hough and Carrie Ann Inaba.  (Image credit: Getty)

6. He comes from a hard-working family. 

Bruno's parents both worked hard, which is probably why he is now one of the hardest working stars in TV jetting between the UK and US each week to film both Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing With the Stars. He told Daily Mail: "Dad was a bus driver and when he finished work he would repair cars. Mum had a job fitting upholstery into cars, but in the evenings she worked as a seamstress. Despite having two jobs, she would walk home every lunchtime and cook lunch, then prepare the dinner every night. When people complain that they are working hard —  especially celebrities — I always remember my poor mother and think, 'You don't know what hard work is!'"

Bruno Tonioli's fact file. 

Answers to the most frequently asked questions about the TV star.

How old is he?

Bruno Tonioli is 65 years old. He was born on November 25 1955.

Is he married? 

Bruno Tonioli met his partner, Jason Schanne in 2010 and in 2012 they had a committed ceremony.

Does he have children?

Bruno Tonioli doesn't have any children. 

Where was he born?

Bruno Tonioli was born in Ferrara, North East Italy. 

How tall is he?

Bruno Tonioli is 5ft 7in tall.

Instagram: @brunotonioloofficial

Twitter: @BrunoTonioli

We work hard to ensure that all information is correct. Facts that change over time, such as age, will be correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of the last article update.

Claire Crick
Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 

After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off

She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 

As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.