It’s a sunny day at Addington Palace in Surrey, where golfers hacking their way round the adjacent golf course are blissfully unaware that they’re in close proximity to a group of celebrities filming the trailer for the tenth series of Strictly Come Dancing. Such is the secrecy surrounding the new series of the hit BBC1 dance contest that it has been given a code name, Lights Up, and each contestant is referred to by an alias. As stars including Jerry Hall, Denise Van Outen, Kimberley Walsh and Olympians Victoria Pendleton and Louis Smith arrive at the 18th-century mansion, they find out the identities of their fellow contestants for the first time, with the line-up completed by Fern Britton, Sid Owen, Nicky Byrne, Johnny Ball, Colin Salmon, Michael Vaughan, Dani Harmer, Lisa Reilly and Richard Arnold.
“My family don’t know yet,” confesses Denise, 38. “I want it to be a surprise.”
Ex-Emmerdale star Lisa, 37, confided in her dad and brother, and has found herself embroiled in a string of white lies. “I’ve been in Scotland filming Waterloo Road and people said, ‘Why are you going to London?’ I told them it’s for a costume drama.”
Girls Aloud star Kimberley, 30, let her bandmates in on the secret. “I asked Cheryl [Cole] and she was like, ‘Yes, you have to do it, I’m not giving you a choice!’” Kimberley laughs. “It’s fair to ask them. We’re in a group so it’s nice to know you have that support. And Cheryl did loads of ballroom dancing as a kid,
she was in competitions and properly good at it, so if I need extra training I’ll be calling her in.”
While Kimberley has experience of dancing within a band, former Westlife singer Nicky, 33, insists that he is a novice.
“Westlife were renowned for sitting on stools, so I’m great at getting up from a stool during a key change,” he says. “I’d get four tens for that.”
He’s “not too crazy” about the sparkly costumes and spray tans. “But by the end, I’ll probably be the person screaming, ‘I want more diamantés on my shirt!’”
Actress and model Jerry, 56, cuts a striking figure in a dazzling green dress as she strolls round the palace, politely introducing herself. “I love the costumes,” she says in her distinctive Texan drawl. “I went for my fitting and it was like drag queen heaven. I’m going to go for the whole look; lots of sparkle and diamonds between my thighs.”
‘A BIT OF A MOVER’
Olympic gymnast Louis is also keen to see what the costume department has in store. “I wear a leotard for a living anyway,” he says.
The 23-year-old is confident about his chances: “I consider myself a bit of a mover on the dance floor.”
Louis’s fellow Olympian, gold medal-winning cyclist Victoria, 31, says Strictly will help to compensate for post-London 2012 blues. “After Beijing, I was like, ‘What do I do now?’ I’m looking forward to a bit of structure with the training because I’ve gone a bit cold turkey since the Olympics.”
The sprint cycling legend says that she’s out of her comfort zone – her only dance experience has been ballet lessons at the age of six – but she’ll be able to cope with the nerves. “Compared to being in an Olympic final, I think I will be able to handle it,” she says.
While the Strictly contestants are used to being surrounded by celebrities, it’s the Olympians who impress them most. “I’m just in complete awe,” says Kimberley. “They’ll ramp up the competition. Victoria will be able to do a cha cha cha without breaking sweat.”
Fern is equally starstruck. “Victoria has said that she’ll take me out on the velodrome,” she says.
Daybreak showbiz correspondent and hello! columnist Richard can’t quite believe who he’s competing against – his jaw drops when he arrives and producer Daisy gives him the list of names.
“I was always off games at school, so competing against Olympians is something that my father especially never thought he’d see,” he says. “Just now, we were filming a segment where I had to take a mask off and count to four and I could see a little part of Kimberley die every time I tried to throw her in my arms.”
Jerry Hall (above) says her children are proud of her doing Strictly. As she and Fern Britton take the weight off their feet (right), the TV presenter jokes: “Jerry looks fantastic – that’s annoying.” To film her segment of the trailer, Fern spent half an hour sitting between Louis and Nicky. “Louis said that he had pepper spray handy in case I jumped on him!”
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␣‘It’s such an honour to be asked. But I’m terrified’ Richard
Former England and Yorkshire cricket captain Michael, 37, is also a little daunted. “I’m nervous just to think I’ll be walking down the steps. I’m a bit clumsy so I could fall down straight away.” What is his dancing like? “I’m very good at 3am,” he says.
Lisa also feels she’s a better dancer after a night out: “If I’m drunk, I can do the splits.”
At 74, Johnny is the show’s oldest contestant. “I’m of a certain age where the minuet was still very popular at school,” he says. “Now is an opportune time to do it – I can’t imagine them asking me in 15 years’ time.”
He was “flabbergasted” by the invite to appear on the show, as was his daughter Zoë, who came third in series three and hosts Strictly’s spin-off show It Takes Two. “We kept it quiet from Zo for six weeks,” Johnny says. “I told her and she went, ‘Oh my God.’ She was slightly annoyed I didn’t tell her earlier but she’s absolutely thrilled.”
Denise says daughter Betsy, two, gave her the motivation to sign up. “She loves the dancing and costumes and always makes me put on the Strictly tour DVD. I love the show but Betsy swayed it for me. I’ll bring her to the studio and the costume ladies have said they’ll make her a little dress.” She hopes to train in the evenings so she can spend daytimes with her daughter.
PROUD OF THEIR MUM
Jerry says her daughters Lizzie and Georgia Jagger were “very surprised” she was joining the show. “They said, ‘Mum, aren’t you kind of lazy?’” she laughs. “I bike ride, swim and do yoga but I often lie on the couch reading, which is why they were surprised. I’m sure all four of my children will come to watch me. They’re very proud of me.”
Fern’s four children said, “Nice one, Mum,” when she told them. The former This Morning host appeared on the Strictly Christmas Special in 2010 and has been invited to do the show for the past three years. “This was the first autumn I was free. There was no decision to make.”
While the Strictly contestants are from different backgrounds, they all share the same attitude. “It’s such an honour to be asked,” says Richard, 42. “It’s the tenth series of the show and 2012, what a year for Queen and country. Just to be a part of this, for however brief a period, is magnificent. But I’m terrified.”