Interviews: Meet the ladies of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ 2013

The BBC has unveiled the line-up of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing which begins on Saturday 7 September.

Check out the female celebrity contenders below:

Abbey Clancy

448 (13)

Queen of the runway and TV presenter Abbey Clancy, 27, will be used to competition after featuring as one of 13 finalists in the 2006 Living TV series Britain’s Next Top Model. After coming runner up, her career continued to rise, modelling for numerous magazines and once ranking in FHM magazine’s annual 100 Sexiest Women in the World. The wife of Premier League footballer Peter Crouch also has a regular slot on ITV’s This Morning as their fashion expert. Can she be an expert on the dance floor to see her make the final?

What are you looking forward to the most?

Well my fitness levels are horrendous. I’m strong but I’ve got no stamina. I get out of breath so easy. That’s one of the things I’m looking forward to the most, because I don’t train or go to the gym, so just getting my fitness up, toning, and feeling good.

What are you looking for in your dance partner?

I’d like someone who’s an amazing dancer who can disguise how bad I’ll be. Someone who can whisk me round the dance floor, keep me safe, and a good teacher. Personality is a major part, I think: if you get on well with your coach you’ll grow better as a dancer. I always work better if I get praise than if someone shouts at me, because I tend to shut down. I need encouragement, not to be shouted at.

Would you say you’re competitive?

No. I’m the least competitive person there is. I’m the eldest of four, so I’ve grown up letting the babies win every game. Obviously I’d like to do well for myself and I’d like my daughter and family to be proud, but I wouldn’t say I’m going to kick everyone’s behind!

Deborah Meaden

448 (12)

British multi-millionairess Deborah Meaden, 54, became a household name in 2003 when she joined BBC Two’s Dragons’ Den to become one of the show’s five investors. She has been a successful business woman from a young age, launching her own glass and ceramics export company before setting up one of the first Stefanel fashion franchises in the UK. With several successful businesses in the leisure and retail sector under her belt, Deborah now devotes time to finding good investment opportunities. Let’s hope that Deborah finds the time to invest in training for the dance floor.

What made you decide to take part in Strictly this year?

I love Strictly Come Dancing. I thought I’d gone past the days of taking part. There was a time when I thought I could win it, but I’ve gone past that stage so thought it wouldn’t happen – and then they asked me! It’s an amazing opportunity and I would not be able to live with myself if I didn’t do it. I thought I would absolutely regret this more than anything if I didn’t take part.

What comments do you aspire to get from the judges?

The comments from the judges must be constructive – that is very important. I can take criticism as long as it is constructive. I don’t mind being told that I did something wrong, but I will also need to be told that this is what you need to do to get it right. That is all absolutely fine. What I don’t like is comment that has no content. I hope I am told that I am working hard, that I have what it takes and that this is what is needed to get it out of you.

Have you ever danced before?

I did ballroom dancing at school, but I was atrocious! I was distracted, I didn’t like it – in honesty I was looking at the boys more than anything else as that’s what you do as a teenage girl! Then I did Let’s Dance for Comic Relief and I loved it. I think that’s what helped make my mind up as, I loved it so much. I was doing something that was so unfamiliar to me and learning something that I didn’t know anything about.

Fiona Fullerton

448 (11)

Nigerian born Fiona Fullerton, 56, is one of Britain’s most versatile actresses, having appeared in movies, TV shows and West End theatre productions. She is perhaps best known for her starring role alongside Roger Moore – as KGB spy Pola Ivanova in the 1985 James Bond film A View To A Kill. With a career spanning over 30 years, she has a number of other impressive credits to her name, including playing Guinevere in Camelot and Alice in Alice In Wonderland. Multi-talented Fiona is now a writer and property investment guru, but will she also be talented on the dance floor?

What made you decide to take part in Strictly this year?

I was looking for a challenge and an adventure, and swapping my wellington boots from living in the country for a whole load of sequins is very appealing. I fancied the challenge and the adventure. It is every girl’s dream really, to be dressed up and pampered and to learn how to dance.

What are you looking for in your dance partner?

Somebody strong, gorgeous and patient, because I can be extremely trying sometimes. I don’t know who I am going to get, but I think they are all lovely.

Who is your Strictly hero/heroine from a previous series and why?

I absolutely loved Kara Tointon. I thought she was wonderful. She had such grace and was really the epitome of Strictly. I think she was probably one of the loveliest contestants.

Natalie Gumede

448 (10)

Former Coronation Street baddie Natalie Gumede is best known for playing Kirsty Soames in the ITV soap. For 18 months, Natalie, 29, was at the centre of one of the show’s most gripping and shocking storylines, playing a role that landed her the award for Best Newcomer at the British Soap Awards in 2012 and Villain of the Year in 2013. The actress and self-proclaimed Strictly fan graduated from the prestigious Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in 2003.

What are you looking for in your dance partner?

I’m just looking for someone with a sense of fun, and someone who is really passionate about what they do because whenever I apply myself, to acting or to something like this. I want to get the best out of it. I know that all of the dancers are passionate about what they do so I’m really looking forward to meeting the new personalities.

Who is your Strictly hero or heroine from a previous series and why?

I think Jill Halfpenny from series two was the first time we really saw somebody who had that passion and style in them, and it was wonderful to see. It was joyous. I think Cherie Lunghi was very elegant and Russell Grant just completely captured the fun and the joy of everything that Strictly is. In the last series Kimberley Walsh was a beautiful dancer to me, and Lisa Riley made the series.

Do you have any tactics up your sleeves?

No, I’m far too terrified for that, I just want to enjoy it. I want to try as hard as I can, do as many weeks as I can and just enjoy every minute. I want to soak up every aspect of it, because I really feel like I’m living a dream and I feel like I’m getting the opportunity to express something in me that hasn’t yet been expressed.

Rachel Riley

448 (9)

Numbers queen and television presenter Rachel Riley, 27, is best known for co-presenting Countdown and The Gadget Show. The Oxford graduate was an unknown star when she joined Countdown in January 2009, becoming the face and brains behind the letters and mathematics solutions on the show. Chosen from more than 1,000 applicants, despite having no television experience, Rachel has since filmed over 1,000 episodes of the show. In June 2013, Rachel became a presenter on the Channel 5 programme The Gadget Show, co-hosting alongside Jason Bradbury.

What made you decide to take part in Strictly this year?

It is the opportunity that you just don’t turn down. I have never danced before; I have only had one hour of dancing lessons before my wedding and to get the chance to be taught by professionals – how to be graceful, elegant and move – it really appeals. As my friends know, I’m really clumsy and I have never been graceful in my life so maybe now is the time to start.

How would you rate your dancing skills out of 10?

There is dancing and then there is dancing. I’ve done Top Gear and when you’re with The Stig, you think ‘I can’t drive, I can’t drive, tell me what to do.’ Or if you’re on a cookery show and you’re with a chef you think ‘I can’t cook, I can’t cook anything.’ It’s the same again, if I’m on the dance floor when I’ve had a drink, I go for it with the girls and it’s fine. But with this kind of dancing, I will stick with a healthy 4 out of 10.

Who is your Strictly hero or heroine from a previous series and why?

There have been loads. I mean Denise Van Outen and Kara Tointon are both amazing. They grew up close to where I am from in Essex and they were both just fantastic dancers. They put so much effort in and training. Kara’s Argentine Tango was just insane. Watching back clips of them just terrifies me at this stage.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor

448 (8)

Multi-platinum selling singer/songwriter, model and DJ Sophie Ellis-Bextor, 34, is certainly top of the pops. She achieved widespread success in the early 2000s with her disco-inspired pop music, and is best known for the number one smash hit Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love) by Spiller, as well as Take Me Home and Murder On The Dancefloor. With a song title to her name like Sophie has, let’s hope there’s no bloodshed on this dance floor.

What qualities are you looking for in your dance partner?

Well I’m quite competitive with myself – I’m not a competitive person with other people. I’m actually quite a good little pupil really, a goody goody. So I will work as hard as I can. I respond better to people that recognise that, rather than saying ‘that wasn’t it’, because I promise whatever I do I will be trying my hardest. There’s no point doing it if you don’t, so I want someone who is supportive of that. I think it can be worse for someone’s motivation if you’re too hard on them.

How would you rate your dancing skills out of 10?

Are we talking freestyle dancing with my mates? I’d probably put myself at 6 or 7. I’m not a bad person to be dancing with, I go for it. I keep changing my moves every few beats. I’m certainly enthusiastic, and always smiling. In terms of choreographed dancing – I’m probably closer to a 2 or a 3…

Do you have any tactics up your sleeve for going out on the dance floor?

The only thing for me is to think of it as almost like getting into character. Use the costume and the make-up and the whole experience. If I thought of me as ‘the me at home’ doing the dancing, it would be so scary and ridiculous. I’d probably be stuck in my tracks. If I imagine it more like I’m playing the part, then I think it will help me get through the nerves a little bit more. We’ll find out!

Susanna Reid

448 (7)

Journalist and presenter Susanna Reid, 42, is a face many will recognise, having regularly presented BBC Breakfast since 2003. She has broken many major news stories, interviewed the Prime Minister and presented the BBC’s coverage of the Oscars live from Hollywood. Since 2008 Susanna has been part of Children In Need, and in 2011 performed in a Strictly competition with three other newsreaders, which she won with dance partner Robin Windsor. Now she’s had a taste, is Susanna looking to take the Strictly title once more?

Who is your Strictly hero/heroine from a previous series and why?

Chris Hollins and Ola Jordan’s Charleston, I could just watch over and over again. That was one of those priceless Strictly moments that makes you realise it is the most terrific fun. Natasha Kaplinsky was absolute perfection on the dance floor too. However of course Bill Turnbull will always be my absolute hero, he was brilliant.

What are you looking for in your dance partner?

I’m looking for someone who is very patient and who can just murmur in my ear when I forget the moves. The thing I am most scared about is forgetting the moves. I don’t want to train and train and then forget everything! I need someone who is going to gently encourage me. I hope I don’t make anyone angry. I definitely need patience and understanding in a partner.

How would you rate your dancing skills out of 10?

I wouldn’t rate myself as a dancer. I have danced and I enjoy dancing, but I’ll leave it to the judges to decide. Dancing gives you a thrill and a shot of adrenalin. I love it, but am I am good at it? I’ll leave that for others to decide.

Vanessa Feltz

448 (6)

TV presenter, broadcaster and journalist Vanessa Feltz, 51, is known for having a sharp brain and a strong opinion. Since graduating from Cambridge University with a First Class Honours degree, Vanessa went on to write for the Daily Mirror, present Jewish radio show BBC GLR, and have a regular item on The Big Breakfast. Named Speech Radio Personality of the Year at the Sony Radio Academy Awards, she now writes a weekly column in the Daily Express and presents BBC Radio 2’s Early Breakfast Show. Vanessa has already shown she can steal the show when she took part in the BBC’s Let’s Dance for Comic Relief early this year, with her performance of Cher’s If I Could Turn Back Time.

How would you rate your dancing skills out of 10?

I don’t know how to dance. I can’t do any formal dances whatsoever. I can’t jive, I can’t salsa, I can’t cha cha cha, I can’t waltz – I just can’t dance at all really so I’d have to say a one. Although from a one the only way is up… unless I fall over then the only way is down!

Who is your Strictly hero/heroine from a previous series and why?

I liked Felicity Kendal. I loved it when her dance partner Vincent Simone said, “Felicity you are so bendy,” and then she kept on doing the splits because she could! It was lovely to see her, she was terrific. My Radio 2 colleague Zoe Ball was beautiful also – so willowy and elegant. When Chris Hollins and Ola Jordan did the charleston I burst into tears. It was beautiful. I am a big fan – I really love the show.

What comments do you aspire to get from the judges?

I’d like them to say that I tried hard and that I mastered the dance and that I don’t look like a fool, I don’t want them to say that they are affronted or disgusted or appalled, that I don’t look like a tugboat in full sail, that I don’t look like a bull in a china shop. I want them to say that I look like a dancer dancing. If they say that, I will be thrilled to pieces.