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'I miss Paul madly' - Debbie McGee opens up about life without her late husband Paul Daniels

Debbie McGee
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Debbie McGee on how she misses her late husband Paul Daniels dreadfully...

Debbie McGee became a household name in the 1980s as the assistant of her word-famous magician husband Paul Daniels and most recently dazzled viewers with her amazing performance on Strictly Come Dancing which saw her reach the final with her professional dance partner, Giovanni Pernice in 2017.

Here the bubbly 60-year-old, who was treated for breast cancer earlier this year, talks about her recovery, missing her late husband Paul who sadly passed away from a brain tumour in 2016 and  why she's embracing another new challenge, taking part in Kirstie Allsopp's new series, Kirstie's Celebrity Craft Masters...

Debbie McGee speaks exclusively to TV Times

My motto for life is….

'Just Do It!’ That was Paul’s motto too. We used to have it written on notes by our computers. It’s normal to put things off and procrastinate but sometimes we just need to get on with it. My other motto would be ‘Count Your Blessings’. Don’t focus on the bad things in your life, focus on what’s good. That’s how I got through losing Paul. I still miss him madly but I just think about the time we had together and think, ‘Gosh, look at the life you’ve led!’ Life is a challenge for everyone and everyone’s got bad stuff to deal with, even for those people who are outwardly smiling, so if you’re healthy, you’ve got good family and friends, count your blessings.

Debbie McGee with Paul Daniels in 1985

Debbie with Paul in 1985 (picture: Getty Images)

I love learning new things...

I thought doing this show would be a new challenge. I’m not artistic, I can’t draw or paint and I’ve never done any crafts before. My mum and sister are brilliant at sewing and make curtains and blinds and all sorts of things but I’ve really never tried anything like that. During the show I made cushions, cards and napkin holders and I was surprised to discover I was much better than I thought I was going to be.

Paul was a perfectionist...

Everything he turned his hand to he could do brilliantly. If he’d watched me doing Kirstie's series he would have been giving me notes! And the headboard I made in the upcycling challenge definitely wouldn’t have got past him. It was wonky! But he would have been very proud of me for having a go. I’m a game girl and always up for new challenges. Life excites me because I never know what’s round the corner.

Debbie McGee went head to head with Made in Chelsea's Sam Thompson

Debbie McGee went head to head with Made in Chelsea's Sam Thompson on Kirstie's Celebrity Craft Masters

I finally feel ready to return to the world of magic...

I recently did a little show in my village showing clips of Paul and talking about our life together and it was really successful and they asked me to do it again. A theatre booker came up to me afterwards and said, ‘Can we book it for our theatre in London?' So I've done that too. It's the first time I've stepped back into the world of magic since Paul died. Up until now I just couldn't go down that route, it would have been too painful but I finally feel ready for it  and can actually feel excited about it again.

I’ve always looked after my health…

After being diagnosed with early stage breast cancer last October and having surgery I’m completely back to normal now and feeling good. I’ve always looked after my health and gone for regular checks and mammograms and I was very lucky that it was caught early.

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I’m very competitive ….

I didn’t realise exactly how much until I did Strictly. When I was first paired with Giovanni (Pernice) his agent asked mine, ‘Is Debbie competitive because Giovanni is very?’ My agent replied, ‘You won’t meet anyone more competitive than Debbie’. I hadn’t really thought of myself like that but it’s true. Whatever I do, I do my very best but if I don’t win it doesn’t kill me and I always think there’s a bigger reason; the other person might need it more than you. Besides, here in the UK people tend to love an underdog!

I still enjoy dancing…..

The first year after finishing Strictly I did the Strictly Arena Tour and after that I dipped in and out of Giovanni’s tour. I’d do the salsa with him if he was in a nearby venue. Last Christmas I did a lot of dancing in panto and I’m doing another one this year playing Fairy Crystal in Sleeping Beauty in Hayes. I have the most amazing costume!

Younger guys enjoy flirting with me….

Being paired with Sam Thompson (From Made in Chelsea)  for the crafting challenges was so much fun. We hit it off immediately. He’s like an excitable puppy that's been fed jumping beans! His energy and go-getting spirit was wonderful. I love working with younger people and always have a giggle. Younger guys seem to enjoy flirting with me even though most of the time I’m older than their mothers so how lucky am I? It’s great!

My advice for anyone doing Strictly would be…

Get fit before you even start. Cardio fitness is so important so get on the treadmill, go walking, get on your bike because that show really hammers your body. I hurt my back halfway through but because I was fit it healed quickly. My other tip would be organise your food because you have no time to think about things like what you’re having for dinner once you get started. After a long day rehearsing I couldn’t be bothered to cook and was wishing I’d stocked my freezer up. I’d lost so much weight by the end of it and I was just eating everything in sight.

The  famous face I'd love to see on Strictly is...

Chris Evans! I’ve heard rumours that he might be doing it this year and I’d love that to be true. I’m a big fan of his and I think he’d be great!

Kirstie's Celebrity CraftMasters began on Monday July 1 and is on weekdays 5pm on C4 for two weeks

Main Debbie McGee picture: Getty Images


Tess Lamacraft
Senior Writer for What's On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite week,

Tess is a senior writer for What’s On TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite and She's been writing about TV for over 25 years and worked on some of the UK’s biggest and best-selling publications including the Daily Mirror where she was assistant editor on the weekend TV magazine, The Look, and Closer magazine where she was TV editor. She has freelanced for a whole range of websites and publications including We Love TV, The Sun’s TV Mag, Woman, Woman’s Own, Fabulous, Good Living, Prima and Woman and Home.