Inside Rachel Riley’s short first marriage and ‘Strictly curse’ split for Pasha Kovalev

Rachel Riley was once married to millionaire James Gilbert but the stresses and strains of Strictly Come Dancing and her other filming commitments contributed to them splitting

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Rachel Riley and Pasha Kovalev’s love story after Strictly

Rachel Riley looks like she has found her happy ever after with Strictly Come Dancing pro Pasha Kovalev, with the pair welcoming a second daughter, Noa, in November to add to their two-year-old Maven.

The 35-year-old star of 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown met Pasha when they were partnered on the BBC dance show in 2013 and it was just a month after they were eliminated from the competition, they revealed that the ‘Strictly curse’ had struck and that Rachel was leaving her husband Jamie Gilbert behind for a new life with Pasha.

While she undoubtedly has a true romance with Pasha, Rachel was previously married to her millionaire boyfriend, who she met at Oxford University.

Rachel Riley with first husband Jamie Gilbert


Rachel and Jamie enjoyed a relationship until 2009, when their love hit the rocks and they briefly split.

Once their romance was rekindled, the pair settled down in Essex and got married in 2012.

Unfortunately, after four years together and just 16 months of marriage, it was all over and Rachel’s TV commitments as well as her chemistry with Pasha played a part in them going separate ways.

Speaking to British GQ previously, Rachel detailed how her first marriage fell apart and the reasons behind it.

Rachel Riley announces birth of her daughter



She said: “At that time, I was doing Countdown and The Gadget Show, so I was living in Essex, I was filming in Birmingham and in Salford, and then filming Strictly in Borehamwood, with a bit of It Takes Two in London.

“I was getting three hours’ sleep a night, trying to fit in all these things.”

Rachel continued: “All you want to do at that time is the dancing because you know you’ve got to do this thing in a few days.”

At the time, Rachel was adamant that Strictly was not a contributing factor to her marriage split.

Rachel said: “No. I’m still friends with my ex-husband. He’s great, he’s a brilliant guy. We were together since I was 19 and it wasn’t right… What Strictly did give me was distance – because I was away from home in Birmingham, Salford, Borehamwood.

“It was the emotional distance that I needed to break away.”

Rachel and Jamie announced in November 2013 before confirming her romance with Pasha.

Pasha Kovalev and Rachel Riley in 2019


Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Rachel Riley and Pasha Kovalev in 2016


Getty Images)

Speaking to the Radio Times at the time, Rachel said that thoughts of remarrying and having children were a long way from her mind despite finding ‘the one’.

She said: “I am in love now. I don’t feel I have to get married. I don’t think I need that pressure any more.

“I don’t worry about getting married or whether he is taking a long time in the morning or whether he has done the dishes.

“That does not really bother me in the long term. I feel settled.”

She added in the interview: “I don’t feel the need to do it again. If I’m with someone and I’m happy, that’s enough.”

Rachel and Pasha tied the knot in a Las Vegas ceremony, before welcoming their first daughter Maven to the world later that year.

After the arrival of Noa on November 5, Rachel paid tribute to those who assisted her home birth: “She’s totally adorable and her big sister Maven has already tried welcoming her to the world by offering Oatly and pickles, we think that’s a good sign.

“Massive thanks to the wonderful home birth midwives team and my doula who looked after us all so well.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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