Arlene Phillips' secret to looking young at 73

Arlene Phillips' secret to looking young at 73

Dancer and choreographer Arlene Phillips isn't shy about people knowing she's 73 – not that she looks or acts it!

Now she's revealed just how she's managed to defy the years and stay looking so fabulous right into her Seventies.

 “Keeping active and filling each day keeps me young,” she says.

“I’m still dancing all the time and I’m always up for taking on new challenges. Having my family around keeps me young, as well.  I’ve one daughter who’s living at home (Abi, 25) and another daughter (Alana, 36), who I see very regularly, so I don’t feel like my life has actually changed that much in the past few years.

"And luckily, my health and fitness is still at the same level as it’s been for a long time.”

That’s why Arlene is appearing as an ambassador for a recent study, called The Colour Report, which reveals that today’s retirees are more youthful than ever.

Staying young

79 per cent of retirees feel up to 20 years younger than their biological age, while 94 per cent think their experience of retirement is very different to their parents., according to the study, commissioned by retirement home builder McCarthy & Stone.

Getting older brings with it plenty of pluses, to boot, says Arlene. “The great advantage of getting older is that I can kick my heels off and not worry about what everyone’s going to think about me or what I say. I really believe confidence comes with age.

“I’ve learned in particular that you’ve not got to let criticism or rejection tear you apart. If you ever think ‘oh, I wish this thing had happened, or I wish it hadn’t’, just give yourself a little window to go off for a few hours, sulk, get it out of your system and then carry on. If you want to do something you’re passionate about, especially in this industry, you have to take the rough with the smooth.”

Looking after dad

For all her many great successes Arlene has faced her fair share of life challenges.

Aged just 15, Arlene's mother died from leukaemia, aged 43, leaving her dad to bring up their family of three children. Then, just as Arlene was starting to make her name as a television personality, her beloved dad, Abraham, was diagnosed with dementia – an experience that she describes as “devastating”.

“Dad was extremely sharp and would walk miles every day, so to see him start to get lost on these wonderful walks was awful.” Although Arlene’s father passed away in 2000, she is still an active supporter of the Alzheimer’s Society.

Her next big challenge

Arlene's also keen to make the most of every single day. And her latest project certainly keeps her on her toes. As choreographer for Jackie The Musical, she’s working her charm to create a nostalgic show that celebrates one of our favourite magazines of yesteryear, complete with a soundtrack from all our favourite Seventies dreamboats, including David Cassidy and Donny Osmond.

In her spare time, she’s fulfilling a lifelong ambition to learn how to cook, after being the first to be eliminated on Celebrity Masterchef last year – which she says was great fun, but a bit of a “disaaaster” after she managed to drop burning caramel on her foot!

Arlene also has one big ambition left. “I would love to learn how to ski,” she says. “I’ve never been because I’m so accident prone. So I’ve always been cautious because I need my legs to dance. But when I give up dancing, I want to get on a pair of skis and just try going down a mountainside.” Fearless and determined as ever, we’re certain she’d do it with all her typical grace. 

Did you know...?

  • Arlene choreographed the 1982 film, Annie, and the Duran Duran song The Wild Boys, named Best British Video at the 1985 BRIT Awards
  • Arlene firstbecame a household name as the director and choreographer of Hot Gossip, a British dance troupe which she formed in 1974 using students she was teaching at the time.
  • Hot Gossip became a regular feature of The Kenny Everett Show. It was during this time that Hot Gossip made their only hit record backing Sarah Brightman on "I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper"
  • Hot Gossip were particularly noted for the risque nature of their costumes, duly noted and disapproved of by Mary Whitehouse
  • Arlene was a member of the judging panel for Strictly Come Dancing, alongside Len Goodman, Craig Revel Horwood, Bruno Tonioli, until 2008
  • Arlene has also been a judge on the UK version of So You Think You Can Dance?
  • Arlene and her  partner Angus Ion, have been together since 1985. She met Angus, a set designer, on the set of a Freddie Mercury music video
  • She has two daughters: Alana (born 1979), from an earlier relationship, and Abi (born 1991), with her current partner