Oti Mabuse has said she feels “shattered inside” following the death of her niece Tlhogi at the age of 28.
The Dancing On Ice judge, 31, shared a lengthy tribute on Instagram in which she described her relative as “the kindest, sweetest human being in my life”.
South African Mabuse also shared a photo of her embracing Tlhogi and wrote: “How is this the last time I would hold you in my arms.”
Mabuse, who stepped down as a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing earlier this year, added: “I am so shattered inside I can’t even begin to describe the pain. This is not how this was supposed to go. We had plans together, travel the world and dance on a beach in Jamaica for my birthday.”
Reflecting on their shared childhood, she said: “I used to fetch you everyday from creche, swimming, chess since we were 8. You were only 28 yet the kindest, sweetest human being in my life! I’ve lost my niece, my little sister, my best friend.
“Life dealt you the harshest card but you always chose to win, you always fought to come out the other side above it all with a smile on your face. I love you much with all my heart and now you’re gone and I feel lost in more ways than one to a pain I’ve never felt before.
“I’m still calling you and texting you trying to understand – how? Why? May you rest in peace and power. My sweet Tlhogi.”
Mabuse concluded: “Say hi to Koko, Abuti Neo Le Malume Tshepo. I promise to take care of Sesi, Nanikie and Mpho for you.”
Strictly’s head judge Shirley Ballas, fashion model Daisy Lowe, RuPaul’s Drag Race judge Michelle Visage and singer Alexandra Burke were among those sending their condolences.
Burke wrote: “Sending you love my darling I’m so sorry for your loss.”
Mabuse spent seven years as a professional dancer on BBC One’s Strictly, winning the glitterball trophy twice with Kelvin Fletcher in 2019 and Bill Bailey in 2020.
She announced her departure earlier this year and joined ITV’s Dancing On Ice where she replaced John Barrowman on the judging panel.
Her older sister, Motsi, is a judge on Strictly.