Rachel Riley: I'm really proud of Strictly boyfriend Pasha Kovalev
Countdown star Rachel Riley has said she is "really proud" of Strictly Come Dancing boyfriend Pasha Kovalev.
The former Strictly contestant, who was partnered with the Russian dancer in 2013, hailed the current run of the popular BBC One ballroom series.
"There are so many great dancers and there's so many I've loved watching," she said when asked for her favourite celebrity dancer. "They're all fantastic. It's a really good, quality series this year."
Kovalev had been partnered with BBC presenter Carol Kirkwood, but they became the sixth couple to leave last month.
"Obviously I was supporting Pasha and Carol, but they're not in it any more. I love watching Pasha dance - I'm really proud of him. He's a brilliant teacher and they did well.
"He's now practising really hard for the Christmas special so we'll be doing the Christmas shopping in between everything else."
The 29-year-old opened up about their love of independent shops during an interview with the Press Association about Small Business Saturday.
The drive to encourage consumers to support their local independent traders takes place on December 5.
"I love small businesses, unique shops, boutiques, cafes - it's just totally my thing," she enthused.
"When we get the chance, we love wandering around Notting Hill as we both live in that area and there are so many cool little cafes and delis.
"When Pasha's working, I'm exploring them by myself and then doing reconnaissance missions and dragging him back to them afterwards."
Riley relived her old Saturday job duties in a London cafe to highlight Small Business Saturday.
"When I was 15, I worked in an independent cafe in Southend so we went to Terry's Cafe over in Southwark. It was just good fun, it's part of the community and it's something we need to support."
She added: "It was lovely working in Terry's; I was making bread and butter and the marmalade he bought was from a little old lady that drives a mobility scooter up and down the road.
"There's much more connection to your community than you might realise. At my old Saturday job, we used to buy the cakes from the local baker so please get out there and you'll be supporting more businesses in your local area than you might realise just from going in that one cafe or that one shop."
American Express - principal supporter of Small Business Saturday - reported the public came out in force in 2014 and spent £504 million in small shops across the country on the day.
"It's important to vote with your feet," Riley stated. "If you don't visit them, if you don't go in there, if you don't show your support with your custom, they're not going to survive.
"Where I grew up, when I was younger, there was a whole street of independent shops. But now that I've got older, the face of the high street is changing and it's always sad when one of your favourite places goes.
"What small businesses do really well is provide a personal service, unique gifts and a different ethos. You get something different from a one-off shop."
:: Rachel Riley is an American Express Shop Small Ambassador encouraging everyone to shop small, particularly this weekend, on Small Business Saturday. For further information go to www.amexshopsmall.co.uk