Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

Ex-Daybreak star Christine Bleakley limbers up to host revamped Dancing On Ice

Christine Bleakley
Christine Bleakley

They've been kitted out in sequins and skin-tight outfits and covered in gallons of fake tan.

But the 15 celebrity contestants who will take to the ice for the first time in a new series of ITV1’s hit show Dancing On Ice this weekend won’t be the only ones feeling first night nerves.

With just five days to go until the seventh series of the hugely popular skating show begins, its new presenter Christine Bleakley will also be feeling the pressure to make an impact on the ice.

The Newtownards star, who recently left ailing breakfast show Daybreak, is excited to be taking over from long-running presenter Holly Willoughby to host the series alongside show stalwart Philip Schofield.

And after the well-documented difficulties of her time on the Daybreak sofa, the Northern Irish girl will be determined to prove her talents to a different audience.

The countdown to Christine’s Dancing On Ice debut intensified today as programme bosses unveiled the 15 celebrities taking part — including Hollywood actor Corey Feldman, Dallas star Charlene Tilton, singer Chesney Hawkes and Heidi Range of The Sugababes.

Newly single Range said her intensive training regime for the gruelling ITV show has left her with a “more toned” body.

The 28-year-old singer, who split up with television presenter boyfriend Dave Berry last year, said she was nervous about her first performance.

She said: “I'd love to get to the stage where I'm performing and enjoying it, rather than just feeling nervous.

“It's great now that we're at Elstree more and we keep bumping into everyone — it's really nice, it's like a little gang now and I'm enjoying getting to know everyone.

“I've had the chance to spend time with Jennifer Ellison and Jorgie Porter, which was really nice.”

The singer said she had been working on her stomach muscles as she gets ready for the physical challenge of skating.

“I'm still going to the gym. I went after my first costume fitting — I thought: ‘You're in lycra on HD TV'. Since training for Dancing On Ice I have noticed my body changing shape slightly. My legs and my bottom seem more toned.”

Meanwhile, EastEnders star Laila Morse is putting Albert Square on ice while she gets in training for reality TV success.

The 66-year-old actress, who plays Mo Harris in the soap and is the oldest contestant this year, said her family thought she was “mad” to take part but she was looking forward to it.

She said: “I can't wait for all of it — the sparkles, false eyelashes and tans. We'll be skating out each Sunday looking like we've been ‘Tangoed’.”

Chesney Hawkes, The One And Only hitmaker, got a shock when he turned up to training and spotted his wife's friend, the skier Chemmy Alcott.

He said: “Chemmy and I are mates, she's friends with my wife. Obviously we're not allowed to say anything, so my first day at the rink I saw Chemmy and I said: ‘What are you doing here?', and she said: ‘What are you doing here?'. We often banter about who is going to win. Chemmy jokes that it's going to be her but she doesn't realise the power of the Hawk.”

Also appearing are fitness guru Rosemary Conley; children's TV presenters Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes; actress Jennifer Ellison; TV presenter Andy Akinwolere; Emmerdale actor Matthew Wolfenden; Hollyoaks star Jorgie Porter; founder of freerunning Sebastien Foucan, and Coronation Street star Andy Whyment.

The judging panel has also undergone a revamp. There is no return for Jason Gardiner, with two new judges — former Olympic champion Katarina Witt and choreographer Louie Spence — joining Robin Cousins on the panel.

Spence has promised to encourage the Dancing On Ice skaters after he took over from acid-tongued Australian Gardiner.

Gardiner caused controversy last year when he was accused of bullying former judge Karen Barber after telling her: “If your opinion still mattered, you'd be on the panel.”

Spence, who found fame on the reality show Pineapple Dance Studios, said: “I'm looking forward to being part of such a challenging and spectacular show.”

Barber also returns as head coach alongside Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.

Witt said: “I can't wait to join the Dancing On Ice judging panel. As well as offering support and constructive advice to this year's celebrity skaters I'm also looking forward to working alongside my close friends Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean.”

Dancing On Ice begins on ITV on January 8

CELEBRITIES YOU MAY (OR MAY NOT) KNOW

1 ANDY WHYMENT (30): Is best known for comedy roles, including Darren Sinclair-Jones in The Royle Family and Kirk Sutherland in Coronation Street.

2 ANDY AKINWOLERE (29): Blue Peter presenter was born in Nigeria in 1982 and moved to Birmingham aged eight.

3 MARK RHODES (30): Came second on Pop Idol in 2003 to Michelle McManus before uniting with Sam Nixon for a pop career. Both are CBBC presenters.

4 COREY FELDMAN (40): LA actor who shot to fame as a child in the 80s with roles in hit Holywood films such as The Goonies, Stand By Me and The Lost Boys.

5 SEBASTIEN FOUCAN (37): Paris-born creator of freerunning, a form of urban acrobatics which sees runners use a city or rural landscape to perform athletic movements. Also appeared in Bond film Casino Royale.

6 SAM NIXON (25): Came third in 2003’s Pop Idol. After the show he formed Sam & Mark with fellow contestant Mark Rhodes.

7 CHESNEY HAWKES (40): English pop singer and occasional actor best known for 1991 one and only hit, The One And Only.

8 MATTHEW WOLFENDEN (31): Yorkshire actor best known for his role in Emmerdale playing Eric Pollard’s son David Metcalfe. He is a former gymnast.

9 JORGIE PORTER (24): Plays Theresa McQueen in C4 soap Hollyoaks. Ranked 50th in FHM’s World’s 100 Sexiest Women.

10 JENNIFER ELLISON (28): Scouse actress best known as Emily Shadwick in soap opera Brookside. Also appeared in the 2004 film Phantom Of The Opera.

11 CHEMMY ALCOTT (29): Female British number one alpine skier.

12 HEIDI RANGE (28): Liverpool singer Heidi was in girl group Sugababes, and was a founder member of Atomic Kitten.

13 ROSEMARY CONLEY (65): English slimming guru who has released several exercise videos.

14 LAILA MORSE (66): EastEnders star Laila is this year’s oldest contestant.

15 CHARLENE TILTON (53): US actress who played Lucy Ewing in TV’s Dallas. She also had a number one hit single in Germany.

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