Strictly legend Arlene Phillips to be made a Dame in Queen's birthday honours

STRICTLY star Arlene Phillips will be made a Dame in the Queen’s honours next week.

The former TV judge, 78, has dedicated her life to dance and charity.

A close friend last night told the Sun on Sunday: “I bet she’ll do a little jig to celebrate. Nobody deserves this more than Arlene.”

Arlene was sensationally axed from Strictly in 2009 and replaced by Alesha Dixon, 35 years her junior — sparking a BBC ageism row that reached Parliament.

Speaking in the Commons, Women’s Minister Harriet Harman called for her reinstatement.

Growing up in Manchester, young Arlene was desperate to be a ballet dancer, but her parents could not afford lessons.

An uncle helped out when she was eight — but she only had half-price green shoes rather than pink ones.

She recalled: “I knew I’d have to be brave. No child likes to be the odd one out.

“I quickly learnt that it was only the best who got on the front row. And I definitely wanted to be in the front row. I had to work hard to catch up with those who had been having lessons much earlier than I had.

"They had three lessons a week — I had only one. I got to the front by sheer hard work.”

She moved to London in her teens to study dance and got a job babysitting film director Ridley Scott’s children to pay for it.

He asked her to choreograph an advert and her career took off.

In 1974, Arlene created saucy dance group Hot Gossip, which Kenny Everett featured on his primetime TV shows.

She also worked on West End and Broadway musicals, Hollywood movies such as 1982’s Annie and a string of pop videos, including Duran Duran’s The Wild Boys.

But it was her role as a panellist for six series of BBC’s Strictly that secured her place in the nation’s hearts.

It later emerged she only found out about her axing when journalists turned up at her door.

Arlene, given a CBE in 2013, said: “I’ve never been given a real reason as to why I was axed. I don’t think I’ll ever know.”

She also has bundles of energy for charity work — as an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society and a keen supporter of Animal Aid, Compassion in World Farming and PETA.

Of her damehood, the pal added: “She’s a showbiz superstar whose nifty footwork and personality has helped to get the nation off their sofas and on to the dance floor.”

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