Autumn is just around the corner and with it the perennial tell-tale sign of the imminent change of season: the Beeb’s relentlessly trailing the Strictly celebrities in anticipation of the new series of Strictly Come Dancing.
This year sees four new professionals taking to the floor, pro stalwart Anton du Beke filling Bruno Tonioli’s recently vacated judge’s chair and Latin champ Jeanette Manrara taking over It Takes Two presenting duties from 2005 finalist, the much-missed Zoë Ball.
Making assumptions about a celebrity’s Strictly chances is never a good idea: first impressions usually count for sweet Fanny Adams, but that’s never stopped us before and it certainly isn’t going to stand in our way now.
We’re genuinely impressed with the diversity of this year’s line up: there’s a wide range of ages and ethnicities which extend beyond tokenism and the first two-man partnership in 19 series.
Here’s a look at the runners and riders IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER. Actually, it is in a particular order: alphabetical by first names.
Day job: Gold medal winning swimmer.
Never write off sportspeople: they’ve spent a lifetime of repetitive training and pushing themselves to the limit to gain even the slightest edge over their opponents. Swimmers have great bodies too, so we can’t wait to see Adam in ever more revealing states of undress as the competition progresses.
What Adam says:
“I’m really looking forward to doing something totally different and challenging myself away from the pool. I’m hoping my competitive nature is going to compensate for my dancing abilities!”
Day job: TV Presenter
More northern than whippets, Lancashire hotpot and a mystifying disregard for the joys of the capital, TV presenter AJ Odudu certainly ticks all the Strictly boxes. An engaging personality (remember folks, it’s all about the public vote), striking good looks and already accomplished in front of the cameras, AJ is definitely one to watch. Potential finalist.
What AJ says:
“I am beyond chuffed that I am going to be on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing and I’m so glad I can finally tell my mum. Her face will be a picture, she’s going to be over the moon! I absolutely love the show and am fully committed to making the most of every second of the Strictly experience. Bring it on!”
Day job: Journalist, news and sports presenter.
Coming in at about nine feet tall (Editor’s note: actually 6’6”) Dan Walker has his work cut out in this year’s contest. It’s no hard and fast rule, but excessively tall contestants don’t tend to do well and he just doesn’t look like he’s got rhythm. A committed Christian, the genial Dan famously refuses to work on Sundays so at least we can all stop pretending that the Sunday results show is live.
What Dan says:
“I am definitely excited, a little bit worried, mostly terrified and a small part of me is considering going into hiding! My kids have only ever asked me to go on two shows… Saturday Mash Up and Strictly. I did Saturday Mash Up this summer so… it’s time to embrace the sequins.”
Day job: Actor and producer.
It may be a little on the generous side to call Greg Wise an A-lister, but he’s definitely lurking in the upper echelons of the B-list with a string of television and film credits adorning his IMDB page. Married to national treasure Dame Emma Thompson (let’s hope we see her in the audience at Elstree), Greg is a drama school graduate so may well have already studied some dance, albeit years ago, and his rugged good looks should make him something of a mums’ favourite when it comes to the vote.
What Greg says:
“My beautiful sister was a huge disco queen. She left our world almost exactly five years ago in a glitter ball coffin. This is for her. My gorgeous Diva sis, who would have been insane with excitement that her little bro was doing this. I will channel her, as her bro can’t dance – but I’m thrilled to be dipping my toes, knees, hips and arms into this wonderful world, and hope to make her proud, and obviously make her laugh…”
Day job: Chef.
Set to make up one half of Strictly’s first ever two-bloke partnership we really hope that John does well, not least because the more times the nation witnesses two men dancing together without such sinful behaviour precipitating the collapse of civilisation as we know it, the better for all of us. Aside from the gay thing, we like the cut of his jib and we’re very excited to find out who his partner will be.
What John says:
“I’m so grateful, excited, and nervous to be joining the Strictly 2021 family. I’ve been wearing sequins and jazzy attire since I was three years old and can’t wait to hurl myself, full throttle, around the most glamorous dance floor on earth.What’s more exciting for me, is that I’m going to be one half of the first all-male partnership, which is a great step forward in representation and inclusion. Whoever it is I’m paired with, I hope they are up for a challenge as I want our routines to include lots of spectacular lifts!”
Day job: Comedian and TV presenter.
We don’t know a lot about Judi but we quite liked her on This is My House alongside former Strictly champion Stacey Dooley where she came across as clever and funny, so we think we’re going to get to like her. She doesn’t look like a typical dancer but neither did Bill Bailey, and he’s the reigning champion. May surprise us all with a decent showing and some dynamite moves. Lovely smile.
What Judi says:
“I think I am still in shock that I will be part of this amazing show. I’ve watched it for many years and admired the phenomenal abilities of these dancers and celebrities that have taken part and dedicated themselves to learning a new craft.”
Day job: Actor.
Corrie star Katie McGlynn ticks a lot of the boxes that’ll make Strictly aficionados sense a potential finalist. A ready-made fan base among Corrie viewers, good looks and already used to a punishing rehearsal schedule (seriously, soap actors work ridiculously hard) much of her success will depend on how she balances Strictly with her day job.
What Katie says:
“It’s been so hard keeping it a secret, but I can finally say that I’m getting ready to shake my shimmy and become part of the Strictly family! I’m really not a dancer, but I’m so excited to learn a new skill on this crazy journey and cannot wait to slip into some sequins along the way.”
Day job: Actor and comedian.
Part of the team that brought a grateful nation the groundbreaking BBC comedy sketch show Goodness Gracious Me, Nina is probably best known for her seven year stint as Zainab Masood on EastEnders. She seems immensely likeable, but does she have the aura of a glitterball winner? Only time will tell but she looks like she can mix it up a bit on the floor. Don’t be surprised if she does better than okay.
What Nina says:
“I just want to grab life by the balls and enjoy it! I like dancing like no one’s watching. So we just need to blindfold the judges and I’ll win!”
Day job: Actor and TV presenter.
Rhys Stephenson made his name on CBBC so forgive us for not knowing too much about him. If you think about it, it would be weird if we watched CBBC. However, having spent rather longer than decency might demand checking out his Strictly publicity shots, we’re quite the fans of his boyish good looks and winning smile. Youth and enthusiasm can go a long way in this competition…we shall be keeping an eye on young Rhys.
“I am BUZZING to be a part of Strictly Come Dancing 2021. I have dreamt about being on this show, and I know for a fact that it is going to exceed every expectation. I cannot wait to experience it all: the costumes, the orchestra, even Craig’s glare! I am READY!”
Day job: Actor, comedian and author.
At first glance, Peep Show star Robert Webb might not look like glitterball material but he has form, winning Let’s Dance for Comic Relief in 2009 with his now legendary interpretation of What a Feeling from Flashdance. For sure, that was twelve years ago and there’s quite a gulf between what someone can achieve in their early 30s as opposed to their late 40s, but we reckon there’s life in those 48 year old legs yet.
“I am ludicrously excited to be taking part in Strictly this year. It’s a big, generous, joyful show and I can’t wait to get packed into a spandex onesie and fired from a glitter cannon directly at Claudia Winkleman. At least I think that’s what happens. My goal is to try and survive from week to week without causing serious injury to myself or innocent bystanders. I know it’s going to be a challenge. To do well in this competition is a test of character, although mainly it’s a test of dancing.”
Day job: Actor.
EastEnders’ first deaf cast member is about to become Strictly Come Dancing’s first deaf celebrity contestant and we’re thrilled. We’re guessing that Rose experiences music in a different way to hearing people and we’re intrigued to see how that will translate on to the dance floor. Being a soap actor can provide a ready-made voter base so we’re predicting a decent run.
“To be the first deaf contestant on Strictly Come Dancing is sooooo exciting.. and a little bit scary. It is the hardest secret I have ever had to keep so it feels amazing to finally have this out in the open! I hope I will do the deaf community proud and break down more barriers.”
Day job: Entrepreneur and “Dragon”.
Look – none of us has watched Dragon’s Den for ages and certainly not since Sara joined the panel, so we’re not exactly experts. However, even in this day and age, it takes a lot of grit, determination and skill for a young woman to climb to the top of the business tree, so this is not a person to be underestimated.
Sara says: “My Mam and Dad are going to be so excited. I’m really nervous because so far the producers keep asking me if I can dance, Truth be told – I haven’t got a clue! I’ve not danced since I did ballet lessons when I was little. The business world has taught me that tenacity, drive and determination deliver results, I hope that I can bring that to the dance floor. And I’m excited to see the impact of all those hours of training on my mum tum!”
Day job: Chef and social media “influencer”.
Following in the footsteps of Saffron, Joe Sugg and HRVY, Tilly is this year’s Strictly suits’ attempt to drag the Instagram generation away from their phones or whatever God-awful “talent” show ITV is showing into the Strictly Come Dancing orbit. We don’t know much about her other than that she comes across as a decent egg and that her dad is sweary cook Gordon Ramsay.
Tilly says: “I’m so excited and grateful to be joining the Strictly family! I’m always up for fun new challenges and this will be my biggest adventure yet! I’m going to put my heart and soul into this and can’t wait to get my dancing shoes on and show my Dad how it’s really done! Bring on the glitz, glamour and sequins!”
Day Job: Musician, McFly.
Can Tom top McFly bandmate Harry Judd’s 2011 Strictly run? Answer: a resounding NO because, as anyone with access to the internet can tell you, the dishy McFly drummer won the whole darn shebang. Don’t bet against the domestic staff at McFly Manor having to find room on the mantlepiece for a second glitterball trophy: Tom has the musicality, personality and commitment to make him a serious contender.
Tom says: “I think the fact that I’m actually going to be dancing on Strictly this year has only just started to sink in while I’m writing this! I’m incredibly excited, of course, but also totally terrified! My kids were excited too until I started showing them my best dad-dancing in the kitchen. I’m not sure how far they’ll get me in the competition but I can’t wait to add some new moves to my embarrassing dad-dancing repertoire.”
Day job: Broadcaster and retired rugby player.
Rugby players have a long and noble Strictly history, and none more so than England World Cup winner Ben Cohen who loved the show so much he left his wife and set up home with pro partner Kristina Rihanoff. We have a feeling – don’t ask us why – that Ugo is knows how to move and that he’ll turn out to be a hit with the voting public. You heard it here first, folks.
Ugo says: “My two beautiful daughters never had a chance to see me on the rugby pitch, so to know they can watch me waltzing and twirling every week is really special to me. I love an outfit at the best of times, so bring on the sequins!”
Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC One later this month.