A revamped Dancing With the Stars will make history when it premieres next month, with a drag queen performing in the format for the first time.
Network 10 unveiled the show’s full line-up on Wednesday, a week after the majority of cast members – including Karl Stefanovic’s ex-wife Cassandra Thorburn – were leaked to the media.
Joining the likes of Thorburn, actor Samuel Johnson and former cricketer Sir Curtly Ambrose will be Shane Jenek, best known for performing under his drag name Courtney Act. Jenek, who was joint runner-up in season six of RuPaul’s Drag Race and identifies as gender fluid, will attend rehearsals as himself but will perform under his drag pseudonym.
There could be a scheduling challenge on the horizon, though: Jenek will soon fight to represent Australia at Eurovision later this year as part of the upcoming SBS event Eurovision: Australia Decides. Should he be successful, he will need to jet off to Europe for the first performances in mid-May.
Should Jenek also do well on Dancing With the Stars (which kicks off on towards the end of February) he might have to dash to the airport straight after filming wraps. If the program has an 11-week run and Jenek makes it to the grand final, he could have just over a week to make it to Europe before the Eurovision performances commence.
However, Jenek said he didn’t anticipate any problems.
“I’ve worked out the timeline,” he said. “I’m coming home, making a splash and then it’s Mardi Gras. Not only do I get to escape the harsh London winter, I get to come home to Australia and be on the most wonderful show on television.
“Eurovision is super exciting as well. While in a way I unofficially represent Australia wherever I go, the prospect of being a queer person and a drag performer representing Australia in the Olympics of pop music is a super exciting prospect.”
Jenek has form when it comes to reality television. Shooting to fame on Australian Idol in 2003, he went on to win the 21st season of Celebrity Big Brother in the United Kingdom last year, and now hosts British dating show The Bi Life, which premiered on E! in October.
Other celebrities joining the drag performer on Dancing With the Stars include former The Biggest Loser trainer Michelle Bridges, Studio 10 presenter Denise Scott, The Living Room co-host Miguel Maestre and author Constance Hall.
Giggle and Hoot presenter James Rees, Neighbours actress Olympia Valance and model Jett Kenny (the son of athletes Lisa Curry and Grant Kenny) will also star in the revamped series.
The new season of Dancing With the Stars will debut on Network 10 on Monday, February 18 at 7.30pm.