Today I went down to Café De Paris to meet the new contestants of the sixth series of Strictly Come Dancing. And the show looks set to be awesome with a whopping 16 couple’s (made up of celebs and professional dancers) entering the BBC contest that finishes just before Christmas.
Once again we’ll have Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly hosting the show. Bruce and Tess were there this morning too – to introduce the stars! Bruce also said rumours that he’ll quit after this series are not true. “People have been saying I’ll quit after one more year since I did the second series,” he said.
For the women we have One Show host Christine Bleakley, model and TV gal Jodie Kidd, actress Cherie Lunghi, M-People singer Heather Small, telly presenter Lisa Snowdon, singer Rachel Stevens, actress Gillian Taylforth and former EastEnder Jessie Wallace.
And for the boys (which is kinda weak this year me thinks) we have GMTV’s Andrew Castle, actor Tom Chambers, former EastEnder Phil Daniels, swimmer Mark Foster, rugby player Austin Healey, chef Gary Rhodes, broadcaster John Sergeant and actor Don Warrington.
Jessie Wallace told me she’s excited to be performing and that she’s told her toddler Tallulah all about what mummy’s getting up to. She beamed: “My little girl is at that age now where she understands it and is very excited about mummy being on Strictly. I showed Tallulah a DVD of last year’s show so she knows what I’m doing – I can’t wait to see her face when I get up there.”
She also seemed thrilled at the thought of wearing some sparkly dresses! “It’s a great excuse to wear some amazing dresses too,” she added. “I have two quite skimpy ones – but I guess everyone’s in the same boat so I’m not worried about flashing flesh. I can’t wait to do the salsa and the rumba but I’m scared of the foxtrot and the quick step. The dancers are so graceful – and I’m not, yet. It’s a great way to stay fit and healthy and I’m looking forward to losing some weight.”
Rugby star Austin Healy pitched in at that point and said he’d already lost a stone and a half in weight since starting his training. Jessie looked down at her belly and burst into a fit of hysterics saying: “Ha ha. I’ve got a way to go yet! I haven’t lost anything yet. I can feel myself toning up though.”
Heather Small has a unique way of making things better if it all goes wrong – she says she’s going to take to the mic. She said: “If it all goes wrong on the dancefloor then I might just sing! I said no to the show initially because I get too nervous with anything – even when I sing. So I thought something like this may overcome my nerves. I am terrified by the entire experience. My friends and family were desperate for me to do it though so it’s all for them!”
Quadrophenia star Phil Daniels was the funniest contestant at the launch. The actor, who played Kevin Wicks in EastEnders, said: “I have no dancing experience – I know the Mash Potato and that’s about it. I’m so distraught about going up against celebs that can dance. But I think we really are all in the same boat!”
He also revealed last year’s contestant Matt Di Angelo has given him some top tips. Phil added: “Matt gave me lots of tips – he told me to, erm, glide. And not to take any notice of the judges. I must admit I’m excited by the lovely ladies on this show. I’m also looking forward to the sequins and lycra – if a jobs worth doing then you might as well do it right.”
GMTV star Andrew Castle told me he’d already lost “four or five” pounds in weight since he began training for the show. But he was quick to admit he hoped the curse of GMTV stars Fiona Phillips and Kate Garraway didn’t interrupt his chances in the competition. He laughed: “I’m trying not to think about the curse of Kate and Fiona! They tried very hard and they gave everything they had and really enjoyed it and loved every minute. I will hopefully be OK.”
When asked how Andrew was doing after four sessions of initial training his partner Ola Jordan said: “Erm, he’s doing, erm, OK.” So the curse may well still be intact!
One celeb that I actually adore right now is Lisa Snowdon. I’ve always got on with her since the old days when she was little more than a glamour model – but nowadays she’s an absolute star in my eyes. She’s joined Strictly and is partnered up with one-time player Brendan Cole (who’s happily settled with gorgeous model Zoe Hobbs nowadays) but Lisa has also just been announced as the full time co-host of Capital FM’s Breakfast Show with Johnny Vaughan. She told me: “I’m going to be up at 4.30 in the morning then I’ll be there until about 10am then off to train for three or four hours then sleep! It’s going to be exhausting. I have no time for love life but I’m happy being a spinster. Being on Strictly is like a dream. I’ve taken quite a lot on all at once but I’m going to be so toned and healthy by the end of the show!”
But it seems Brendan has high hopes for his partnership with Lisa this year. He said: “Lisa’s so driven and has been watching the show for years. She drives me so hard and I really want to do well this year. I see us in the semis and finals.” Lisa quickly added: “I don’t feel under pressure yet – but I will get panicky towards the start of the live shows.”
I wish her well!
Another pal of mine is supermodel turned telly star Jodie Kidd – the tall star is partnered with Iain Waite. Jodie said: “We are like the two giraffes! I’m 6ft 2inches and Iain’s 6ft 4inches and my inside leg is actually four inches linger than Ian. So I won’t be wearing heels any bigger than 2 and a little bit inches. I can’t wait for it to all start – I won’t be wearing skimpy outfits or short skirts. It will reveal too much on my legs – the longer the better!”
But Jodes sounds nervous if you ask me. She added: “I have absolutely no dance experience! I play golf, race cars and play polo. I was hoping I was going to try and excel in the dancing but it all went out the window when we started.”
But dance partner Iain seems more confident and said: “I’m pushing her hard and making things difficult – she absorbs the moves and learns quickly. Jodie’s so modest!”
The final person I spoke to who I’m pleased is on the show is former S Club star Rachel Stevens. She was looking petite and pretty this morning. She’ll look great all dressed up in the Strictly outfits! But it’s clear she’s nervy. She told me: “I feel very under pressure. Even though I’ve been out onstage and done shows and stuff, this time I’m there on my own and it’s my chance to prove myself. I’m not a trained dancer though. And I guess I have a lot to live up to coming from a pop background. Alesha Dixon and Emma Bunton did so well. We are all competitive but I’m taking each day as it comes!”
Rach’s also pleased that she’s got a new form of exercise. “It’s going to be great for shaping up and it’s a brilliant excuse not to have to go the gym until Christmas,” she said. “I’m glad about that. It’s physically very intense – but I haven’t lost any weight yet! I haven’t changed my diet that much – but it does give you an excuse to eat a little more. As long as it’s healthy.”
And it’s not the first reality style celebrity show that Rachel’s been offered. I’m A Celebrity have tried to bag her every year! She said: “I have been offered the jungle and other shows but I turned it down. Strictly’s a brilliant show and it’s brilliant to think we can train with professional dancers and learn a skill. I am absolutely petrified about the night before the live show – it’s a continual worry!”
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