“Strictly class of 2019, let’s go!” Those words are still ringing in my ears. I was due to be on the show last year and had just been paired up with my partner Oti Mabuse while filming the launch show. We were rehearsing the group dance and everyone was full of enthusiasm and so excited. I went to perform my very first move. I popped up from the floor and boom! I tore a ligament in my foot. It was excruciating. I tried to continue but in the end I very sadly had to pull out of the competition. They got this guy called Kelvin Fletcher in to replace me… and we all know the rest of the story.
I really hoped that they’d have me back again, so when the producers asked me if I’d like to take part this year, I was thrilled. I had horrible flashbacks when I returned to film this year’s launch show though, and I was freaking out in case I fell over again or hurt my foot. But let’s not dwell on that. I was ok and I’m back to full fitness. I bought a Lacrosse ball - it’s pink! - to exercise my foot with and it’s feeling fine now.
For those with no clue who I am (!). I’m Jamie, age 31, 5ft 9in on a good day. I have eight brothers and sisters, I host a couple of podcasts, I'm the founder of confectionary company Candy Kittens and have appeared on a small TV show for the last nine or 10 years called Made in Chelsea.
I've been asked to do quite a few TV talent shows, but the one I would always do is Strictly, mainly to make my mum proud as it’s the only thing she’d watch me in.
Everyone this year is so good already. Little 21-year-old pop star HRVY has got some serious moves and Maisie Smith from EastEnders already looks like a professional dancer. My odds going into the launch show were quite good, but after it had aired last weekend they plummeted from 6/1 to 12/1. I’ve no idea what happened.
My dad watched the show and said that I’m ok on TV, but my hips need to loosen up. Who knew Dad was such an expert? That aside, my family have been brilliant. My little sister is a fan of the show so she’s really excited. It’s a bit surreal for them all. My grandma has been telling everyone about me being on the show too, so she’s clearly behind me all the way.
Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, we’ve had to form support bubbles. I’m in one with my new pro partner Karen Hauer and my girlfriend. So my girlfriend can’t really see anyone else in order to keep us all safe. But it’s just what we have to do, and I think it’s incredible that the BBC have found a way to put this show on telly this year. Strictly really is comfort TV of the first degree. So thank goodness that it’s back. We might not be able to go to Blackpool or do Hallowe’en Week but we’re doing it nonetheless and that’s all that matters.
But I tell you what, Man, I’m tired. And it’s only week one! I’m friends with comedian Chris Ramsey, who was also partnered with Karen last year. I asked him if he found it this tiring already and he said “Oh yes, it’s exhausting.” So I’m prepared for what lies ahead and eager to get going, but also resting when I can.
It’s nice to have Chris to chat to about the show, but I’ve already made some good friends among this year’s cast. HRVY is very sweet and he’s my little buddy and I have a bit of a crush on Bill Bailey as he’s so funny. And as for Karen, my pro partner, she’s wonderful and already like a best mate. I mean, c’mon, we’ve even got the same haircut. We’re like twins.
To be honest, she’s not the only one that shares these dashing looks of mine. If I ever need a last-minute replacement (and please, please, let that not happen again!), then I could very easily call on Judge Rinder, Woody Harrelson or Tim Lovejoy as we all look the same. That’s some weird algorithm going on there...
Speaking of looking good, I have to say, the costume department are quite brilliant. The sequins and sparkle are what Strictly’s about. If you’re not going to embrace all that then you probably shouldn’t be on the show. I went for a spray tan the other day, but it looked like I’d dipped my hands in orange paint so spent all night scrubbing it off. I’d better perfect that look sharpish.
But I’m definitely all in - did you see me on the launch show in that pink velvet suit? I looked a bit like Babe. You know, the pig from the children’s film. And when you put those ballroom dance shoes on. Well, my feet do look like a pair of trotters. If anything else, I guess that’s Movie Week sorted - just imagine a Tango to Babe: Pig in the City. Marvellous.
I began my training last week in leggings and shorts and everyone laughed at me. So then I moved onto these weird tracksuit bottoms and was told I couldn’t wear them to dance in. Then, I put on a big baggy tracksuit, in my mind channelling Channing Tatum from the Step Up films. But no. Apparently I looked like a 10-year-old boy because it was all to big for me. So now, I’ve bought a whole new gym kit and it’s the real deal. Yes, yes, I know - all the gear, no idea.
But on a serious note, I’ve always been a fan of dancing. I’m very active and played a lot of sport as a child and so I’m pretty good at being coached. Once you’ve got the steps you can then learn the rhythm. This week in training has proved that I can get the steps, it’s just whether or not I look like I’m dancing. But I really hope that people will be pleasantly surprised.
My dance for the first live show is the Cha Cha. I don’t know why people complain about this dance [it has a fiendish reputation as one of the hardest]. I love it. I’ve got the Cuban steps locked down and we’re dancing to a Eurovision song called Things About Things. It’s fun and upbeat and I’m hoping to charm the judges. It’s either that or I’ll bribe them!
But really, no one should be scared of dancing. I’d say just get out there and go for it. It doesn’t matter if it’s at home or on the street or on prime-time BBC One, the thrill and the endorphins are worth it. Of course, my mates are ready to rib me, but who cares!?
I’m thinking HRVY, Maisie and Bill Bailey are the ones to watch. So if my dancing doesn’t do the talking then I’m just going to have to get naked. I apologise in advance.
Jamie Laing was talking to Rachel Ward
Strictly Come Dancing is on BBC One on Saturday at 7.25pm
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