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Strictly used to be known for a cast list comprising people who were entering the twilight of their career, or who tasted fame for a short time and then disappeared from the front pages.
But such is the impact of the show, it now attracts those just starting out and even some at their peak (our recent sports stars, for example), while others consolidate their position with a little extra spring in their step. In some cases though, contestants found that success in the show helped them branch off into areas previously unexplored. I decided to take a look at how some of our Strictly stars fared once their stint on the show was over.
Danny Mac is the latest Strictly star to turn from straight drama (Hollyoaks for 4 years prior to Strictly) to musical theatre, being snapped up for the lead role of Sam in new musical Sleepless in Seattle, based on the Tom Hanks film. He’ll be joined by his leading lady in real life, Carley Stenson, already an established West End star, who will play Annie.
Queen of all, Alesha Dixon was a former member of R&B girl band Mis-Teeq when she debuted on Series 5 in 2007. With a faltering solo career and a relationship breakdown to contend with, her bubbly personality and magical partnership with pro partner Matthew Cutler won over both public and judges as much as her dancing skills. She continued to write and record but being installed as judge on Strictly was the springboard to the lucrative contract as a judge on Britain’s Got Talent.
Numerous television presenting roles followed, while a canny brain meant she forayed into the business world too, with her own jewellery line and a gym chain. Alesha looks set to remain a favourite on our screens for some time.
Also with a change in direction from pop music is 2015 winner Jay McGuiness. Previously vocalist for boy band The Wanted, he’s put his intensive training to good use by signing up for the role of Josh Baskin in the musical of Big, and is seemingly headed for a career the world of musical theatre. Clearly naturally gifted, he first dallied with contemporary and hip hop dance in his early teens.
Danny is not the first of the actors to discover a whole new side to themselves. Three winners have all gone on to star in the west end.
Series 2 winner Jill Halfpenny has been busier than ever. A beautiful dancer whose warm and natural personality showed in her dancing, she’s been enjoying a successful theatre career since joining Chicago almost immediately after Strictly, although she never turned her back on television drama.
Kara Tointon won the Glitterball in 2010 and has since gone on to earn much acclaim for her musical and theatre roles. Apparently, she was going to use her Strictly fee to retrain for a career outside of entertainment. Thankfully, she didn’t and was rewarded with Telegraph critic Tim Walker saying: “There are few more exciting actresses now working on the West End stage”.
A passion project for Tom Chambers followed his win on Strictly, starring in a new production of Top Hat for two years. For a showreel, he’d recreated the scene from A Damsel in Distress, where Fred Astaire dances with a drum kit, and Strictly fans devoured the video prior to the series, thrilled that Camilla had someone talented!
Not treading the West End boards of his contemporaries, Series 7 runner up, Ricky Whittle instead headed over the pond and has enjoyed success in some of America’s top dramas. A recurring character in The 100 in Season 1, he became a regular in Seasons 2 & 3, before being announced as the lead role of Shadow Moon, in a dramatisation of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, due in 2017.
Taking full advantage of his profile being considerably upped, astrologer and presenter Russell Grant has since appeared in The Wizard of Oz, and continues to be a favourite of all sorts of audiences in celebrity game shows and reality tv. More importantly, he credits Strictly with saving his life: he lost a huge amount of weight in order to take part and has since brought out a fitness dvd, proving how beneficial Strictly can be not just for your profile, but for positive lifestyle changes too.
Lastly, our Zoe. Daughter of Johnny Ball and chief ladette, Zoe transformed into a lady on the show as a contestant, paired with Ian Mr-Wednesday-Warm-Up Waite to create one of tv’s top double acts. It’s hard to believe she reduced her television work after having children, as she’s been busier than ever since Strictly, and took over from Claudia on It Takes Two in 2011. While it took a while for her to take up residence, I can’t imagine anyone else presiding over the glittery sofas now.
Our next Strictly fix is Christmas Day and features former contestants Gethin Jones (with Chloe Hewitt) Denise Lewis (Anton du Beke) Melvin Odoom (Janette Manrara) Frankie Bridge (Gorka Marquez) Pamela Stephenson (Pasha Kovalev) and Ainsley Harriott (Karen Clifton). It’s going to be a cracker!
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