BRIGHTON (Reuters) - Heather Mills McCartney, estranged wife of former Beatle Paul McCartney, wants to talk about dancing, not divorce.
The 39-year-old former model, in the middle of a bitter divorce battle with the pop legend, sets off shortly for the United States to compete in ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars,” a decision that raised eyebrows given that she has an artificial leg.
In an interview to promote the show, Mills rebuffed suggestions that she was in the televised dance competition only for the publicity, and joked about the prospect of flying limbs.
“If I was worried about critics, then I wouldn’t do anything in my life, because this is the first thing I’ve done for 10 months and I’ve been chased and hounded for 10 months and told that I’m a publicity seeker,” she told Reuters in the interview.
“Yes, I’ve got an artificial leg, yes, I’m going to dance, yes, I’m going to do the best I can, and hopefully it will inspire people,” she said in Brighton.
She said Jonathan Roberts, her professional dance partner on the show, initially had misgivings.
“I think when Jonathan first met me it was: ‘Oh my god, it’s her, and she’s got one leg.’”
But by the fifth or sixth day of practicing together, he quickly forgot about her artificial limb, Mills added.
“The main focus for me is the message I want to send out: you can overcome any disability and just do whatever you want to do if you set your mind to it.” Mills had her left leg amputated below the knee after being hit by a motorcycle in 1993.
Mills declined to talk in detail about her divorce from McCartney, which has been the subject of intense media speculation since proceedings began in July.
She did say that her negative image in the media was damaging her charity work, which includes campaigning for children, animal rights and the banning of landmines.
Mills has been portrayed as a gold digger by several tabloids that accused her of marrying McCartney for the money. The couple wed in 2002 and have a daughter but announced they were separating in May last year.
Paparazzi photographers have followed Mills relentlessly since then, and newspapers have dug into her past.
“It ... does a lot of damage to the charity, so I don’t like to even give them (the media) an ounce of my breath because what are they, they’re nothing, people that want to do that,” she said.
“Because when they knock me, and I’m the patron of the charity and I do all the work, then the donations go down and that’s how it affects it, and then animals’ lives and children’s lives get affected.
“But they don’t really care about that, unfortunately.”