Strictly Come Dancing 2021 contestants: who's in this year's celebrity line-up?

The Strictly Come Dancing contestants for 2021 have been revealed. Meet the 15 celebrities set to join the quest for the glitterball trophy.

By Katie Archer Published: 29 November 2021 - 11.54am
BBC Strictly contestant Rose Ayling-Ellie

It's one of the best parts of the run-up to Strictly Come Dancing for the show's superfans - trying to work out which celebrities will be joining the cast of Strictly contestants for the new series.

The show is notoriously good at keeping its line-up a secret, and this year was no different. Here are the 15 confirmed Strictly Come Dancing contestants for 2021 as well as a few words from each about why they have entered the contest, how they've prepared for it and how they feel about getting all 'Strictly-fied'.

Who are this year's Strictly couples? All the pairings revealed

Meet the Strictly professional dancers for 2021

Strictly Come Dancing contestants 2021

Tom Fletcher

BBC

Professional partner: Amy Dowden

As a founder member of the band McFly, Tom Fletcher has sung lead vocals and played guitar and piano for the band since 2003, enjoying seven No.1 singles in that time including 5 Colours in Her Hair, Obviously and All About You. 

Fletcher, 36, has also written more than 20 books for children. He has three tough acts to follow on the Strictly dancefloor. Not only did McFly bandmate Harry Judd win Strictly in 2011, but wife Giovanna Fletcher was crowned Queen of the Castle on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here! last winter - a title previously held (as King of the Jungle), by another McFly pal, bassist Dougie Poynter.

What made you want to take part?

I’ve wanted to take part for a long time, secretly since my bandmate did it in 2011. Then this year, my son Buzz was the deciding factor for me, he’s really got into the show over the last couple of years. Staying up on a Saturday night for it has become our thing and he’s at an age where that’s really exciting for him.

How do you feel about being ‘Strictly-fied’?

I’m really looking forward to that. I like embracing some quite out there looks. I’ve never been spray-tanned before so I’m quite looking forward to that. 

How have your friends and family reacted?

My friends are my bandmates and they’ve been supportive. I got Harry’s blessing to begin with. I came to watch Harry every single week apart from the two weeks I went out to Australia because Dougie was in I’m A Celebrity and I was out supporting him there! 

What are you doing to prepare for the show?

I’m so inflexible, I’m just trying to touch my toes, I don’t know what else I can do! At the beginning of the year when I first said yes I said to myself I was going to get into really good shape and life just got in the way! 

Eliminated in Week 9

Tom and Amy left the competition in Musicals Week, their Couple's Choice routine to On My Own from Les Miserables leaving them bottom of the leaderboard with 31 points and facing their first ever dance off against Rhys and Nancy on Sunday night.

When it came to the judges' votes, Anton, Motsi and guest judge Cynthia Erivo all chose to save Rhys; head judge Shirley would have saved the McFly frontman but by then his fate was sealed.

"Honestly I’ve had the best time, I’ve loved every second of it," Tom told Tess Daly. "I’ve made the best friend in Amy, you’ve been amazing, thank you so much for teaching me how to dance. I know it was a struggle at times!"

"Tom has given his all and he is so humble, so genuine, so talented," said professional dancer Amy.

"The whole Fletcher family, they welcomed me in with opened arms and honestly I couldn’t have wished for a better time. These memories are going to live with me for the rest of my life, and I’m telling you this now, the Fletchers are not getting rid of Amy!"

Robert Webb

BBC

Professional partner: Dianne Buswell

Robert Webb is best known as one half of a comedy double-act alongside David Mitchell, the pair starring in long-running sitcom Peep Show as well as sketch series That Mitchell and Webb Look.

Webb, 48, has also appeared on panel shows including Have I Got News for You, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and QI, in sitcoms The Smoking Room and Fresh Meat and alongside Mitchell in comedy-drama Ambassadors and a film, Magicians.

What made you want to take part this year?

It's just a straightforward wish to jump up and down in funny costumes for the viewing pleasure of the ladies and gentlemen of the British public. There's also the fact that two years ago, I had to have quite a big heart operation, which made me think, "This is no time to be cool". It gave me a slightly different perspective. It was between yes and no and yes felt like the bigger and more generous and more expansive answer. 'No' would have left me feeling like a coward.

How do you feel about being ‘Strictly-fied’?

I'm up for an extreme costume. You can spray me most colours but I just don’t want to look like Donald Trump.

Have you had any advice before taking part in the show? 

I do remember advice that Shirley Ballas gave at the beginning of one of the previous series which was, "Leave your ego at the door of the rehearsal room". I think that's very good advice because you just haven't got the energy to spare. You're dancing all day long. You haven't got the energy to get to cross with yourself, all of your energy has to go into failing better until you're not failing any more.

Are you in it to win the Glitterball Trophy?

I think in the early weeks, I'll be hanging on for dear life and just trying to survive from one moment to the next but if I get halfway through then I think I will start to invest in putting trip wires outside dressing room doors and spiking their energy drinks with laxatives.

Withdrew after Week 3

Robert left Strictly after three dances due to ill health - the actor underwent open heart surgery two years ago and the demands of the show had affected his continued recovery.

"Although I believed I was fit enough to take on Strictly and its demanding schedule, it became clear that I had bitten off way more than I could chew for this stage in my recovery," he explained.

"I had begun to feel symptoms that led me to seek an urgent consultation with my heart specialist, and it was her view that it would be better for the sake of my health to step back from the show.

"I deeply regret having to let [professional partner Dianne Buswell] down like this. I couldn’t have wished for a more talented partner or more patient teacher, and it’s a measure of Dianne’s professionalism and kindness that I was able to get as far as I did.

"I’ve been especially touched by the support from fellow heart patients. I think perhaps I was too eager to impress them. They will know that recovery doesn’t always go in a straight line, and I hope they’re not too disappointed that I ran into the limits of my resilience much sooner than I’d hoped."

In their three weeks on the show Robert and Dianne had impressed with all their dances, top scoring with 27 points for their Tango in week 2.

AJ Odudu

AJ Odudu BBC

Professional partner: Kai Widdrington

AJ Odudu is best known for co-presenting the Channel 5 reality show spin-off Big Brother's Bit on the Side, alongside Emma Willis and Rylan Clark. 

Blackburn-born AJ, 33, has also co-presented The Voice and The Voice Kids, and has appeared on panel shows Richard Osman's House of Games and Would I Lie to You. She also has previous experience of taking on celebrity challenges, her appearance on The Chase proving slightly more sedate than her early elimination on gruelling reality challenge Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins in 2019.

What made you want to take part this year?

With everything that’s happened with the pandemic, I just knew that I wanted to get back out there. I've not been to a nightclub in two years, I've not been to a festival in two years and I've not been to the famous working men's clubs around the northwest of England in over two years! I've not socialised, I've not danced and I've not listened to music in a normal capacity so what better way than to get on the Strictly ballroom floor!

How do you feel about being ‘Strictly-fied’?

I’m so excited! I've grown up watching the show since Bruce Forsyth presented it, it's always been a feelgood show. My mum and I always loved it - the outfits, the music, the drama and the journey. Quite frankly, I just love the idea of being transformed, hopefully, into a certified dancer! 

Would you say you’re a competitive person? Are you in it to win the Glitterball Trophy?

Of course! I believe, you've got to be in it to win it. I want to give it 110% and put my best foot forward and hopefully come out victorious. But, with all of that being said, let's get through show one first! 

John Whaite

John Whaite BBC

Professional partner: Johannes Radebe

Since winning the third series of Bake Off in 2012, John Whaite has opened a cookery school in his native Lancashire and has published five cook books. His TV career has also taken off, and Whaite, 32, has appeared as the regular chef on ITV's Lorraine and Channel 4's Steph's Packed Lunch as well as co-presenting Chopping Block with Rosemary Shrager.

Whaite will make Strictly history this year as one half of the show's first all-male partnership. 

What made you want to take part in the show this year?

I wanted to take part in Strictly because I like sequins and I like fake tan! I used to dance when I was younger, I did ballet and modern and tap, and I really want to get back into it. I have never learnt Ballroom or Latin so I can’t wait to learn. 

How do you feel about being ‘Strictly-fied’?

I am so excited to be ‘Strictly-fied’. I was wearing glitter in the womb. I am excited for the sheer tops, tight trousers, the spray tans, hair and makeup. It’s glamourous and over the top but it’s a Saturday night! 

Have you had any advice from anyone who has done the show before?

Michelle Visage texted me and said to start stretching immediately! Gemma Atkinson said it's going to be the best thing you ever you will ever do, you’ll have the most fun, so enjoy every minute.

What do you think about the rest of the class of 2021?

I think it's such a great line-up, I mean to have Adam Peaty is mega, an actual Olympian! 

 

Rhys Stephenson

Rhys Stephenson BBC

Professional partner: Nancy Xu

CBBC presenter Rhys Stephenson has appeared on the kids' channel since 2016, presenting such shows as Blue Peter, Newsround, Dengineers and Saturday Mash-Up. He was previously a member of the National Youth Theatre and is an ambassador for Place2Be, a charity which provides mental health services in schools.

What made you want to take part in this year’s Strictly?

I was a fan ever since I saw Jay McGuinness do that jive, it was immense. So after that I've always, secretly, hoped to do the show. Seeing Karim do it two years ago, and how much fun he had, that solidified it for me that it would be such a cool thing to do. 

Have you had any advice before taking part?

I spoke to Karim [Zeroual, CBBC colleague and 2019 Strictly finalist] and also to Joe Sugg, and they both made it to the finals, so fingers crossed! They both said, just enjoy it, but you cannot slack off in your training. Other than that, they've just told me to really embrace the whole thing because it's such a once in a lifetime opportunity. 

How was the reaction when you announced?

It’s been unbelievable. When I got the CBBC gig my friends were so excited but with Strictly it is next level. I've had so many messages from friends, my mum is over the moon, my sisters physically jumped on me. They were all so excited.

What would you say about your fellow competitors?

I think they all have great potential, I think Adam will be good competition as he has the mentality of an Olympian. AJ, her energy is next level, I feel like she is fearless, so I need to match her energy; she is like a Duracell bunny. 

Sara Davies

Sara Davies BBC

Professional partner: Aljaž Škorjanec 

Dragons' Den entrepreneur Sara Davies will be investing a lot of her autumn learning dancefloor moves after telling Strictly producers "I'm in!". Businesswoman Davies joined the Dragons in 2019 and at the time was the youngest investor to sit on the panel.

Davies made her name and her fortune as founder of craft supplies company Crafter's Companion, which she set up while at York University and which now exports to more than 40 countries. In 2018 she was appointed MBE for services to the economy.

What made you want to take part this year?

It’s been a dream I've had my whole life. It’s always been something that I never thought would be achievable. When I got on the panel of Dragons' Den, alongside Deborah Meaden, she would talk about it all the time and people would say to me "You might be asked to go on Strictly next!" And now here we are! 

How do you feel about being ‘Strictly-fied’?

Beyond excited! For me, that’s one of the big highlights. It's always my favourite part of Dragons' Den, getting ready in the morning with someone making you look like your best self. So, it's like that on a whole other level on Strictly. It's like every little girl's dream! It’s like when you’re little and dreamed of being a Disney princess - only you actually get to be a princess every week. 

Have you spoken to anyone who has done it before?

Deborah talks about it all the time and says it was one of the best experiences of her life. She said mainly your feet hurt a lot but other than that everything else is really positive!

Are there any dances in particular you’re excited to learn and perform?

The ballroom dances because they’re so elegant. You see them with their heads turned outward and their arms outstretched, really getting into the steps and the technicality, so I'm really excited about those dances.

Eliminated in Week 8

Despite finishing fourth on Saturday's leaderboard with 32 points for their dramatic Argentine Tango to No More Tears (Enough is Enough), Sara and Aljaž ended up in Sunday's dance-off with Tilly and Nikita. The judges unanimously declared the youngsters' Quickstep to be the better dance and so entrepreneur Sara had to leave the show.

"I had no idea any of this was in me, it’s been a life-changing experience and one I’ve loved every second of," she said on the show. 

Aljaž added: "I feel like from that day we met under the Angel of the North, I was so pleased to dance with you this season. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to dance with anybody else. 

"I’ve been so welcomed up North, it made me feel like I’m back home in Slovenia, because everyone is so lovely and friendly."

Katie McGlynn

Katie McGlynn BBC

Professional partner: Gorka Marquez

Strictly contestant Katie McGlynn is best known for playing Sinead Tinker in Coronation Street, a role she played for seven years before expectant mother Sinead was diagnosed with terminal cancer in powerful scenes which earned McGlynn a Bafta nomination and a National Television Award for Best Serial Drama Performance.

McGlynn, who rose to fame as Jodie "Scout" Allen in Waterloo Road, has since swapped the cobbles for the streets of Hollyoaks as Becky Quentin. 

What made you want to take part this year?

Every year I watch Strictly Come Dancing and I just think that everyone has the time of the life doing it, so I’ve always wanted to do it. Secretly, I've always wanted to be a dancer. I've always admired dancers but I've just never had the time to get into it. I fell in love with acting when I was younger and that's the road that I took, so I’m now living out a childhood dream! I am well excited for the sequins, the glitz, the glamour and learning a new skill. I actually just want to learn how to dance because I haven't got a clue! 

How do you feel about being ‘Strictly-fied’?

I'm so excited because day-to-day, I'm a bit of a tomboy. I like to be comfortable, but then, on a Saturday night with the girls, I love getting glammed up, so it's just a dream come true. I think that Halloween Week is mega. I love Halloween and I think that all of the costumes are just beautifully made and the whole production is just amazing. I also love a spray tan too! 

Are there any dances in particular you’re excited to learn and perform?

I'm excited to do the Paso Doble. I'm not saying I'm going to be good, but that's always such a dramatic, passion-driven dance, and you can really get your teeth into the characters in that, so I think that'd be really fun. All of the Latin dances look like so much fun so I think those would be my go-to dances, but they are really fast. I think my mind will be on it but I don’t know if my feet will catch up! 

Eliminated in Week 3

Katie and Gorka left the show in Movie Week after a second appearance in the dance off. The pair, who on Saturday had gained their highest score of the series with 24 points, repeated their American Smooth to Disney classic Cruella de Vil but lost out to Judi and Graziano when Shirley Ballas cast her deciding vote - Anton had saved Katie after Craig and Motsi had both backed Judi.

"I have absolutely loved my time, I am so happy I got to be Cruella, and dance with this amazing guy, I have loved every second of it," said Katie when her elimination was confirmed.

"Thank you for being an amazing partner, we have laughed so much, and I get to walk away with an amazing friend."

 

Dan Walker

Dan Walker BBC

Professional partner: Nadiya Bychkova

Dan Walker will become the latest BBC Breakfast presenter to join the Strictly line-up, following in the footsteps of dancefloor legends Susannah Reid, Carol Kirkwood, Naga Munchetty, Bill Turnbull and of course Chris Hollins, who came away with the glitterball trophy in series 7.

Walker has worked the Beeb's breakfast shift since 2016. He recently stood down from presenting Football Focus after 12 years but will continue to work on BBC Sport shows including American Football programme The NFL Show.

What made you want to take part this year?

I’m taking part for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, my kids. They never asked me to do any specific shows other than Saturday Mashup and Strictly. So, I did Saturday Mash Up and then they said if you get asked to do Strictly, please say yes. So I said yes!

The other reason is because I work in news, the last 18 months has seen so much death, misery, heartache and a lot of people have had the worst 18 months of their lives. I just thought that you don't get many opportunities to do stuff that is just fun and joyful so if you're going to do it, now is a good time to.

The third reason is as I stopped doing Football Focus, I've had my Saturdays free for the first time in years, so here I am!

How do you feel about being ‘Strictly-fied’?

My normal dress for BBC Breakfast is quite casual with a suit and tie so the wardrobe here will be definitely be different so I’m looking forward to that that side of it. There aren’t many occasions in life where you get to wear white trousers!

What do you think will the biggest challenge that you’ll face?

I feel really comfortable with all the other bits of it apart from dancing, which is important! But, I'm a good student and I'm really willing and keen to learn. It’s just the great unknown for me. Am I absolutely horrific? Am I average or do I have a modicum of talent? So, this is me finding out where I am on that scale and if I can do it. I also think because I'm so tall, I feel quite awkward. Here's a chance to put it to the test in front of millions of people on a Saturday night! 

What has the reaction been like to you taking part in Strictly 2021?

My wife said, ‘Have they seen you dance?’ and my kids asked me not to dance with my mouth open, but they're really excited. Largely, I have had a really nice reaction from people on social media telling me that they’ve been waiting for me to do the show and they’re so happy I’m finally doing it.

The nicest message I got was from two women that had both sadly lost their mum to Coronavirus. They told me that I was their mum’s favourite TV presenter and that Strictly is their favourite show. They said that they wished they could have watched me on the show with their mum but they’ll be watching anyway to support.

That's a really nice motivation, to not worry about the fear of dancing and just be able to put a smile on someone's face.

Tilly Ramsay

Tilly Ramsay BBC

Professional partner: Nikita Kuzmin

TV chef and social media influencer might only be 19 years old but she has a lifetime of television experience behind her. She made her first TV appearance in 2005 on her father Gordon Ramsay's Channel 4 show The F Word and also appeared on Gordon's US reality show Hell's Kitchen.

A keen cook since she was young, Ramsay has appeared alongside her father on This Morning's cooking slot, and showed off her skills on CBBC show Matilda and the Ramsay Bunch, which followed her family's adventures on various summer holidays to Los Angeles, Cornwall and Italy.  She's also taking up a celebrity challenge a little closer to her comfort zone than ballroom dancing, as a contestant on the new series of Celebrity Masterchef Australia.

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

I'm really excited to have a challenge, and to learn how to dance and push myself out of my comfort zone.

What do you think will be the biggest challenge?

Learning to dance! Having to wear high heels and having to remember the steps, basically! 

How do you feel about being ‘Strictly-fied’?

I cannot wait to be Strictly-fied! The glitz and the glamour is way more than I usually do at home. I am excited for the spray tans, the sequins, not so much the heels.

Do you have any previous dance experience?

I tried dancing when I was much younger, but that definitely wasn't for me. Mum put us in ballet school but I wasn’t very good so I ended up at football camp with my brother. 

Eliminated in Week 10

Tilly and Nikita performed a Samba to Dua Lipa's Levitating in week 10, but it couldn't lift them off the bottom of the leaderboard with 30 points and the public vote failed to save them from a third dance-off of the series.

They were up against Rhys and Nancy who had finished third on Saturday with their Waltz to Whitney Houston's You Light Up My Life, and when the dances were done, judges Craig, Cynthia Erivo (standing in for the isolating Motsi Mabuse this week) and Anton all chose to save the CBBC presenter and his partner. Head judge Shirley would have made it a clean sweep for Rhys. 

"I’d just like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has made this an amazing, positive journey for me," said Tilly when her departure was confirmed.

"From everyone here to backstage, wardrobe, make up and camera crew. It’s just been the most extraordinary time. I found out something about myself that I didn’t know I could do, I didn’t know I could dance and have fun like this.

"So a massive thank you and, obviously, a huge thank you to Nikita who has guided me out of my shell and has just made this the most amazing experience.”

Greg Wise

Greg Wise BBC

Professional partner: Karen Hauer

Actor Greg Wise is best known for his role as John Willoughby in 1995's Oscar-winning film Sense and Sensibility. As well as propelling him to fame, the role had a lasting effect on his personal life, as he met the film's star and screenwriter Emma Thompson on set - they married eight years later and now have two children.

Wise has since appeared in a host of film and TV productions including Effie Gray, Johnny English and Cranford, and was most recently seen as the influential royal uncle Dickie Mountbatten in series 3 and 4 of The Crown.

What made you want to take part in this year’s show?

I'm doing it for my lovely sis, a disco diva queen goddess on the dance floor, who died almost exactly five years to the day to when I'm going to start work on this, so she's prodding me hugely. She left this world in a glitterball coffin and my life will be all glitterballs for the next few months, so it seems really appropriate for her. 

How are you feeling about being ‘Strictly-fied’?

As an actor, I love getting in all the costumes and getting in the world of the part that I'm playing. This is the same thing. I'm getting into the world of Strictly by playing the part of someone who knows how to dance. So throw on the sequins, spray me with tan, whiten my teeth and I'll be fine.

What has the reaction been like since you've been on the show?

Utter bemusement! That's the fun of keeping it a secret, and not telling anyone anything. I think folks are genuinely thrilled and of course, all my mates that were friends with my sister are really touched and behind it.

Do you have any previous dance experience?

I danced a Tango for a film a few years back, but who knows if it was actually a Tango!

Who do you think is your biggest competitor?

Probably myself, I just don't want to let myself down. 

Eliminated in Week 4

Greg and Karen have left the Strictly ballroom after four weeks, bowing out with a Macarena Samba which despite its irresistible beat left them bottom of the leaderboard. After the public vote they faced their first dance off, against Judi and Graziano, and bid 'adios!' after Anton, Craig and Motsi all chose to save comedian Judi.

Head judge Shirley Ballas said she would have saved the film actor but it wasn't enough to keep him on the show. 

"I have had an amazing time, I feel unbelievably privileged and thank you all for having me," said Greg after the decision.

Nina Wadia

Nina Wadia BBC

Professional partner: Neil Jones

Actress and comedian Nina Wadia is best known for playing Zainab Masood in EastEnders, for starring in BBC sketch show Goodness Gracious Me and as Mrs Hussein in the sitcom Still Open All Hours. She has guest-starred in many long-running shows including Doctor Who, Holby City and Death in Paradise, and enjoyed two years as a panellist on Loose Women.

"I've always danced like nobody's watching, so if we blindfold the judges I could actually win Strictly 2021," she joked when confirmed as a Strictly contestant.

What made you want to take part in this year's show?

I want to learn how to dance, like really, really well! I want to know how they get people who don't know how to dance to do all these dances.  I want to improve on what I can do.  And why this year? I don’t want to be too old, I’m 52 and my joints hurt!

How are you feeling about being ‘Strictly-fied’?

I hate it! I’m very much a T-shirt and jeans girl. I do get dressed up for things I have to do, but when I played Zeinab in EastEnders I said don’t worry about hair and makeup, make her as plain as possible. I don’t like being in the make-up chair for too long, and shiny things scratch me and irritate me - so this is the best show really!

What was the first thing you did after you accepted the Strictly place?

I threw up! I was terrified. It sunk in after the reveal on Lorraine. I came off set and thought "I want to be sick!" My daughter’s very happy, my husband put his hands on his head and went "oh no, I have to sit through recordings!" and my son said "Don’t embarrass me". 

Do you have any previous dance experience?

I trained when I was a very little girl, I did some Indian dance training called Bharatanatyam, from ages 4-9. And then when we moved to Hong Kong from 11-16 I did tap dancing.

Are you nervous about putting yourself in front of the nation?

I’ve put myself in front the of the nation so many times, the only different is I’ll be doing it as myself and not as a character, which is why I think I'll have to be in character for each of the dances. Whatever the theme of the week is I’ll create a character for that week.

Eliminated in Week 2

Nina and Neil were the first couple to leave strictly 2021. They scored just 18 with their Tango to the Eurythmics' Would I Lie To You and it was left to head judge Shirley Ballas to cast the deciding vote after Anton had opted to save the ex-EastEnders actress against Craig and Motsi's voted for Katie and Gorka. 

Shirley decided that Katie and Gorka had more advanced technical actions in their dance and so Nina left the ballroom after just two weeks. 

“It’s been really fun, thank you so much. [Neil] is incredible, thank you," Nina said.

 

Rose Ayling-Ellis

Rose Ayling-Ellis BBC

Professional partner: Giovanni Pernice

Rose Ayling-Ellis is another face familiar to fans of Albert Square, and the actress - who has played Frankie Lewis in the soap since May 2020 - is making Strictly history as the dance show's first deaf contestant.

"To be the first deaf contestant on Strictly Come Dancing is so exciting... and a little bit scary," said Ayling-Ellis. "I hope I will do the deaf community proud and break down more barriers."

Her TV credits also include BBC Two drama Summer of Rockets and Casualty.

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

I feel like it’s so important for somebody like me to be on the show, I want to break down the stereotype that deaf people can’t dance and can’t enjoy music.

What do you think will be your biggest challenge?

Probably being fit enough to dance every single day, I have been trying to up my fitness but I am nervous about having enough stamina to dance all day every day.

How do you feel about being ‘Strictly-fied’?

I’ve never had a spray tan, so I am looking forward to that. I can walk OK in heels, but dancing shoes are different so I feel like that could be a challenge.

What has the reaction been like?

Everyone has been so lovely, when the news came out my phone went mad. I have been really lucky that everyone has been super supportive, my deaf friends in particular are so excited for me.

What are you looking for in a dance partner?

I’m looking for someone that can communicate very well, because in sign language we speak very literally, so I need someone who understands that. I am a good student but I need someone that will push me.

Adam Peaty

Adam Peaty BBC

Professional partner: Katya Jones

Swimmer Adam Peaty will be hoping to add glitter ball glory to his two gold medals from this summer's Tokyo Olympics. Peaty retained his 100m breaststroke title from the Rio games, adding a gold as part of Team GB's 4x100m mixed medley team and a silver in the 4x100 medley. He is an eight-time world champion and has broken 14 world records over the course of his eight-year senior career. 

"I’m really looking forward to doing something totally different and challenging myself away from the pool," Peaty said when he was announced as a Strictly contestant. "I’m hoping my competitive nature is going to compensate for my dancing abilities!"

What made you want to take part this year? 

It’s very important to be challenged in life. As a sports person I’m constantly being challenged and I’m used to working hard. But I thought I’d take a bit of time away from swimming because it’s been my whole life!

hat do you think will the biggest challenge that you’ll face?

It's probably the performance side of things, because it's so different from what I do.

For me, I'm an individual athlete so having to work with a partner to perform, being able to read them and for them to read you will also be very different. 

How do you feel about being ‘Strictly-fied’?

Honestly, I can’t wait! It’s just going to be different. I spend my whole life in swimsuits and if I’m not doing that, it’s photoshoots covered in oil so now I get to change the oil to glitter! 

Will your swimming skills help or hinder on the dance floor?

My swimming skills will probably hinder because I’m used to being in the water, I’m not used to being on land. Then again, my hips are hopefully going to be quite fluid. 

Eliminated in Week 7

After being saved by the judges' unanimous vote in Week 6, Adam and Katya faced the dance-off again in Week 7 but there was to be no reprieve this time as Craig, Motsi and Anton all chose to save Tilly & Nikita - Shirley's consolation vote came too late to stop Olympian Adam leaving the show.

Adam and Katya had been bottom of the leaderboard on Saturday with 27 points from their Jive to Frankie Lymon's Little Bitty Pretty One. 

On leaving the show, Adam admitted that the Strictly challenge was very different from that of swimming.

"I’ve never had a challenge like this. As an Olympian for 16 years, I’ve pushed my body to places that I never thought it could be pushed," he said.

"This is just a whole new ballgame and I’ve got so much respect for everyone that dances across the world and to all of these contestants and pros that put themselves on the line every single week, it’s just been a great experience."

Judi Love

Judi Love BBC

Professional partner: Graziano Di Prima

Comedian Judi Love announced her place in the Strictly line-up on Loose Women, on which she has been a panellist since 2020. In October 2020, she was part of the programme's first all-black panel alongside Charlene White, Brenda Edwards and Kelle Bryan.

Hackney-born Love has been a professional stand-up for 10 years, and has appeared on TV comedy shows including 8 Out of 10 Cats, The Stand Up Sketch Show and The Ranganation. She was a contestant in the 2020 series of Celebrity MasterChef, finishing third.

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

It's such a fantastic opportunity, especially after the last 18 months. Also, to have something to really look forward to and have the chance to develop a new skill is most people's dream. I'm just excited to take part in a show that has such a phenomenal reputation of seeing people push themselves in something new. 

How do you feel about being ‘Strictly-fied’?

Oh I’m up for that! Come on, who wants to turn down a bit of glitz and glam?! 

What do you think will the biggest challenge that you’ll face?

I think the biggest challenge will be learning the moves and retraining my body. The challenge of getting rid of old habits and pushing yourself physically.

What has the reaction been like from friends and family?

It's been fantastic! People are telling me they’re going to start a campaign for me! They’re just so excited. It’s completely out of the box of what I would usually do so they’re happy. 

Eliminated in Week 6

Judi and Graziano survived two dance-off scares in weeks 3 and 4 but couldn't make it through Halloween's fright night as their score of 25, dancing to Olivia Newton-John's Physical, failed to save them from a third Sunday showdown and they left the show after all four judges opted to save Adam and Katya.

"This has been an amazing experience, a life-changing experience, I want to say thank you to all the Professional dancers, the Judges, the team, everybody!" said Judi when the result was announced,

"Graziano has supported me, stuck by me, and took me to a place I never thought I could go and so for that I love you so much. Thank you."

 

Ugo Monye

Ugo Monye BBC

Professional partner: Oti Mabuse

Former rugby player Ugo Monye played 14 times for England and twice for the British & Irish Lions in 2009. He also played 241 times for his only club, Harlequins, during a 13-year career.

Since hanging up his boots, Monye has made a successful transition to pundit, hosting the BBC's Rugby Union Weekly podcast and presenting with BT Sport. Earlier this year he was announced as one of two new team captains on BBC quiz show A Question of Sport, alongside fellow captain Sam Quek and new host Paddy McGuinness.

What made you want to take part this year?

When Strictly calls you have to accept - it's the biggest entertainment show on TV!

In my previous life, I played rugby, learned how to focus, have drive and passion. Although I absolutely love what I do, I’m now able to fully step out of my lane and have a brand new challenge. Every single day you get to learn a new skill and you're doing it on the biggest of all stages, so that was really enticing to me.

I had both of my girls, Phoenix and Ruby after I retired and I would have loved them to watch me play rugby but both my girls, especially my eldest Phoenix, loves dance and she does ballet every single week. She’s obsessed by it and now she’s of an age where she can watch the show over a weekend and watch her Daddy on TV. So I'm really excited about that. It just felt like all the stars were now aligned. 

How do you feel about being ‘Strictly-fied’?

I’m game! I think if you're going to do it, you’ve got do it properly. You’ll be seeing my belly button most weeks! The costume is such a big part of the dance and the outfits reflect it so I’d welcome it. I’m definitely not afraid of it, it’s something I’ll embrace.

Do you have any previous dance experience?

Weddings, holidays, nightclubs… I actually did The Full Monty a few years ago! That was very different though as we had one dance instructor for everyone, who was trying to get eight of us to do choreography at the same time, in time, so that been my only experience of having professional dance choreography! A few friends have asked if I have practised before but I don’t want to. I want day one to feel like day one. 

Eliminated in Week 5

There is to be no Strictly three-peat for Oti as she and Ugo were voted off the show in Week 5. A back injury to Ugo meant the pair sat out Week 4 and their returning rumba to Silk Sonic's leave the door open saw them finish bottom of the leaderboard with just 20 points.

They surprisingly faced Rhys and Nancy in the dance off, and the couple's American Smooth to Michael Bublé's I've Got the World on a String, which earned them 32 points on Saturday, saw them advance to Week 6 on a unanimous verdict.

"I’ve loved it. It’s an absolute privilege to be on this show and all I’ve wanted to do every week is just get a little bit better and I’ve done that," said Ugo when the result was confirmed.

"There’s lots of people that I would love to say thank you to. Oti, firstly, just for putting up with me. She said she wanted a challenge and she got one! To everyone else that’s in the competition, it’s truly incredible and I wish you all the very best of luck."

When is Strictly Come Dancing 2021 on TV?

The Strictly 2021 launch show takes place on Saturday September 18, when we'll see the 15 contestants together for the first time and find out which professional dancers they'll be paired with.

Who are the past winners of Strictly? 

Comedian Bill Bailey made Strictly history when he became the oldest ever champion at the age of 55 in 2020. He also helped partner Oti Mabuse bring home her second win in a row.

Here are all the winning couples so far:

Series 1 - Natasha Kaplinsky and Brendan Cole

Series 2 - Jill Halfpenny and Darren Bennett

Series 3 - Darren Gough and Lilia Kopylova

Series 4 - Mark Ramprakash and Karen Hardy

Series 5 - Alesha Dixon and Matthew Cutler

Series 6 - Tom Chambers and Camilla Dallerup

Series 7 - Chris Hollins and Ola Jordan

Series 8 - Kara Tointon and Artem Chigvintsev

Series 9 - Harry Judd and Aliona Viliani

Series 10 - Louis Smith and Flavia Cacace

Series 11 - Abbey Clancy and Aljaz Skorjanec

Series 12 - Caroline Flack and Pasha Kovalev

Series 13 - Jay McGuiness and Aliona Vilani

Series 14 - Ore Oduba and Joanne Clifton

Series 15 - Joe McFadden and Katya Jones

Series 16 - Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton

Series 17 - Kelvin Fletcher and Oti Mabuse

Series 18 - Bill Bailey and Oti Mabuse

Strictly Come Dancing's glitter ball winners in full

Watch the couples dance live for the first time when Strictly Come Dancing returns at 7pm on Saturday September 25 on BBC One