The meteoric rise to fame of Pineapple Dance Studio’s star Louie Spence hasn’t come without its misfortunes.
Despite having hundreds of thousands in the bank, recently signing a six-part reality series with Oprah Winfrey’s network in the States and being globally famous after just 14 months of fame, he still lives in his London council flat home of 17 years. And he has no intention of moving out.
Speaking candidly about his lifetime of dealing with anxiety, panic attacks and claustrophobia the star has revealed he can’t even consider moving out of his council home – despite being able to afford a country pile worthy of any celebrity these days.
Louie, 42, admits: “Someone on a radio station was saying I should get out of my Housing Association flat the other day. But it’s not that easy. That is my home. I’ve been there for 17 years – years before I was considered famous. The reason I got that flat is because I suffered so badly for years with anxiety and panic attacks that I was housebound.
“Literally to the point I became agoraphobic, claustrophobic – I had every phobia apart from homophobia, darling. It was a real problem. I think it’s hereditary and it was to the point of I couldn’t leave the house. It effected my whole life.
“I got the flat purely because of my anxieties. It’s still to this day the only thing that makes me feel safe. I still suffer with anxiety every day now. It’s not just going to disappear because people know who I am. I go in shut the door, sit on my DFS sofa and I’m safe. Everything about it is familiar. Anybody who has ever had anxiety in such a bad way will say the same thing. The most important thing is to feel safe and have your place and your things.
“I don’t feel ready to move. It’s not about finances at all. I can’t buy my flat, otherwise I would have done it already. It is my home. For me this is my reality. I need to live there for now. This has all happened so quickly and why should I give up my home because they think I’m a multi millionaire and I’m recognised.”
The star, who burst onto our screens as the camper than camp star attraction on Sky’s Pineapple Dance Studios and went on to have his own series Louie Spence’s Showbusiness, says he’s suffered with the condition since the age of 12.
“To control it I’ve had therapy and hypnotherapy and I’m able to deal with it far better now,” he reveals. “I know I’m not going to die and I know there’s nothing particularly wrong with me. I’m always being tested for something. I’ve just had a camera up my arse because I was worried about that.”
Despite his fame these days the star, who’s happily married to an unnamed Spanish man he’s been dating since 2001, says he feels like he’s going to have a stroke in crowds of people.
Thankfully he can laugh about the situation now. He says: “People don’t realise that when I became famous I was literally close to a stroke every time somebody came up to me. I know people expect me to be high kicking and flipping and funny – and I am. But inside it’s a different story. Crowds are awful. I still won’t go to a concert unless I have a backstage pass. If I walk through a crowd and people walk towards me all I’m doing is my heart’s racing and I’m trying not to pass out. It’s a really serious thing.”
Now Louie, who’s appeared in numerous West End shows and even as one of the backing dancers of the Spice Girls World tour in 1998, has begun his quest for world domination (despite being petrified of flying) and has just returned from a three week tour of Australia to promote Pineapple.
“I tried my hardest to get out of this travelling malarkey,” he says. “I said I wanted to fly First Class, I needed a five star hotel and my partner had to come with me. I was a total diva about it and I thought they would say forget it and I would be free. But they came back and said yes to every demand. So my plans failed. I was furious they said yes. They paid for everything – I even had a driver. I was basically back to being in the Spice Girls bubble when I was a dancer for them in 1998 – except I was the star.”
His next plan is to take on the States after signing a six-part deal with Oprah Winfrey’s new television network, OWN.
After putting together a showreel for US TV executives six months ago Louie, who this week choreographed T-Mobile’s latest flash mob craze video, thought nobody would be interested in his efforts but went through the motions anyway.
Within a week three big US networks put offers on the table and he was forced to decide who he wanted to go with – and Oprah Winfrey was always going to win through for him.
“Of course I’m a huge fan of Oprah,” he gasps. “I did tell them I wanted to be on her show if this all worked out so I hope they keep their word. I’ve been a huge fan of hers for years. Er, hello – who hasn’t.
“It was a big enough thing having my own show in the UK but the thought of being on Oprah makes me want to s**t myself. It’s unreal. I’m sorting out my Visa now and I’m going to be filming in New York. It will be roughly seven weeks of shooting out there.
“I had to speak to the Oprah people via satellite. They wanted to see that apart from the high kicks there was some substance there and there is.” I never doubted you, Louie.