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Soul searching: Kristina Rihanoff SOUL SEARCHING KRISTINA RIHANOFF

When I was seven ...

I took part in my first dance competition in my home town of Vladivostok in Russia. It was only a small event with 20 couples from local dance schools but I remember being so excited when I won. I wore a ballgown made by my mother.

The first time my heart was broken ...

I was 12 and found out George Michael didn't like girls. I thought he was the most handsome man on the whole planet. I would spend hours watching his videos.

The wisest thing my grandmother told me ...

I have strong memories of her putting me in warm clothes because the winters were cruel in Russia. I always remember her saying: "Keep your feet warm". I suffer a lot from flu and sore throats, so I hear her voice in my head telling me that.

The biggest adversity I have overcome ...

Moving to America by myself to become a professional dancer. It wasn't like a lot of girls who go there simply to get married – I was invited for my dancing achievements and ability to teach. It changed my life for the better because I'm now in London doing what I love the most. It wasn't easy at the time. I was 21 years old and trying to get my big break.

My motto for life ...

Do good and you will receive good. That's what I try to live my life by.

My soul mate is ...

My boyfriend Joe [Calzaghe]. He is my best friend, family and someone I can go to with all my troubles as well as share happy moments with. We have been together for three years since we met on Strictly Come Dancing.

Not many people know that ...

I'm sensitive but hide it under a strong shield. I do take things to heart. I had to overcome so many things in my childhood and so I can doubt myself, although I have learned to be more positive. In show business and the world of dancing especially, you tend to grow a thick skin and not show your vulnerabilities, but that doesn't mean I don't feel it inside.

The most inspiring book I've read was ...

Patrick Swayze's biography One Last Dance. I loved his whole life story: being a dancer, trying to make it in Hollywood, becoming famous and all the things he had to overcome to be respected. I found it inspiring the way he fought cancer and worked until almost the very last day.

If ever I feel lonely I ...

Watch television. I love old movies, anything with Marilyn Monroe and that glam Hollywood era.

What I look for in a friend is ...

Honesty and loyalty are the two qualities I respect the most.

I believe the secret to a strong relationship is ...

Trust and compromise. We all have different backgrounds in life, but if love is there you compromise to make it work.

Something I wish I'd done earlier ...

Studied English literature – that is something I hope to do in the future. When I retire from dancing I will go and do a course.

My all-time favourite YouTube clip ...

I'm fascinated by all styles of dancing so I can watch clips for hours.

My childhood hero was ...

My dance teachers. They were like second parents to me when my own family were going through a divorce. They looked after me and were amazing. I wanted to be just like them when I grew up.

The place I most like to call home ...

London. I have lived here for five years now.

Kristina Rihanoff is a regular on BBC's Strictly Come Dancing. Her 2013 calendar is available from www.officialkristinarihanoff.com and her make-up line from www.mememecosmetics.co.uk

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