Harry Judd, Maisie Smith and Ed Balls: The former 'Strictly' contestants inspiring this year's celebs (exclusive)

Watch: Strictly stars share their most inspiring former contestants

This year's Strictly celebrities have named the surprising former contestants they have been looking to for inspiration in the show.

Dan Walker has admitted to being a massive Strictly fan, but his unexpected role model from series past is former politician Ed Balls, known for making viewers laugh with his routines with Katya Jones.

Read more: Dan Walker on learning to love dancing after years feeling 'too tall and awkward'

Talking to Yahoo UK, Walker said: "My favourite dance is still Ed Balls and his Gangnam Style with Katya, just because it was just fun, wasn't it..

"And I think that's what dancing should be about, it shouldn't be closed off to people like Ed and people like me who aren't necessarily brilliant and don't have training and wouldn't necessarily be the first person on the dance floor.

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Ed Balls' Gangnam Style was a hit with Dan Walker. (BBC)

"It's got to be available and open to people like that, as well, because those are the most vast majority of people watching at home, the people who probably like me would come and get a drink or take the kids to the toilet or make an excuse for not getting on the dance floor at a wedding."

Less surprisingly, Tom Fletcher said he was still in awe of his best pal and McFly bandmate Harry Judd, who won the 2011 series.

Fletcher said: "I loved watching Harry, he's my best mate and he'd never danced before and we all went down there taking the mickey out of him and then he came on and was amazing.

Tom Fletcher and Harry Judd are best friends. (BBC/Getty)
Tom Fletcher and Harry Judd are best friends. (BBC/Getty)

"Actually, he wasn't amazing straight away but you could just tell he had potential to do well and he worked so hard and that was really inspiring."

Dad-of-three Fletcher admitted he still looked to his friend for tips on how to approach the show.

Read more: Tom Fletcher says best pal Harry Judd is his Strictly inspiration

He said: "We went back and watched a load of Harry's dances and if you watch him in the first couple of weeks to then when he gets to the semi-final and the final, he's like a completely different dancer.

"That was inspirational to me to know that wherever I am in week one if I work hard, I'll be able to get to where I am."

Picture Shows:  Maisie Smith - (C) BBC - Photographer: Ray Burmiston
Maisie Smith was a popular choice. (BBC/Ray Burmiston)

John Whaite and Tilly Ramsay both named last year's contestants Maisie Smith and Bill Bailey amongst their favourites.

Whaite said: I think Maisie was incredible last year, you know she she came in and she gave it everything, she was confident and she battled through any nerves and anxiety to just give herself the dance floor and I think she was a remarkable young woman, I think what she achieved is just phenomenal.

"There are so many people I look up to from previous years, Karim (Zeroual), I thought he was an incredibly talented dancer, Danny Mac was sublime, Bill Bailey's journey, you know from from being the comedian to being the champion."

Programme Name: Strictly Come Dancing 2021 - TX: 18/09/2021 - Episode: Strictly Come Dancing - Launch Show (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Bill Bailey, Oti Mabuse - (C) BBC - Photographer: Guy Levy
The contestants loved last year's winner Bill Bailey. (BBC/Guy Levy)

Ramsay added: "To be honest, my respect for anyone that does it is massive because I really know the work you've got to put in, the time you've got to dedicate.

"I loved watching Saffron (Barker) and Maisie because they were similar ages to me and I could see you know how confident they were and how well they were doing.

"But then again I loved watching Bill Bailey progress last year."

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