Belfast Telegraph

Meet the Strictly stars who are hoping that they sparkle on the dancefloor

The celebrities have now been paired up with their professional partners. Donegal's Daniel O'Donnell will dance with Kristina Rihanoff, but who looks set to score the elusive four-tens when the show returns later this month? Jeananne Craig gives her verdict

The heat is on for series 13 of Strictly Come Dancing, after a sizzling opening show that saw the latest celebrity contestants paired up with their partners (and glowing like the Blackpool Illuminations, thanks to that on-site spray tan booth).

But who will sparkle like a freshly-polished glitterball? And who'll sink like one of Len Goodman's dodgy puns? We meet the bright-eyed stars hoping for dancefloor glory when the show returns later this month.

Daniel O'Donnell, singer

"Over the years, I used to joke on stage - it's very rare that I would do any choreography - but I'd make a move and say, 'Strictly here I come', so 'Strictly here I am'," says the Co Donegal singer, who is hoping Strictly siren Kristina Rihanoff can help "turn my one-pack into a six-pack".

But will O'Donnell (53) be dancing to any of his own songs? "That might be just a step too far."

Peter Andre, singer and reality TV star

Pre-Strictly, the only dancing we'd seen Andre doing was writhing under a waterfall in the Mysterious Girl video, but the singer is one of the favourites to take the crown this year. Not that he's letting the good odds go to his head ... "It's so kind in one way, but in another, you think, 'I can't even mess up once'," admits the dad-of-three, who's paired with Janette Manrara.

As for showing off his pecs to bolster votes?

The image-conscious star (42) insists: "I'll be one of the last" - but hasn't ruled it out completely.

Iwan Thomas, sports star

Former Olympic sprinter and presenter Thomas has the stamina and competitive edge needed for glory, but he also possesses something much more important: a penchant for sequins.

"I'm the campest straight bloke you've ever seen on Strictly. I keep saying, 'More glitter. Tighter,' I love it," confesses the 41-year-old, who's teaming up with pro dancer Ola Jordan.

"On the last few days of rehearsals, I've slowly seen myself getting better and better - I'm not saying I'm a great dancer and I'm going to win it, but I'm competitive and I want to do well."

Kirsty Gallacher, presenter

It takes a while to get used to performing a saucy salsa or a winsome waltz with a complete stranger, and Gallacher (39) admits her first rehearsals with the male dancers were a bit blush-inducing.

"It felt awkward. You've got to go into the zone of, 'He's a professional dancer, he does this all the time, and I've just got to be chucked around and go with it'," says the sports presenter, who's one of the bookies' favourites and will be tripping the light fantastic with Kiwi dancer Brendan Cole.

Katie Derham, presenter

"If you're going to do it, you throw yourself at it and embrace the glitterball world of Strictly," says the former ITV News presenter, who's chuffed to have been paired with show stalwart Anton Du Beke.

And while it remains to be seen how Derham (45) will fare with the judges when the live shows kick off, there are two people she's keen to wow. "I've got two daughters, both of whom love dancing. They're my biggest critics," she reveals.

Anita Rani, presenter

As a radio host and presenter on The One Show, Rani is no stranger to the pressures of live TV. "That's a sphere I'm comfortable in, but it's the dancing on live TV, in a skimpy outfit, with a stranger ..." she confesses.

Rani (37) has been paired with Russian Strictly newcomer Gleb Savchenko, and jokes of her easy-on-the-eye partner: "I don't know if he can teach me to dance, because I can't actually look at his face."

Anthony Ogogo, boxer

As an Olympic boxer, Ogogo's knack for fancy footwork should stand him in good stead. And while he's used to dodging punches in the ring, he insists he'll take all the Strictly madness on the chin.

"Whatever they throw at me, I'm not going to be like, 'I'm a boxer - I'm not doing it'.

I do my boxing in the ring and outside the ring, I'm the most laid-back, placid guy you'll meet," says the 26-year-old sportsman, who'll be dancing with South African Strictly newbie Oti Mabuse.

Georgia May Foote, actress

Better known to Coronation Street fans as teen mum Katy Armstrong, Foote - who left the ITV soap earlier this year - admits appearing on Strictly is "a bit scary".

One thing the 24-year-old actress - who's dancing with Italian Giovanni Pernice - is looking forward to, is getting toned up on the show.

"I came back from rehearsals last week and I was like, 'Look at these abs'.

"I'd only been dancing for two days.

"Then I had a McDonald's and it went ..."

Kellie Bright, actress

Bright will be juggling the gruelling training demands of Strictly with her full-time role playing Linda Carter on EastEnders.

"I watched Jake (Wood, who plays Max Branning and competed in last year's Strictly) unravel before my eyes because he was so tired. But everyone has said it's been one of the best experiences of their life," reveals the soap star (39), who's dancing with Kevin Clifton.

Helen George, actress

The Call The Midwife star dabbled in ballet in her youth, but insists she was no prima ballerina. "I was never very good at it.

"I was so clumsy, but I loved it and I've always wanted to dance professionally. I lost my confidence with it, so part of doing Strictly was just to see if I could get my confidence back. Darcey Bussell was my hero when I was a kid, so if she gives me a one or something, I might cry." George (31), who recently announced she had split from actor husband Oliver Boot, will be teaming up with Aljaz Skorjanec.

Jamelia, singer

Given her pop star credentials, you'd think Jamelia would be a dab hand on the dancefloor. But she confesses that her previous dance experience is "a lot of smoke and mirrors".

"You have a group of dancers who now I have a newfound adoration for," adds the Superstar singer (34), who is paired with Irish pro Tristan MacManus. "They did all the choreography and I just walked up and down."

Ainsley Harriott, TV chef

Appropriately enough, Harriott's love of dancing began in the kitchen.

"I love a boogie. I grew up with my mother in the kitchen shaking her butt, doing a bit of Nina Simone, moving around, but with this, it's the discipline. You go to bed saying, '2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8'."

On discovering he was paired with Aussie dancer Natalie Lowe, the full-of-beans foodie (58) predicted it would be "a recipe for success".

Carol Kirkwood, BBC Breakfast weather presenter

"Strictly is the best programme on the BBC - and Breakfast is as well, of course," says Kirkwood, who's dancing alongside "gorgeous" Pasha Kovalev.

"If I got beyond the first expulsion, I would be happy. Obviously I'd like to get much further than that, but I am unfit, I am 53, I'm wishing I dieted and exercised from way back in January, but I didn't."

Jay McGuiness, singer

The Wanted's Jay McGuiness attended a musical theatre school, but insists his dancing is "nothing to write home about". "One of the deciding factors was that every single person doing the show said they'd had a great experience," adds the boy band heart-throb (25), who's paired with Aliona Vilani.

Jeremy Vine, broadcaster

"I am doing it for my two young daughters, who jumped behind the sofa when I told them. It seems dad on Strictly is more scary than Doctor Who," the BBC Radio 2 presenter has revealed.

The 50-year-old is delighted to have been paired with Karen Clifton, wife of fellow pro Kevin, and says: "I've seen just a few of this lady's moves and she is not the best in the UK, she is the best in the world."

  • Strictly Come Dancing returns to BBC One on Friday, September 25 and Saturday, September 26

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