Kristina Rihanoff, the shameless star of Strictly Come Dancing
How best to announce the happy news of a pregnancy with your ‘boyfriend’ — given the awkward circumstances that you met him on a TV show, spent months denying the romance and, oh yes, he is still married to someone else?
By declaring the joyous event on air in the company of a ragbag collection of D-list show-offs and cast-offs whom you have known for precisely three days?
Kristina Rihanoff, the shameless star of Strictly Come Dancing, now seeking stardom of a lower variety by appearing in the current series of Celebrity Big Brother, has this week revealed she’s ‘almost three months’ pregnant by former rugby player Ben Cohen.
In what must surely be the ultimate car crash conclusion to a reality television romance, she tearfully revealed, in scenes shown last night, that she discovered over Christmas that she is pregnant by Cohen, her former dance partner on the BBC show.
The announcement took everyone by surprise, with a friend of the 38-year-old dancer saying that she had ‘told no one’ aside from Ben himself and her mother, Larisa. Certainly, it will have come as news to Ben’s wife, Abby, who is in the process of rebuilding her life with their twin daughters, Harriette and Isabelle, eight, following the unseemly public destruction of their 11-year-marriage.
And it seems Cohen himself may have been caught on the hop by the publicity, too. His Twitter feed was oddly silent on the matter yesterday — while Kristina’s friends gushed over her ‘exciting’ and ‘amazing’ news.
Why is he not rejoicing? Could it be that she didn’t warn him that she was going to announce their news on national television?
Her publicist would not respond to calls on the topic yesterday. But then, as we shall see, there are some doubts over the solidity of this romance, particularly given that Ben didn’t even come to wave off his pregnant girlfriend as she started her three-week reality TV foray.
All he did was post the distinctly ‘matey’ message on Twitter: ‘Wishing @KRihanoff the very best of luck in the @bbuk House. Gonna be tough.’
Back, though, to the big reveal.
Kristina, who has secured a £150,000 fee for the show, said: ‘There was something [that] happened in my life before I came into the house over Christmas . . . and obviously I thought it’s very private news, you know . . .
‘But because we are living as one family now and everybody is sort of supporting one another, it happened to be that I found that my boyfriend and I are going to have a little one.’
She added: ‘Thank you guys, I just didn’t know how to break it, what to say, when to say . . . it played on my mind, and I wanted everyone to hear.’
A spokesman for the star confirmed: ‘Kristina and Ben were surprised and delighted to find out that she was pregnant shortly before she entered the Big Brother house. Kristina is well and looking forward to being a mum.’
So what is going on in their relationship? Despite each of them publishing their autobiographies in the autumn, both have tried hard to say little about their romance, other than to insist that nothing happened between them before Cohen split from his wife.
Abby fumed in August last year: ‘He’s done the dirty on me. I want people to know. My husband, who I was with for 23 years, unconditionally loved and was completely loyal to in every respect, has left me for a f***ing Russian dancer.’
Friends of Rihanoff’s say they are concerned that she does all the running. They have noticed Cohen often does not come to public events with her, but she will make time to do anything with him and his children.
Kristina Rihanoff has revealed she’s ‘almost three months’ pregnant by former rugby player Ben Cohen
They were to have made their public debut as a couple at the fashion show of mutual friend Julien Macdonald last year, but instead Cohen travelled to Singapore to watch Formula 1 racing with a friend.
He made it back in time for her birthday dinner at the Mint Leaf Indian restaurant but looked shattered after his 16-hour flight, while Kristina chatted in Russian to her mother.
A friend said: ‘Last year she was doing 12-hour days with Strictly in London and then whizzing up to Northampton to help him sort out his house which was being sold. Now they spend a lot of time together at her flat, but he does not come out with her to all the events she goes to. She will explain that he is “working”.
‘She always says that his (anti-bullying) charity changes lives and how important he is because she is plainly crazy about him. But if he had been going into Celebrity Big Brother, you can bet she would have been there for him, with a brass marching band and a megaphone.’
It has been noticed that although she has been talking about wanting to marry Ben since the autumn, and has even spoken privately about planning their ‘really special day,’ no proposal has been forthcoming. Whether the latest development will speed those plans along, only time will tell.
A source close to the Cohen family said: ‘They are very happy about it, but obviously because of Ben’s divorce they have been trying to keep it very quiet.
‘As of Thursday afternoon, I don’t think Abby had been told. They were planning to tell her, but I think they wanted to try to get the divorce settled first. They weren’t trying for a baby, so it was a shock when they found out a couple of weeks ago. But they are very pleased and excited. When I’ve spoken to Ben about it, he’s said he is really looking forward to having another baby. He’s a brilliant dad.
‘Kristina is also really looking forward to it. I’m with them quite a lot and they get on perfectly, they are like a new couple. They haven’t been together all that long, but they are not getting any younger and they are both ready for kids.
‘I think Big Brother will have pushed Kristina into saying it to explain why she can’t take part in all of the tasks.’
Rugby player Ben Cohen (left) with wife Abby (centre) and Kristina Rihanoff (right) when he starred on Strictly Come Dancing in 2013
The story began when Ben Cohen was paired with Kristina Rihanoff on Strictly in 2013. She had a man-eating reputation and had just finished a long relationship with boxer Joe Calzaghe — whom she’d also met on the show.
(Before Calzaghe, she had enjoyed a romance with fellow professional dancer Vincent Simone — apparently unaware that he had a girlfriend at the time, and that she was pregnant.)
Kristina and Ben were noted for their chemistry, but his dancing wasn’t exceptional and the couple didn’t reach the later stages of the competition. Despite this, Ben agreed to join the Strictly tour.
I am told that by the time of the tour in January 2014, Abby Cohen’s family were becoming concerned about the friendship which had blossomed between them.
Abby and Ben had been teenage sweethearts and had married in 2003.
Some sources close to the family suggest that there were problems in the marriage long before Kristina hove into view. They suggest the troubles dated from around 2007, when Ben quit Saints rugby club for the French side Brive. Abby moved to France to be with him, and then moved back to England.
Abby was apparently tormented by insecurity about Ben and Kristina throughout Strictly and beyond.
She allegedly asked him if anything was going on, and was repeatedly assured that it was just in her imagination. I’m told that her father, Rob, and brother, Austen, got involved in trying to unpick what was causing Abby, a slender brunette, so much anguish. The answer was not long in presenting itself.
In September 2014, Cohen and Rihanoff were pictured together on the London Underground. Abby told reporters that there were no grounds for suspicion; two days later it was announced that she and Ben were divorcing.
He continued to crossly deny that there was any romance with Rihanoff. He fumed on Twitter: ‘It is a desperately sad world, when two adults of different genders cannot have a friendship without being attacked maliciously.’
Then, in May 2015, Rihanoff and Cohen were pictured having apparently spent the night together at her flat in West London. He appeared to confirm a romance by supporting her at the first night of her dance show later that week.
A friend of Ben’s said before the pregnancy was announced: ‘Abby has been taking it really hard and that has made it difficult for Ben.’
The story began when Ben Cohen was paired with Kristina Rihanoff on Strictly in 2013
In January last year, the Cohens’ sprawling home near Northampton which they’d renovated together, complete with stabling for seven horses, was put on the market for £1.8 million. It didn’t sell, so in September, Ben moved back into the family home by mutual agreement in order to do repairs and carry out redecoration to make it more marketable. That seems to have done the trick — it is now under offer at £1.5 million.
Both have now left the marital home, with Kristina even helping Abby move her boxed-up belongings into a rented house.
‘Kristina and Abby do speak,’ says a source. ‘They are not friends, but they talk about the children and because of the children.’
There is, though, a feeling that Abby could prove to be something of an unexploded bomb.
Her long letter posted on Twitter on December 30 didn’t entirely dispel that impression. She said: “Better late than never to find out, but it’s true how the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
‘I am stronger in a way where respect, caring, loving and being appreciated is key, and I unfortunately now don’t tolerate those who don’t have the same attitude towards me.’
Perhaps a sensitivity to Abby’s feelings explains why Ben Cohen has been so shy of admitting that he and Kristina are an item. Kristina isn’t mentioned in his book at all.
But the problem is that Kristina longs for public affirmation, which she hopes will be the start of a new view of her as a supportive girlfriend rather than a home-wrecker.
A friend said: ‘She is hoping that they will be a media power couple. She really wants to do a reality TV show with him, but he won’t even talk about her in an interview.
‘She went into Big Brother because she has been very anxious to change people’s minds about her. She wants people to see that she is an ordinary person.’
You can’t help but wonder, though — is her extraordinary pregnancy announcement really the way to achieve that?