Strictly Come Dancing stars Susanna Reid and Ashley Taylor Dawson tell us what taking part on the BBC1 hit has meant to them…
So, what’s surprised you the most about the Strictly experience?
Susanna: “How absorbing it is, Strictly has taken over my life! I knew I’d enjoy the dancing, but I didn’t realise I’d totally fall in love with it. My other half [former sports reporter Dominic Cotton] has now come to terms with the fact it dominates our conversations and home life! But he and our children have been very supportive.”
Ashley: “Strictly has far surpassed anything I could have expected. Before you sign up they warn you it’s a massive commitment but I thought: ‘Yeah, yeah, all right it’s just a show’. But wow, it takes over your life – in a good way. When Strictly came knocking it was a massive moment because it’s an incredible show and so you’ve got to do it, but my biggest fear is exactly this – dancing on TV!
“Before the show, my fiancee Karen and I used to laugh at each other if one of us ever caught the other really going for it on the dancefloor. However since I’ve started, the biggest compliment is she hasn’t been laughing. Instead, she’s been pleasantly surprised and proud of me.”
You all seem to have genuine chemistry with your respective pros…
Susanna: “Dancing with Kevin [Kevin Clifton aka ‘Kevin from Grimsby’] is an honour and a privilege. He’s a brilliant teacher. At the beginning of the week Kevin shows me what we’re going to do and I’m terrible because my first response is always: ‘I can’t do that’. But Kevin looks me straight in the eye and says: ‘You can’t do it yet’. That tells me he has confidence I can do it by the end of the week. He’s very patient and makes me laugh ridiculously much – the perfect combination.”
Ashley: “Ola [Jordan] is fantastic, too. She doesn’t need to be tough as I’m one of those types who if I don’t get it right I want to do it again and again. I’m struggling with posture, there seems to be no way of getting it right, it’s just you have to remember to do it. But with everything else that goes on in the dance, I find that hard and with nerves on the night I tense up and turn into Quasimodo instead of a nice ballroom dancer!”
Who’s your biggest fan?
Ashley: “My beautiful little boy, Buddy, who’s three in March. He’s obsessed with Strictly – he grabs my phone and watches my dances over and over again. He’s even started learning steps on his own and can do most of my first routine! He also now sees me as a sort of superhero figure! I came home the other day and he opened the lounge door and shouted: ‘Ooh Mummy, it’s Ashley Taylor Dawson!’ I was like, no, it’s Daddy!”
Susanna: “My mum. When she saw my waltz to You Light Up My Life in week seven, it reminded her of when I was born and she took me into a room with just candlelight. She said, ‘I knew at that moment that you lit up my life’. Oh my, it makes me cry now telling you! Watching the waltz, she remembered that moment and was in tears because I was there on my own in candlelight before Kevin held me. I just thought, that’s so lovely.”
Any dancing rituals, lucky charms or superstitions?
Ashley: “Yes, it consists of Ola looking at me and saying: ‘Stop it, if you don’t know it now, you never will. Why are you nervous?!'”
Susanna: “Two years ago when I did Strictly for Children In Need, one of the technical guys gave me a sequined silver heart, saying: ‘This is for you because you will be back on this show.’ I keep that in my toilet bag so it’s always there wherever I am and every time I look at it, I think, ‘This is a dream come true for you, just enjoy every moment.’”
And finally, Christmas is coming! What gift would you like to get your pro partner?
Ashley: “I’d try to get Ola something that incorporates all our dances. At the moment she’s my little Polish angel monster because she’s played an angel and a monster in our routines. I don’t know when I’ll have time to buy it, though, because I don’t have a spare moment – it’ll have to be online!”
Susanna: “Kevin’s an absolute football obsessive so I’d get him a seat at Wembley for the FA Cup final which would see Scunthorpe winning against Manchester United. If I could arrange for that to happen that would be brilliant!”