Entertainment & Arts

Strictly Come Dancing 2016: Meet this year's contestants

Strictly Come Dancing contestants

The rhinestones have been sewn to the costumes, the spray tans applied and the glitterball trophy given a final polish.

It can only mean one thing - the new series of Strictly Come Dancing has begun.

The celebrities taking to the dance floor this year took some time out from rehearsals to talk about their views on the judges, getting up close and personal with the professionals and embracing a love of all things glittery.

They also answered a selection of questions from BBC News readers.

Will Young

The singer revealed his secret to staying sane, which he hopes will serve him well during the Strictly experience.

"I haven't read a review for 12 years," he revealed. "If it's positive my ego will get high, if negative then my ego will go low - so let's keep it in the middle. That's why I've survived and remained fairly sane."

Reader Julianne Heath emailed to ask Will how it feels to be a competitor in a televised contest again, 14 years after he appeared on Pop Idol.

"This is so different to Pop Idol - that gave me a career," said Will. "This doesn't feel like a competition, it feels like the whole Strictly experience."

He added he was concentrating on taking the contest one week at a time and learn as many dances as he can.

Asked if he'd be wearing skimpy outfits, he replied: "Oh God, no - look at me. I sweat all the time, it's disgusting. I only want to wear black or white. No one wants to see that, I'm 37."

Louise Redknapp

The former Eternal singer admitted her confidence was proving the biggest struggle so far.

She said: "The dancing is going to be really tough. My biggest hurdle is going to be having the confidence.

"When you've had children, you get a little bit cocooned in your own world and getting the confidence to get out there and shimmer with all the other girls is going to be my problem."

She also said the prospect of getting close to professional dancers was "going to freak me right out".

"I'm going to have to say to my partner, 'Can we high five and link arms, is that going to work for you?' I'm not very tactile. I know for me that will take me a while."

Scott Fisher wanted to know how her pop career, being a former dancing show judge herself and her stage school experience would help on Strictly.

Louise replied: "Being in a pop band is very different to doing a waltz. For me it's such a long time ago I don't know how I'm going to move any more - I'm 20 years older than I was when I was doing it."

Ed Balls

The former shadow chancellor of the exchequer revealed his family had issued him with instructions about his outfits for Strictly.

"They have very strict rules," he said. "They don't want sequins, they don't want any glitter, any frills, no plunging whatever."

His wife, Labour MP Yvette Cooper, told him he "had to" take part in the show, which he described as a "national institution", adding the reaction to his participation had been "surprisingly positive" so far.

He revealed the experience had been "utterly shattering" and "really intense" so far, and much harder than running the London marathon.

BBC News reader Richard Lewis asked who is going to last longer - Balls in Strictly, or Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader.

He replied cryptically: "I think if the Strictly audience was doing the voting, then I would definitely last longer - if you see what I mean."

Laura Whitmore

The TV presenter admitted it had been a difficult call to quit as host of ITV show I'm a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here Now for Strictly, but added: "That was a great show to work on - but I can't tell you how excited I am."

She said the rehearsing had already proved "mentally exhausting", saying: "I've been dreaming about the routine."

Joking about Beyonce's stage alter ego, she said: "It's crazy, because when I first tried my dress on - you put it on and I became my equivalent of Sasha Fierce.

"The dress I'm wearing is so heavy because of the sequins on it - it's like a workout, wearing the dress and walking in it."

She also revealed the contestants had all been getting to know each other via a WhatsApp group - but spent as much time talking about things like vacuum cleaners as they did dancing.

Ore Oduba

The BBC Breakfast host said he had found the whole Strictly experience "bizarre" so far - but admitted he was loving the outfits.

He said of his relationship with the wardrobe department: "Every time I've walked in there, I've said: 'Blank canvas, do what you will to me'. I'm a big fan of the sparkle."

However, he revealed he has already suffered a wardrobe malfunction.

"I split my trousers on day one. I thought to myself - this is a great start. The trousers weren't made for dancing. I thought I wanted to wear something nice for the first day, and then everything was out to see."

Asked which dance he was most looking forward to - which several readers including Owen Dickinson, Mike Rainsford and Shelagh Fozzard - wanted to know, he replied: "I am dead keen on jiving. The kicks and the flicks. I remember watching Jill Halfpenny in series two - mesmerising.

"And Jay last year was so slick. The problem is, I've got quite creaky joints. And there's a lot of movement to do so I'm not sure I'll be able to keep the pace."

Daisy Lowe

The model said the experience was "nerve racking".

"It feels real now," she said. "We saw the set for the first time. It's also a lot bigger in there than it looks on telly. I'm used to seeing it in a box - and now it's in real life."

She admitted she has already slipped over - and that she was late for every cue during rehearsals.

"I'm used to raving it up on my own, so to have someone else [as a partner] - that makes it less scary as there's someone to catch you when you go Charlie Chaplin backwards but I think that's going to take a lot of adjusting.

"And having someone in your personal space - it will be like, chewing gum at the ready!"

Tameka Empson

Tameka, who has been described as the joker of the Strictly 2016 pack by fellow contestant Melvin Odoom, said taking part in the show had always been "a dream" of hers.

"So when the opportunity knocked, I answered the door and said 'Welcome, come on in! I've been waiting for you'.

"I think I'm a good mover. I've been to dance classes as a child."

Asked who she wanted to impress the most, she said: "I'd like to impress all the judges, but I'd also like to impress Craig and make him smile."

Danny Mac

The former Hollyoaks actor admits he knows "very little" about the different dances that will be coming up on the show.

"It's hard to get my head around them," he admits.

Danny said it was "awe-inspiring" seeing the professionals dancing: "What's exciting is that they're going to be teaching us. They get three weeks - it's a pretty good shot, without anyone seeing us."

Asked who was most competitive so far, he said: "The competition for everyone is between themselves. You've got to learn how to dance, essentially."

Naga Munchetty

The BBC Breakfast host said she had been getting advice from former Strictly stars.

Carol Kirkwood told her "don't worry about being yourself", while Susanna Reid texted to say "throw yourself into it" and Sophie Ellis Bextor advised "just enjoy it".

Reader Paul King asked the keen golfer what aspect of her game would help her most when learning to dance.

She replied: "You need to be stable when you play golf and learn how to distribute your weight to be balanced. So that may help."

Naga said she was "first on the dance floor" on a night out, adding: "I will dance all night and have the best evening. But it doesn't mean I'm a good dancer."

She said it would also take a while to get used to the glitzy outfits: "When I'm out with my husband or friends, I'm in jeans, trainers and a hoodie, with no make up. So it's a different world for me."

Judge Rinder

Robert Rinder - aka Judge Rinder - said he was hopeful of having his friend Benedict Cumberbatch turn up to support him on the show.

"He might come, I suppose. You hope your good friends are going to show up - we shall see."

Reader Nigel Pardoe was keen to know how he would counter any disparaging comments from Craig Revel Horwood.

He replied: "He knows about dancing so whilst he's behaving in a judgely way and, like me, being fair, reasonable and brilliant, I can't imagine we'll have any reason to cross swords."

Asked about Len Goodman, who is appearing as a judge on the show for his final series, he said: "Len is really irreplaceable. He's a national treasure. I never get excited [about seeing celebrities], but there is something really special, in the truest sense, about him."

Lesley Joseph

The Birds of a Feather actress, who played the flamboyant Dorien, said she had been "flung in at the deep end" with the Strictly rehearsals.

"We're hitting it out of the ball park, I think that's the phrase," she said.

She said she was looking forward to losing weight on the show, adding: "I can't wear long, long dresses - there's a little bit of Dorien in me. The only thing I won't wear is leopard skin - I've never seen ballroom dancing in that."

She added she was looking forward to having her first spray tan, as well as "glitz, glamour, dancing and entertaining people on a Saturday night".

Greg Rutherford

The long jumper, who has just returned from the Rio Olympics, admitted he is "not a good dancer".

"I'm not in this to win this," he said. "I'm in this to learn some form of movement that looks like a dance, and not go out in the first week. If I last a few weeks, I'll have overachieved."

He said the only possible advantage to being an Olympic athlete as a competitor was that he was in "good enough shape to be able to train a lot".

"So, my mentality is - every time they suggest a break, I say no, let's keep going. I will put a lot of effort into each one."

Asked if there were any crossovers between being a long jumper and taking part in Strictly, he said: "There are none whatsoever. I run in a straight line and jump into sand. The only thing possibly quite useful is that I can lift really well."

He added he was "genuinely more nervous" about Strictly than he had been over the Olympics. He joked on a night out he would "move around to drum and bass", but compared his dancing style to being "like a drunken spider".

Claudia Fragapane

The fellow Olympian, who is a gymnast, said: "I'm looking forward to going out there and doing the best I can. People are saying online I could win it - no pressure! I just want to enjoy it."

She said it was "completely different to gymnastics", adding: "I find it really difficult to be that close to someone else - I keep laughing."

In the group dance, she revealed she gets "chucked around a lot".

Asked what style of dance she was most looking forward to, she said: "I like all the fast ones - which are very dramatic, and telling a story as well."

Melvin Odoom

The presenter and DJ said he was looking forward to "getting the first show done - and then we can enjoy it".

Asked how he was preparing, he said: "I've been trying to go to the gym a little bit, trying to get my fitness up. But there's nothing that can really prepare you for this."

He added he wanted to "do the best" he could because "you know you're going to be in skimpy outfits."

Asked who was most likely to impress out of the group, he said "everyone is really good".


The singer is the only contestant to admit she wants to win the show.

"One hundred per cent, I'm going in to win. I'm honest - Honestacia," she quipped.

She said she was at the right time in her life to take part in the show, after being diagnosed with breast cancer twice: "I'm ready for new interesting things I've never done before.

"Once you've been challenged with the things I've been challenged with, health-wise, you go: 'Bucket list!'."

She said she would try to take any criticism on the chin, but added: "I will fight. I will literally scratch their eyes out, so beware."

Reader Anita asked how Anastacia's experience as an MTV dancer, which she did at the start of her career, would help. The singer replied: "The word dancer is very loose. I think most of my fans think I am a dancer because I have rhythm - but rhythm is very different to dancing skills."

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