Ben Cohen and Kristina Rihanoff first met when they were paired up on Strictly Come Dancing in 2013. Fast forward and they are now happier than ever in their countryside home and have sat down with OK! VIPs to reveal the low-down on what went on during their season.
From behind-the-scenes secrets to the most chaotic moments backstage, they‘ve covered it all and we can’t wait for you to hear all about it! Watch the exclusive video below – all you have to do is sign up – it's totally free!
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After taking us on a guided tour of their incredible home, the sweet couple reflected on their time on the BBC show and revealed the one thing they would change if they could.
Former Strictly professional dancer Kristina, 43, told OK! that her one “regret” is that she was had too many worries and insecurities.
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“I was stressed out of my mind if the dance was going to be ok on the night, do you know if I could go back, I would probably enjoy it a little bit more to be honest.”
She continued, “Sometimes I think I forgot to actually enjoy the process.”
In one of the pair’s funniest, most awkward moments on the show, Ben – who made it to week nine of the competition – told the story of how he had to run off to the toilet during a live show.
The 42-year-old former rugby player revealed, “I walked up the stairs and I felt my guts drop and I thought oh no that didn’t feel good, I think I’ve got to go to the loo.
“I think we were seventh on weren’t we and I ended up in the toilet for six and a half of those dances, having to unplug myself with the wires because they are all sewn in,” Ben laughed.
Kristina added, “I thought that he just ran away from the show for once and for all and the producers were like “where is Ben?” it was such a panic.”
To hear more secrets from the loved-up pairs experience on Strictly Come Dancing, watch the exclusive video above!
Here, the sweet couple open up on life as a blended family, their struggles as new business owners in lockdown and the pressures of homeschooling…
Hey guys! How has the last year been for you?
Kristina: Really tough. It feels like there is no end to it. It’s really played on everyone’s mental health.
Ben: Thankfully we live out in the countryside, but I found the dark days really tough. Luckily we have each other. For us, going into business together during lockdown has been testing.
Kristina: It has been challenging as new business owners. We’ve had to do all of our classes virtually and we’ve got half the amount of people we would have during this lockdown. I think it’s been so difficult for people to motivate themselves, juggling homeschooling and work commitments.
So it’s been a stressful time?
Kristina: Yes. Trying to run a new business isn’t easy as it is, never mind adding a pandemic to that. We also count on doing lots of personal appearances as a part of our work and that’s all been taken away. It’s very overwhelming. We have no personal support from the government.
Ben: My last job was 13 months ago and I’ve had no support, which has taken its toll. Having a new business, not being able to earn, I’ve found that really hard. As someone who’s self-employed, I haven’t had any help. When you come back to the business and you’re standing still, you feel completely lost because you don’t have any guidance. And to grow a business like that, it’s incredibly tough. From the mental health side of things, that’s something I’ve found really difficult.
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Do you think it’s important to be open about your mental health?
Kristina: Yeah! If you don’t have each other to talk to then what’s the point in the relationship? You have to open up and talk about the darker things. It’s wrong for anyone to ridicule other people and say they don’t believe someone is struggling. Like with Meghan Markle [who recently opened up about her suicidal thoughts], it’s wrong to say, “I don’t believe you’re struggling with your mental health.” That’s the worst thing you can say to anyone. Regardless of whether or not you’re a fan, to dismiss anyone’s mental health is unkind.
Ben: I’ve had my really low points. But people don’t speak about their weaknesses because they don’t have support for it. We’ve got to find a balance after lockdown.
Has it been nice to spend some quality time with Mila during lockdown?
Kristina: Yeah. We have a house full of girls. Ben’s twins are teenagers and it’s been really tough for them. They are missing their friends. Life is digital now and it’s too different. They need that personal connection, it’s not good for them to express their feelings purely through text.
How did you find homeschooling?
Kristina: With Mila, homeschooling has been so hard. I’m a mum, I’m not a teacher. It’s such a stressful environment to give our children so much homework. The government advises three hours a day. How can I pin my child down for that long? I did 45 minutes a day and the rest we would spend dancing, being in the gym or going out for walks. I’m trying my best, but that pressure is awful!
What is Mila into?
Kristina: The iPad and dancing.
Ben: She’s quite self-sufficient and independent. I suppose it’s having two older sisters and they just adore each other.
Kristina: She loves performing. Every night she’d lock herself in her room and record herself [laughs].
Would you mind her following in your footsteps as a dancer, Kristina?
Kristina: I don’t want her to be a competitive dancer and follow in my footsteps completely. I think it’s a really tough world and I don’t want her to go through what I did. I’d like her to do performing arts. I do believe that exposing kids to activities at a young age is good – it gave me really good discipline and a way of expressing myself in ways I couldn’t through words. The stage and dance school is where I always felt myself.
Are the twins Harriette and Isabelle growing up fast?
Kristina: Yes, they are such amazing girls.
Ben: They are my best mates. They have their heads screwed on and aren’t crazy teens just yet.
Kristina: Like any teens they are into their hair and make-up. They are really sweet and innocent. It’s lovely and they are so good with Mila.
Are you proud of being a happy blended family?
Kristina: Yeah. They had a colourful life before lockdown because we took them to fun TV shows. We’re trying to show them the world and go on lovely holidays together, which we can’t wait to do!
Do you feel your family is complete now, or would you like more children?
Kristina: No! No more children. We have three girls and the dog is a boy. That is that. We don’t need any more – the house is full.
Is marriage on the cards?
Ben: We’ve both been married before and will do it again at some point, but not right now. We can’t add any more to our plate at the moment with three kids, a dog and the business. We don’t want to get married in a half-hearted registry office. We don’t want a big affair either, but we want to be able to enjoy it. It also costs a lot of money!
Kristina: We will at some point in the future. We want to have a safe place where people can enjoy themselves, but the whole world is on hold. For the moment I feel like our unit is stronger than marriage.
Kristina, what kind of proposal would you like?
Kristina: I just want to go somewhere warm [laughs].
Ben: I’ll bring her a ring tied to a hot water bottle. [To Kristina] That’ll warm you up.
Kristina: I want to get on a plane and go to somewhere like the Maldives.
Ben: We’d want a family affair with the three girls involved. We’d go to a nice island and make it a real adventure.
Ben, is Kristina’s hard work ethic something that you admire about her?
Ben: Yeah. Kristina is our little superhero. She gets an unfair rap. She works incredibly hard and that’s something that I need.
Kristina: I don’t know any other way. With dancing, discipline was something that was embedded in me from when I was little. I don’t ever want to let anyone down. It’s a Russian way.
Ben: I don’t think it’s just a Russian way. When you’re an optimist and a competitor, you can’t dwell. If you dwell you’ll never improve. I found my transition out of sport incredibly difficult. I’ve written a TV show about life after sport, prison, the services and more. It’s about how the system does let you down. Sport is definitely one of those systems that doesn’t help. I became world class in something that wasn’t transferable. Us setting up Soo Yoga was to give us longevity. We had to think of what was next. It’s been a good journey but it’s been hard.
Why do you think that transition is so difficult, Ben?
Ben: The problem is that when you finish sport and you go into the TV industry, you’re in a whole different world. You meet some really nice and some not very nice people! All sportsmen and women find the transition from sport at a professional level to screen isn’t always a smooth or easy one. But with great support I’ve found my confidence in front of the camera – and I’m really enjoying it!
Kristina, what was it about Ben that caught your eye?
Kristina: We are similar in a lot of ways. We’re both hard-working people with sporting backgrounds, so I recognised that he would be loyal and strong. There are a lot of qualities that I really admire. Sometimes he’s really honest [laughs], but I wouldn’t have it any other way. You have to support each other through good and bad. We’re there for each other.
Have there been many hurdles along the way?
Ben: Of course having a relationship in the public eye comes with hurdles. It can be hard to be scrutinised, but we know our story and we’re at peace with that.
Kristina: It’s frustrating, but you grow a thick skin.
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You left Strictly in 2015, Kristina. Would you ever return to the show?
Kristina: There’s always a rumour I’m coming back to Strictly! It’s never going to be a positive answer. Strictly gave me everything in my personal and professional life. I really cherish my friendship with the people I worked with. Throughout the lockdown, I’ve had so much support from Janette Manrara and Aljaž Škorjanec, Karen Hauer and Anton Du Beke. They even did virtual dance classes for my dance school! I’m so grateful for their friendship.
Ben: You left on good terms, which is great. But you took that step away. I can’t see how it would work for Kristina to go back as a dancer.
Kristina: I’m too old now!
Ben: It would be different to go back as a judge because it would take no time at all and you could work around it. But a dancer is 12 hours [work] a day.
Would you like to be a judge, Kristina?
Kristina: It’s something I’d like to do. Not even just on Strictly, but to be part of a show that gives a platform to other talents would be amazing.
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