A Co Antrim man whose love of music and dance helped him deal with years of bullying has told of his excitement after landing a guest presenting slot on BBC Radio 1.
Dean McCullough, who comes from Newtownabbey, will provide seasonal cover for Clara Amfo's daytime show on December 30 and 31 in the lead-up to the new year.
Dean (28) lives in Manchester, where he hosts the breakfast show on the UK's biggest LGBT+ radio station Gaydio, but when he was a schoolboy and struggling with isolation, it was Radio 1 that he turned to for entertainment and company.
He described Clara, who became the fifth celebrity to be eliminated from Strictly Come Dancing last weekend, as his "hero", saying he had huge shoes to fill while standing in for her.
"Growing up, the radio was always on in our house or in the car. I used to listen to Radio Ulster presenters like Gerry Anderson and Hugo Duncan," he said.
"When I went to school, I was very different from everyone else. I was the boy who loved to dance.
"In my spare time, I attended the Rainbow Factory School of Performing Arts and did dance classes. I was able to express myself and be accepted there.
"But back at school, it was a different story. I was bullied quite badly and had no real friends.
"I used to listen to the Chris Moyles show on my walk into school. It felt like he was keeping me company.
"I absolutely love Clara Amfo. When she gave her incredible anti-racism speech on Radio 1, it really moved me. As I was listening to it, I never thought for one moment I'd get the chance to stand in for her on radio.
"She's my hero. She has such an amazing flow and energy and incredible listeners too.
"I have big shoes to fill, but I can't wait to join the Radio 1 family."
Dean's dream when he was younger was to perform in the West End.
Aged 17, he was accepted for Laine Theatre Arts in Surrey. He relocated to London and pursued his passion for musical theatre before venturing into radio, first on Wandsworth Radio and then Gaydio in Manchester.
When the chance came along to apply for cover slots at Radio 1, he was selected, along with 32 other people from across the UK.
"I'll be nervous presenting on Radio 1, but I can't wait," he said.
"Given the crazy year we've all had, I just want to go out with a bang, play lots of brilliant anthems and have a blast."
Dean also revealed he had received some surprising words of support and encouragement from home. "I posted up on my Instagram about it (the Radio 1 opportunity). When I looked through the posts, I saw that a few of the lads who had bullied me at school had messaged to say well done," he said.
"I remember one of them at school used to say to me as I walked down the corridor, 'There's gay Dean, the dancer'. It just goes to show you. People always come out of the woodwork when you're doing well, or else they grow up. I like to think it's the latter."
÷ You can tune into Dean's show on BBC Radio 1 from 10am to 2pm on December 30 and 31. He's also on Gaydio on weekdays from 7am