The first three names have been announced for Strictly Come Dancing 2021.
McFly pop star Tom Fletcher, Peep Show actor Robert Webb and presenter AJ Odudu have been unveiled ahead of the new series, which is set to kick off in the autumn on BBC One.
The stars were revealed on Wednesday’s edition of The One Show, with the rest of the names set to be drip-fed to fans over the next couple of weeks.
Tom, 36, has big shoes to fill on Strictly. His McFly bandmate Harry Judd won the show in 2011. And Tom’s wife Giovanna Fletcher is the reigning champion of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!
Robert, 48, is sure to feel the pressure too, after he squeezed into a shiny leotard to take the title of Let’s Dance For Comic Relief in 2009, performing What A Feeling from ’80s film Flashdance, beating the likes of Keith Lemon and Paddy McGuinness to the title.
2021 has been a busy year for AJ, 33, who has featured on 14 TV shows, including Cooking With The Stars and Celebrity Karaoke Club. She has appeared as a panelist on Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two in the past, too.
The three contestants were unveiled one by one with The One Show presenter Alex Jones revealing they were given the code names of Buzz Lightyear (Tom), Spoongebob Squarepants (Robert) and Marge Simpson (AJ).
Big shoes to fill! Tom’s McFly bandmate Harry Judd won Strictly n 2011 [L] while Robert is sure to feel the pressure too, after he squeezed into a shiny leotard to take the title of Let’s Dance For Comic Relief in 2009, performing What A Feeling from ’80s film Flashdance [R]
Music and dancing: Tom is on quarter of boy band McFly [pictured last week with Dougie Poynter and Danny Jones]
‘The full fix!’ Strictly will bring back ALL themed weeks, a live audience and the usual 15 celeb contestants [pictured Oti Mabuse and Kelvin Fletcher during Halloween Week 2019]
Tom was the first celebrity announced and said: ‘I’m so pleased the news is out it’s been so hard keeping it secret.’
Adding he has known he would be taking part since last Christmas, he said he is: ‘Equal parts excited and terrified. I feel naked without a guitar I’m so used to having a guitar on stage.’
The pop star also revealed that McFly bandmate Harry has already been giving him plenty of advice.
He said: ‘I can’t shut Harry up about Strictly. He’s been giving me loads of advice already. I watched him every week. It was party watching him doing that and seeing what an amazing experience he had. Since then I’ve had a secret desire to do it.’
Excited: Tom was the first celebrity announced and said: ‘I’m so pleased the news is out it’s been so hard keeping it secret’
In a statement, Tom said: ‘I think the fact that I’m actually going to be dancing on Strictly this year has only just started to sink in while I’m writing this! I’m incredibly excited, of course, but also totally terrified!
‘My kids were excited too until I started showing them my best dad-dancing in the kitchen. I’m not sure how far they’ll get me in the competition but I can’t wait to add some new moves to my embarrassing dad-dancing repertoire.’
During the show, Alex also read out a playful message from Harry that said: ‘I’m so pleased [Tom] is doing Strictly it’s win win for me.
‘If he wins it’s great because he’s my mate and I’ll be happy for him but if he doesn’t, even better cos I can remind him who did.’
Over the moon: In a statement, Tom said: ‘I think the fact that I’m actually going to be dancing on Strictly this year has only just started to sink in
Robert was the next star announced, along with a hilarious clip of his 2009 Comic Relief performance.
The actor echoed what Tom said, admitting: ‘It’s very exciting but with a slight undertone of quivering terror.’
Robert had life-saving heart surgery last year after it was discovered he was suffering from a heart murmur caused by a mitral valve prolapse.
Host Alex noted during his last One Show appearance, he said the health scare made him want to take on more challenges.
Robert said: ‘You get to a point in life where you think it’s not a time to be cool. These experiences don’t come along often in life. If you can do series 19 of Strictly, do!’
In a statement, he added: ‘My goal is to try and survive from week to week without causing serious injury to myself or innocent bystanders. I know it’s going to be a challenge. To do well in this competition is a test of character, although mainly it’s a test of dancing.’
‘Undertone of terror’: Robert was the next star announced, along with a hilarious clip of his 2009 Comic Relief performance
AJ was the third contestant announced and told how she kept her participation in the series a secret from her mother Florence, who was watching at home.
AJ said: ‘The secret’s out at last, surprise mum! She didn’t know, she’s at home at mine fuming I’ve dragged her all the way to London and she was like, ‘You said we were hanging out and now you’re going out.’
‘She’s going to be watching now, absolutely beside herself. I can’t tell you how much we love the show. I’ve got seven siblings and you know how parents say they don’t have a favourite child, this is favourite child vibes right here. I’m not incredibly competitive, I just want to do my very best.
The presenter has previously faced her fears on SAS: Who Dares Wins and reckons the Strictly dancefloor will present its own unique set of challenges.
She said: ‘It’s not climbing a literal mountain but I think it’s going to be really challenging. I can’t wait for the sequins, the wigs, the glitz and the glamour.’
Overjoyed: AJ was the third contestant announced and told how she kept her participation in the series a secret from her mother Florence, who was watching at home
The veteran dance show was famously disrupted in 2020 thanks to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
But it seems things are back to normal in 2021 – apart from one or two factors still deemed too tricky to navigate amid the global health crisis.
Show boss Sarah James told The Mirror: ‘We’re so thrilled that Strictly will be returning for a full-length series this year, and know how much viewers are looking forward to getting their full Strictly fix and seeing the return of much-loved specials.
‘We are all so sad that we won’t be able to get to Blackpool this year but can’t wait to be back dancing at the one and only Blackpool Tower Ballroom in the future.’
The Blackpool episode ordinarily takes place near the end of the series, but was axed last year with restrictions throwing up logistical difficulties on the production.
Still a no-go: Blackpool has been axed AGAIN due to the ongoing pandemic
But 2021 will include the show’s themed weeks – such as movie week, musicals week and Halloween week.
Last year, these were scrapped, proving too complicated to manage amid the pandemic.
The show’s Christmas special will also be back, with the show set to start in its usual early-autumn time slot, rather than in October, like last year.
It’s said rather than a fewer number of celebs, the full 15 will be taking part again, having cut this to 12 last series.
There are also plans to reinstate the live audience too – another aspect disallowed last season.
Isolation will remain in place for the professional dancers. This will see them sent to a hotel near the Strictly studios in Hertfordshire several weeks ahead of the show’s return.
Show boss Sarah James said: ‘We are all so sad that we won’t be able to get to Blackpool this year but can’t wait to be back dancing at the one and only Blackpool Tower Ballroom in the future’
The celebs will also not have the usual three-week gap between being paired up with their pros and dancing for the first time on live TV. This has been reduced to one week thanks to logistical factors.
Of course one thing bound not to change is the annual speculation around the so-called Strictly Curse.
And the curse has already hit, as new professional Kai Widdrington has split from his long-term girlfriend.
The former Britain’s Got Talent star, 25, is one of four new dancers that will dazzle in the ballroom this autumn and had been in a relationship with fellow dancer Giulia Dotta, 29, for five years.
Sad: Strictly Come Dancing has been hit by the infamous ‘curse’ already as new professional Kai Widdrington has split from his long-term girlfriend (pictured in 2019)
A spokesperson for Giulia – who is Italian – confirmed to The Mirror that they were no longer together. They went their separate ways nine months ago.
The pair worked on Ireland’s Dancing With The Stars together which has run for four series.
A source told the publication: ‘Signing up to Strictly is like a death sentence for almost any relationship.’
Friends added that they thought Kai and Giulia would eventually get married and have children.
The alleged Strictly curse sees couples break up and fall for their professional dance partners.
It’s over: The former BGT star, 25, is one of four new dancers that will dazzle in the ballroom this autumn and had been in a relationship with fellow dancer Giulia Dotta, 29, for five years
Last year Kai joked about proposing on live TV, saying: ‘If I proposed in this setting she would absolutely kill me.’
Kai is now living with fellow Strictly dancing hunk Giovanni Pernice, 30, who recently started dating Love Island ‘s Maura Higgins.
Kai appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2012 aged 16 and made it to the final.
He has previously worked as a professional dancer on Dancing With The Stars Ireland, since its first series in 2017. He finished twice as Runner-up on the show in 2018 and 2020.
Upset: A spokesperson for Giulia – who is Italian – confirmed to The Mirror that they were no longer together
Kai was all set to follow in his dads footsteps by becoming a professional footballer, but aged 9 decided to take up dancing instead and by the time he was 14, he became the 2010 World Junior Latin-American champion.
Speaking about being cast in the upcoming series, Kai said: ‘This is my childhood dream come true.
‘Watching Strictly from the very first series as a young boy from Southampton and now 18 years later, to be a professional dancer on the show is the most amazing feeling and the biggest accomplishment of my career.
‘I can’t wait to step onto the Strictly floor and experience the exciting times that lie ahead.’
Long-term: Last year Kai (pictured) joked about proposing on live TV, saying: ‘If I proposed in this setting she would absolutely kill me’
Just last week Strictly Come Dancing unveiled their four new professional dancers.
Jowita Przystal, 26, Nikita Kuzmin, 23, Kai, and Cameron Lombard, 20, have been confirmed as the new additions ahead of the 2021 series of the popular BBC competition.
BBC bosses have confirmed the identities of the four new sizzling hot dancers stepping up to fill in their dancing shoes.
Work: The pair worked on Ireland’s Dancing With The Stars together which has run for four series (Giulia is pictured on the show with partner Father Ray Kelly)
Polish Open Latin Champion 2014 and winner of BBC One’s The Greatest Dancer 2020, Jowita Przystal started ballroom dancing at the age of 12 and is a Polish Open Latin Champion.
In 2015 she ended her competitive Ballroom and Latin career to join the cast of touring dance company, Burn The Floor where she stayed for four years before moving to the UK in 2019.
Under the mentorship of Strictly Champion, Oti Mabuse, Jowita won the BBC’s The Greatest Dancer in 2020, and the prize of performing on Strictly Come Dancing.
Newcomer Jowita was left lost for words when asked how she felt about being cast in the latest series of the dance competition.
Entertainment: Kai appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2012 aged 16 and made it to the final (pictured with Natalia Jeved)
She said: ‘This is my biggest dream come true. No words can describe how I feel right now.
‘I’m still pinching myself to check if this is real but I am beyond excited to be joining the Strictly Come Dancing family and I can’t wait to give all of my heart and soul on that dance floor!’
Six-time Latin and Ballroom National Champion in Italy professional Nikita Kuzmin, 23, has also signed up for the latest series of the hit dance show.
Nikita was born in Ukraine and lived there until he was 9 years old when his family moved to Italy, where he then lived for 9 years, to support his sister’s dancing career.
Fabulous Four: Last week Strictly announced that four new professional dancers have joined the show. Pictured: Jowita Przystal, 26, one of the new professionals
In 2020 Nikita was a professional dancer on Let’s Dance, Germany’s version of Strictly Come Dancing.
Nikita, who started dancing aged 4, said of joining Strictly in the UK: ‘I’ve always been amazed by the magic Strictly Come Dancing brings. No matter what country I have found myself living in, I’ve never missed a chance to watch it.
‘And joining it as a professional dancer is my big chance to make some magic on the most famous dance floor. I can’t wait to give it my all!’
Looking to earn another dancing crown, reigning South African Latin Champion Cameron Lombard has been named by the BBC as one of the new Strictly professionals.
New dancer: Six-time Latin and Ballroom National Champion in Italy Nikita Kuzmin, 23, (pictured) has also signed up for the latest series of the hit dance show
Cameron has won eighteen national titles across Ballroom and Latin during his decorated dance career.
He started competing aged 6, and within a year he was already winning local and regional competitions.
In 2012 he was a finalist on South Africa’s Got Talent and in 2019 he represented South Africa at the World Championships.
Of joining Strictly, Cameron said: ‘Thank you Strictly Come Dancing for this life changing opportunity. Not only is this a dream come true but a challenge I am accepting with both hands.
‘I am excited beyond imagination and looking forward to leaving my mark on the dance floor!’
The four new dancers join the existing line-up of professionals which includes: Aljaž Škorjanec, Amy Dowden, Dianne Buswell, Giovanni Pernice, Gorka Marquez, Graziano Di Prima, Johannes Radebe, Karen Hauer, Katya Jones, Luba Mushtuk, Nadiya Bychkova, Nancy Xu, Neil Jones, and Oti Mabuse.
Taking to a new stage: Reigning South African Latin Champion Cameron Lombard, 20, (pictured) has also been named as a new professional dancer on the show
STRICTLY COME DANCING 2021: WHO ARE THE CONTESTANTS?
Profession: McFly musician
Tom says: ‘I’m so pleased the news is out it’s been so hard keeping it secret. Equal parts excited and terrified.’
Fun fact: Tom’s McFly bandmate Harry Judd won Strictly Come Dancing in 2011. Tom’s wife Giovanna Fletcher is the reigning champion of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!
Profession: Actor and comedian
Robert says: ‘It’s very exciting but with a slight undertone of quivering terror.’
Fun Fact: Robert squeezed into a shiny leotard to take the title of Let’s Dance For Comic Relief in 2009, performing What A Feeling from ’80s film Flashdance, beating the likes of Keith Lemon and Paddy McGuinness to the title.
Profession: TV presenter
AJ says: ‘I think it’s going to be really challenging. I can’t wait for the sequins, the wigs, the glitz and the glamour.’
Fun Fact: Apocalypse Wow hosts AJ has featured on a whopping 14 TV shows this year, competing in the likes oF Cooking With The Stars and Celebrity Karaoke Club. She has appeared as a panelist on Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two in the past, too.