ITV has confirmed Oti Mabuse will be joining the judging panel for The Masked Dancer, while Rita Ora will not appear.
Rita, 30, whose reputation has been rocked by two COVID rule-breaking scandals, is the only Masked Singer judge not returning for the new series – with Jonathan Ross, Mo Gilligan and Davina McCall and Joel Dommett on board.
The Masked Dancer will see 12 celebrity contestants perform unique dances, whilst covered from head to toe in extravagant, colourful costumes and masks, leaving the viewers and star panel to guess their identities. It is due to air in late Spring.
Panel: ITV has confirmed Rita Ora will not appear on the first series of The Masked Dancer
Two-time Strictly champion Oti, 30, who was previously a judge on the now-defunct The Greatest Dancer, said: ‘I’m so thrilled and honoured to be joining the panel on The Masked Dancer.
‘I’m a huge fan of The Masked Singer and I loved the US Masked Dancer so I just can’t wait to start on this show. As a dancer I will be watching the dancers intently looking for clues – it’s going to be so much fun!!!’
Rita is currently in Australia where she will appear as a judge on The Voice.
She commented: ‘The Masked Dancer is going to be sooo much fun I can’t wait to watch you all. Sending so much love all the way from Australia.’
Jonathan Ross said: ‘What people don’t know is that secretly I am an expert in dance and can spot a ball change from a box step no problem. The title of best detective on the panel is most certainly coming my way!’
Mo Gilligan said: ‘I love The Masked Singer. It’s a crazy bit of joy, which we all need right now – so when ITV asked if I wanted to join The Masked Dancer I, of course, said a huge yes!
Dance sensation: Two-time Strictly champion Oti, 30, who was previously a judge on the now-defunct The Greatest Dancer, said: ‘I’m so thrilled and honoured to be joining the panel on The Masked Dancer
‘I’m really looking forward to getting back with the team for another brilliant series.’
Davina McCall said: ‘I love playing detective and I love dancing so what could be better?! I’m currently swotting up on all things dance in preparation and I will be watching those celebrity feet like a hawk.
‘They always have such an amazing cast on The Masked Singer so it could literally be anyone hiding and dancing behind those masks and that’s what makes it so exciting.’
Joel Dommett added: ‘Well, this is set to be an amazing fun twist…will someone do the twist?!
‘The Masked Dancer is that little bit of silly fun our lives need right now and I’m so excited to be hosting it.
The gang are back together: Masked Singer judges Mo Gilligan, Davina McCall and Jonathan Ross and presenter Joel Dommett will all return for The Masked Dancer
‘I’m looking forward to some incredible costumes, epic performances and accidentally saying Masked Singer at least five times.’
Katie Rawcliffe, ITV’s Head of Entertainment Commissioning said: ‘The Masked Singer is a huge hit for ITV and our viewers can’t get enough of this colourful guessing game.
‘The Masked Dancer will build on that success and create a new format that will be just as much fun and entertaining for our viewers.’
Last month a source told The Mirror: ‘Viewers have been watching Rita on Saturday nights for weeks, but the Masked Singer was recorded way before her birthday bash at the end of November.
‘Such a lot of effort goes into keeping the talent and crew safe while making it – many people felt let down by the way Rita behaved. She has not done herself any favours.’
Light it up! Rita is currently in Australia to film The Voice – where she will be a judge
While discussing current Glitterball champion Oti as a possible replacement for the reported show, they added: ‘Everyone’s very hopeful that she’ll sign.’
However a source close to Rita claimed the snub was a scheduling issue, telling MailOnline: ‘It’s common knowledge that she’s in Australia and will be filming The Voice for the next few months.’
The Masked Dancer is thought to be a replacement for Britain’s Got Talent, which had to be scrapped in 2021 due to the pandemic.
TV bosses are reportedly hoping to air the show in May, when there would usually be BGT finals, meaning there’s a quick turnaround on recording the show.
It’s a hit: The US version of the dancing competition was a big success, and an insider said ITV bosses are confident it will be the same across the pond (pictured the American show)
The Masked Dancer is already a hit in America and sees a slew of unnamed celebs take to the floor to showcase their impressive moves, leaving a panel of judges to guess their identity.
ITV confirmed BGT wouldn’t be going ahead last month, saying that despite the efforts of the teams at ITV, Thames and head judge Simon Cowell’s Syco, they were forced to call plans off.
They said: ‘With our absolute priority of safeguarding the well-being and health of every person involved in the programme from judges, hosts and contestants to all of the crew and audience, the decision has been made to – unfortunately – move the record and broadcast of the 15th series of Britain’s Got Talent to 2022.
‘BGT is known for its diversity of talent with big dance groups, wonderful choirs and lavish orchestras at its heart, and it has become clear that not only is it not possible to film auditions with these types of acts in a secure way but also that they are not able to adequately rehearse and prepare safely.’
Current series: Rita appeared in the latest season of The Masked Singer, which was recorded last September before her Covid rule-breaking scandals (pictured with Jonathan Ross)
Meanwhile, Rita is currently working in Australia to film The Voice after flying out last week and is expected to stay there for a few months.
The singer was recently branded ‘selfish’ by British police for holding a lockdown-flouting 30th birthday bash at west London restaurant Casa Cruz in November.
The party came amid another rule break, as she had previously flown by private jet to Cairo on November 21 to perform at the five-star W Hotel.
She returned the next day and under Government quarantine rules should have self-isolated for 14 days. Instead, she threw a birthday party on November 28 at the exclusive Casa Cruz restaurant in Notting Hill.
For this she apologised with the following statement: ‘Hello all, I attended a small gathering with some friends to celebrate my 30th birthday.
‘It was a spur of the moment decision made with the misguided view that we were coming out of lockdown and this would be OK… I’m deeply sorry for breaking the rules and in turn understand that this puts people at risk.
‘This was a serious and inexcusable error of judgement. Given the restrictions, I realise how irresponsible these actions were and I take full responsibility.
‘I feel particularly embarrassed knowing first-hand how hard people have worked to combat this terrible illness and being fully aware of the sacrifices that people and businesses have made to help keep us all safe. Even though this won’t make it right, I want to sincerely apologise.’
The infamous birthday party at Casa Cruz saw Rita branded ‘selfish’, being fined £10,000, the manager of the restaurant sacked and the venue facing losing its licence.
Fill in: The new dancing spin off is thought to be a replacement for Britain’s Got Talent which hasn’t been able to go ahead in 2021 due to the pandemic (The Masked Singer panel pictured along with Alan Carr)
She was also forced into another grovelling apology for breaching strict coronavirus rules by flying to Cairo and not isolating on return.
Rita said: ‘I recently flew to Egypt to perform at a corporate event for a private company, where my travel party followed protocol and presented negative Covid tests upon entry, as required by Egyptian authorities.
‘Upon my return to Britain, I should have followed Government advice and isolated myself for the required period. As you know, I didn’t follow Government advice and… I apologise again, unreservedly.
‘While I realise the apologetic words of a pop star might not carry much weight, especially one who has broken the rules like I have, I do realise some might seek to follow my example.
‘My message to them is simple: please don’t. The guilt and shame I’ve carried this week for my mistake aren’t worth it. Instead, continue to listen to the Government advice and the voices of the heroes of the NHS and take the required precautions.’
Rule breaker: Rita was branded ‘selfish’ for holding a lockdown-flouting 30th birthday bash at London restaurant Casa Cruz in November (Rita pictured on her birthday)
She added: ‘I hope to one day make it up to the public who have given me so much support over the years and, in particular, make it up to the heroes of the NHS…
‘In the meantime, I will be donating my fee from Egypt to charity. Be better than I have been and learn from my mistakes so you don’t have to learn the hard way yourselves.’
The singer was permitted to leave the UK during lockdown because she flew to Sydney for work commitments, and will become a coach on the Australian version of the hit singing competition.
Rita has had to isolate in a hotel after landing, to adhere to the country’s strict travel regulations amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
Explaining that there was no way for the star to get out of quarantining on arrival, a source told The Sun: ‘It’s very clear how seriously the Australians are taking their border control, and there are no risks taken at all.
‘They have no time for rule-breakers. Border agents and the military are involved — and she had to comply.’
Prior to her trip, a source also told the publication: ‘It’s obviously a bit of a pain but she knows she will have to do it just like everyone else. She’s excited to start work on The Voice but nobody is going to let her do that until she has done the quarantine, so it’s one of those things.’
They added: ‘She’s had enough controversy after the birthday incident so just wants to keep her head down now and get back to work.’
I’m sorry: Rita offered an apology on social media and said she felt ‘particularly embarrassed’ after her party was revealed