Strictly Come Dancing stars Laila Rouass and Zoe Lucker talk about their friendly rivalry

You’ve both been doing really well so far, but how are you both feeling?
Laila: “We’ve been quite consistent but what’s difficult to handle is the fear every Saturday, you think, ‘This is the week that I’m going to screw it up.”
Zoe: “The pressure turns the whole experience into something quite stressful! Standing in the spotlight for the results section at the end of the show is like waiting to be hanged.”
Laila: “For a couple of weeks in a row they left it until near the end to call out Zoe’s name.”
Zoe: “I thought I was going to have a heart attack on live TV!”
Laila: “When I’m called out before her, I start worrying about her.”

So rather than being rivals, you two are there to support one another?
Zoe: “We spend all our time together on Fridays and Saturdays becausethat’s the only chance we get to see each other. We train in different places [Laila in London, Zoe in Surrey].”
Laila: “But we’ve stopped reassuring each other now; we just sit there and go, ‘Are you nervous? I’m nervous!”
Zoe: “We have to stay away from the professional dancers, especially the boys. They’re so bored of us saying we’re scared. They’re like, ‘What are you scared of?’ We’re like, ‘Being a rubbish dancer?’ It’s more exposing than any of the naughty scenes we did on Footballers Wives!”

Have you got any methods to control your nerves?
Zoe: “Rescue Remedy! It didn’t work on my driving test but it definitely works for this!”
Laila: “We find it very difficult to stay in our dressing rooms alone…The only time I go to my dressing room is to get changed.”

Footballers Wives ended in 2006. What’s it like being together again?
Laila: “It’s lovely. So much time has passed but we’re in the same situation – we’ve both had babies. [Zoe’s daughter Lilly is one and Laila’s daughter Inez is two-and-a-half].”
Zoe: “When we were in Footballers Wives, we were working together every day for 15 hours so it went from that to not seeing each other but talking on the phone. We’ve actually become a lot closer.”
Laila: “The funny thing is we’ve both been asked to do Strictly… the last few years and we’ve both said yes at the same time!”
Zoe: “It’s meant to be.”

How are you coping being apart from your children for the intensive rehearsals?
Laila: “When it’s over it’ll be nice to give her more time, because at the moment, the minute she sees me, she doesn’t want anyone else to talk to me.”
Zoe: “I spent 11 months with Lily, just the two of us, and still find it really hard, every day to say goodbye. But she’s at an age where it’s good for her to socialise with other people. At this stage she’s not cross with me!”

How are you finding the physical demands of dancing?
Laila: “I hate the gym so it’s quite nice. I think we’ve both lost quite a lot of weight…”
Zoe: “We’re exercising for five hours a day. And at the weekend it’s a couple of mouthfuls of jacket potato or soup until after the show when you’re absolutely starving! If I eat something heavy like sausages I regret it because I can’t dance as well in the afternoon, I feel weighed down.”
Laila: “I don’t feel guilty for eating at all now because we’re working out all the time. We didn’t go into Strictly… to lose weight but it’s great to know it’s working! We were adding it up thinking, ‘If we were paying for these lessons, you’re looking at thousands of pounds!”

The glamorous dresses must be another perk…
Laila: “I’m usually in Ugg boots and comfy jumpers, so this is like a fairy tale!”
Zoe: “The costume department is amazing. They are so considerate when it comes to any insecurities we might have. And I don’t think people realise how important hair and makeup is, without it we wouldn’t be able to go out there and do what we do!”

But how are you handling the judges’ criticism?
Zoe: “I love hearing what they have to say. I think the comments are great.”
Laila: “But then you’ve been getting great comments!”
Zoe: “But if they said, ‘That was really shocking,’ I’d agree!”
Laila: “Craig called my hand a limp fish after the Tango and I was like, ‘Yeah, you’re right.”
Zoe: “Oh, that tango was stunning! Have you watched your foxtrot back?”
Laila: “No. I can’t, Zo!”
Zoe: “You must. I watch myself to see the mistakes I’ve made – but I don’t breathe for the entire thing!”