Strictly Come Dancing star Gemma Atkinson has opened up about her late father, admitting he would have loved Gorka Marquez.

Gemma Atkinson

In an emotional interview with Happiful magazine, Gemma, 33, spoke about losing her dad when she was just 17 and how she knew he would’ve loved to meet her boyfriend, Strictly professional Gorka.

She said: “I think he’d love him. He’d say he’s a gentleman. Everyone who’s met Gorka says that.”

Gemma and Gorka met during last year’s season of Strictly Come Dancing, and confirmed their relationship on Valentine’s day this year via Instagram.

Fun day in the sun 🌞 @gorka_marquez

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Gemma credits her dancer boyfriend with helping her stay in great shape and also said in the interview: “I love the fact that Gorka’s an amazing cook, and I love eating so it’s a great combo. Outside the gym it’s like being best mates.”

Hinting at the possibility of having children, Gemma added: “In ten years time when hopefully we’ve got a couple of kids around I won’t want to be out of breath. It’s nice to have someone who says you’re beautiful regardless.”

Fro Yo stop in Alicante @gorka_marquez 😛

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As well as opening up about her relationship, the actress and presenter spoke about how losing her father at such a young age inspired her to start looking after herself better.

Despite being a non-smoker and drinking only occasionally, Gemma’s father, David, died aged 52 from a sudden heart attack. And Gemma confessed that the tragedy spurred her to “take care of [herself] as best [she] can” through diet and exercise.

The former Strictly contestant said: “It hit me that life’s too short. Dad was 52 and very healthy. He never smoked and only drank every few weeks – there was nothing wrong with him.”

“Since then, I’ve wanted to take care of myself as best I can, and that’s why I always drill that health is more important than what you look like.”

Gemma also revealed how her family’s support helped her through such a difficult time, and that she made a pact with them to never be afraid to talk about her father following his death.

The former Hollyoaks actress recently became a patron for Grief Encounter, one of the UK’s leading child bereavement charities.

Announcing the news on Instagram, Gemma wrote: “I’m happy to announce that I have come on board as a Patron of the wonderful charity @griefencounter I wanted to work with this charity because my dad died suddenly when I was only 17 years old. I know how heartbreaking and confusing grief is to navigate as a child because I’ve been through it.

“The work that Grief Encounter do to support children of all ages after they lose a parent or a sibling is SO important.

“I feel passionately about all children having the right support to process their grief at such a difficult time #support #charity #makeadifference.”

Words by Isa Jaward.