Who Do You Think You Are? – Shirley Ballas

Shirley Ballas
Picture Shows: Shirley Ballas at Liverpool Central Library. Image Credit: BBC/Wall to Wall Media Ltd/Stephen Perry.

The Strictly judge learns that her family tree includes a mixture of tragedy and racial diversity.

Ballas first investigates her mother’s side of her family, to understand if her great-grandmother Clara Sutton deserved the bad reputation she got as a party animal who abandoned her family for America. We discover that this claim was indeed unfair, being widowed, and then remarrying, and trying to make a new life in the USA, only to be the victim of domestic abuse and to have suffered even more in old age.

Things on her father’s side do look better, when Ballas learns that her great-grandfather George (the first of three) came from Cape Town, South Africa, adding to claims she could be of black ancestery. Ballas thus travels to the city where she learns that he was mixed race, and that her 3xgreat-grandmother Caroline Otto was a Muslim who converted to Christianity, but also uncovers the possibility that she could be descended from slaves.

This episode of WDYTYA? feels less gloomy that Boy George’s last week, although it doesn’t start off like that, due to all the suffering that Clara went through. The possibility of slavery is no positive either, but the fact that Ballas can claim to be from a diverse background does give this episode an element of joy that at times seemed lacking.

Who Do You Think You Are? is on Mondays at 21.00.