Strictly Come Dancing: 14 things we found out about this year’s stars

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Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly are returning to host the 17th series of Strictly

Personal trainers, spray tanners and marriage counsellors are about to get a huge spike in business as Strictly Come Dancing launches on Saturday.

And there are quite a few new faces on the show this year.

Rylan is joining It Takes Two, Motsi Mabuse is joining the judging panel, and that’s before we even get to the contestants.

We spoke to all the celebrities hoping to waltz their way to a win this year and learned the following things:

1. Alex Scott doubts she’ll remain the bookies’ favourite for long.

The former footballer currently has odds of 4/1 to win this series – making her the frontrunner with bookmakers.

“I’m trying to ignore that, because when the show starts, I think that might change!” she laughs. “I get messages from my friends like ‘do you know you’re the favourite’, and I’m like ‘shut up!’

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Alex Scott and Will Bayley

“I think I’m only the favourite because I did the Sport Relief [Strictly special]. And I was up against Chris Kamara, who had a bad back and couldn’t train. And David Ginola flew in on the day and Karen was trying to teach him.

“[Whereas] I’d had a couple of days with Pasha, so I was always gonna stand out, so I think that’s the only reason why.”

2. You don’t have to address Viscountess Emma Weymouth as Viscountess Emma Weymouth.

This isn’t a Lord Sugar situation.

“I’m Emma. Just Emma,” she clarifies, referring the the title she inherited when she married Viscount Weymouth, Ceawlin Thynn in 2012.

“Obviously the official name is there, and maybe it will help if there’s two Emmas. [EastEnders actress Emma Barton is also competing this year.] But I honestly don’t know what [Strictly] are going to call us… I just call myself Emma.”

“Don’t fall into that!” interjects Chris Ramsey. “I called her ‘just Emma’ the other day and my council tax went up! No word of a lie.”

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Vicountess Emma Weymouth and Chris Ramsey

3. Dev Griffin is more concerned about radio rivalry than the actual competition.

“None of these guys in the cast are my competition at the moment,” the presenter says. “The only people I’m competing against are past Radio 1 people.”

There’s a friendly rivalry at the station, given that DJs including Scott Mills, Mollie King and Melvin Odoom have also taken part in the series in the past.

He adds broadcasting to the Radio 1 audience – who aren’t shy about texting in if they dislike something – has helped him develop a thick skin for criticism, which will certainly help when facing the judges.

“I do radio to the UK, man. I don’t think there’s anything the judges are going to say to me that’s worse than somebody who didn’t appreciate my link into the news!”

4. Will Bayley is glad to be finally getting a proper spray tan.

“My mum owns a beauty shop,” the Paralympic table tennis player explains. “And she always tries these fake tans on me.

“She used to do it while I was growing up, and I always looked rubbish, so I’m looking forward to getting a proper fake tan that looks decent!”

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Saffron Barker and Mike Bushell

5. Saffron Barker is fully aware Joe Sugg set a high bar for YouTubers.

“It’s going to be hard to follow in his footsteps, but hopefully for the whole YouTube community I can,” she says. “It’s really lovely that he did so well and everybody got to see his personality shine.”

Sugg became the first YouTuber to take part last year and made it all the way to the final.

“This has been my dream,” Barker continues. “I never want to stop YouTube, but I would just love to do it alongside just being on TV. That’s been my dream, whether it be TV, stage, just performing in some way.”

6. Karim Zeroual’s height may be a hindrance.

“I think on the actual show, I’ll be so nervous,” the CBBC presenter says of his Strictly debut. “At the moment, we’re doing group dance, and we’re in a little bubble, but as soon as we disperse, that’s when I’ll be nervous.

“I just love music, I’ve done street dance, and a bit of ballet when I was younger, so that definitely helps. But I’m a small lad, man, so lifting a girl, leading a girl, will be hard for me.”

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Anneka Rice and Karim Zeroual

7. Anneka Rice’s masseuse is slightly concerned for her welfare.

“About six weeks ago, I fell in my neighbour’s garden, going down a slippery slope,” the veteran broadcaster explains when asked about her recent injury.

“It was after I’d signed up, and in the middle of my fitness training. So in the last six weeks, I’ve been really resting. I’ve had steroid injections, and hopefully it’ll be fine. It was the definition of sod’s law!

“I’m covered in bruises. I went for a massage and the lady went, ‘are you alright?’ Thinking should she telephone someone because I was covered in bruises, and that’s just from Anton and everyone tossing me around like a bloody rag doll.”

8. David James is becoming a Great Showman.

It might be hard to imagine the former England goalkeeper immersing himself in some of the most flamboyant musicals around, but that’s precisely what’s been happening.

Asked how he’s preparing for the show, James says: “Every day I’ve been watching videos, it’s been going through my head, walking round the house, and when I walk my dogs, I try to avoid doing pirouettes, but there’s improvement.

“It’s when you’re watching a musical, The Greatest Showman for example, and you start to do the moves while you’re making a cup of coffee.”

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Catherine Tyldesley and James Cracknell

9. Catherine Tyldesley is delighted to have the freedom to eat what she wants.

Coronation Street’s Eva Price has received some valuable advice from one previous Strictly contestant in particular.

“I spoke to Gemma Atkinson and was like ‘babes, help me out’ and she just said ‘only thing to do is let go of your inhibitions and enjoy it’. Everybody else who I know has done the show has said the same thing.

“Also, she was like ‘look after your body, eat as much as you can, sleep as much as you can’. And, so far, she’s right because I can’t stop eating! I’m burning so many calories, living my best life.”

10. Chris Ramsey is bringing the Strictly experience to South Shields.

The comedian is hoping to train in his home country so as not to spend too much time away from his family.

“Hopefully. Well that was one of the main things that made me really up for doing the show,” he says. “I’ve got a three-and-a-half year old kid, so to get to train up there is going to be amazing. Some poor dancer is going to come up to South Shields!”

But, he adds (somewhat controversially): “I might meet them at Newcastle and travel to Newcastle. I don’t want them having to go to South Shields. There’s not much for them.”

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Emma Barton and Dev Griffin

11. Michelle Visage held out for Strictly because she loves the UK.

The RuPaul’s Drag Race star has a good relationship with the UK – she is currently filming for the British version of Drag Race and recently starred in the West End.

And her love of the Brits extends to choosing to do Strictly over the US equivalent.

“I didn’t want to do Dancing With The Stars because I was waiting for Strictly. All I wanted to do was Strictly,” she says.

“I had friends on Dancing With The Stars in America, so they gave me their advice, and I’m not going to take it because they didn’t get very far!”

12. Mike Bushell thought some of the dances were actually desserts.

“I don’t underestimate what a physical extreme sport dancing is,” says the BBC Breakfast sport presenter.

“The athleticism you need just to be able to do the moves, finding muscles you never knew you had, and then the mental side is like rubbing your tummy while patting your head at the same time, to music, at a really fast pace.

“And there’s the paso doble, which I really did think was a pudding until we started.”

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Michelle Visage is a star of RuPaul’s Drag Race

13. The Charleston definitely isn’t going to be Emma Barton’s favourite dance.

“I’m really excited to do anything ballroom-style, the waltzing, stuff like that,” the actress says. “I really love all that classical stuff, that’s the era I’m really focusing on. I’m a bit nervous of all the fast stuff.”

She acknowledges she may be at a slight advantage given her previous experience in performing.

“I think it probably will, the musicality side of it, the counting, [but] I’ve never done any of this dancing that Strictly do before, so it is going to be new, I’m more jazz-hands.”

14. James Cracknell’s co-ordination may leave a lot to be desired.

“There’s always a couple of sportspeople on, but it’s no coincidence a rower hasn’t done Strictly before, because we’re not blessed in co-ordination,” the double Olympic gold medalist says.

“Basically, if you’re co-ordinated, you do another sport, rowing involves heart and lungs and that’s about it. I think the real thing is the ability to not be afraid to look stupid, that’s the thing I’ll find tricky.”

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David James with Made In Chelsea’s Jamie Laing, who has since had to pull out of Strictly due to injury

Made In Chelsea star Jamie Laing was originally due to take part in this series of Strictly but he has since had to pull out due to an injury. He will still appear in Saturday’s pre-recorded launch show.

Strictly Come Dancing begins on Saturday at 19:10 BST on BBC One.

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