Over the past few days, Strictly Come Dancing has been announcing the celebrities who will be taking part in this year’s series. It’s been a long journey for the popular BBC 1 show, given the coronavirus pandemic that has been affecting the whole world this year.
At some points, it looked like it might not be going ahead, but a bubbling system means we’ll still be able to beat the Autumn blues by settling in for some amazing, and some far from amazing, dancing.
The series will be shorter, and the line-up reflects that, instead of the usual 15, we’re down to 12. But the talent pickers have scoured the nation and brought together a line-up that rivals many other Strictly line-ups in the past.
Of course, EastEnders got a representative in somewhere, but we’re also being treated to Strictly’s first American footballer, one of the country’s best-known comedians, an Invictus Games medallist and several music sensations.
Plus, we finally got the moment we’ve been waiting for for years when Strictly announced that boxer Nicola Adams would form part of its first-ever same-sex coupling on the show. Italy, Denmark, Australia and many others had already taken the step, and now the series that started it all has joined them.
Predicted placement: 11th place
Predicted partner: Katya Jones or Karen Hauer
Who?: Bill Bailey is probably one of those people you’d love to see on Strictly, but you never imagined that he’d actually go for it, and perhaps in normal years he might not have done. Bill is one of the country’s most beloved comedians, placing seventh both times on Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Stand-Ups, and alongside his comedy is a gifted musician. Both of these things usually go hand in hand at one of Bill’s comedy shows. And when he’s not touring, Bill can often be found on a myriad of panel shows including QI, Have I Got News For You or Never Mind the Buzzcocks, a show he was team captain on for seven years. Bill’s also got several acting gigs under his belt, appearing in shows like Jonathan Creek and Doctor Who and films like Hot Fuzz and Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang. Comedians and great dancing talent don’t always go hand-in-hand, but Bill does have a musical ear which might help in keeping rhythm, but we can’t imagine he’ll be blowing people away.
Predicted placement: 10th place
Predicted partner: Anton du Beke or Neil Jones
Who?: Award-winning actress Caroline Quentin has been on our screens since 1980, when she appeared in an episode of teen drama The Squad. Caroline soon progressed to major roles like Dorothy, Kate Salinger and Maddy Riley in sitcoms Men Behaving Badly, Kiss Me Kate and Life of Riley, and Maddy Magellan and DCI Janine Lewis in crime series Jonathan Creek and Blue Murder. In recent years, Caroline has taken to presenting documentaries like Cornwall with Caroline Quentin and The World’s Most Extraordinary Homes. During her career, Caroline has won two British Comedy Awards, one for her role in Men Behaving Badly and the other for her roles in Von Trapped and Life Begins, and she’s also won a Special Recognition Award at the National Television Awards. On top of all this, Caroline is also a patron of Coeliac UK and the president of the Campaign for National Parks. Caroline does have some dance experience, and in recent years of Strictly, we’ve been treated to the ‘little old ladies’ who can dance, like Debbie McGee, but it is hard to see Caroline going all the way.
Predicted placement: 6th place
Predicted partner: Aljaž Skorjanec, Johannes Radebe or Graziano Di Prima
Who?: Clara started her career as a marketing intern for Kiss FM, but she has since gone on to host the weekend breakfast show on BBC Radio 1Xtra and The Official Chart on BBC Radio 1. Clara is also known for her reporting from many film premieres for big hits like Baby Driver, Black Panther, Rocketman and Birds of Prey. Earlier this year, she went viral for an incredibly emotional and moving speech following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers, and the effect that it had on her own mental health. Despite radio DJs like DJ Spooney, Vick Hope and Dev Griffin having great moves, they all made unfortunately early exits. Will Clara be able to buck the trend, or will she go on to be the robbed contestant of series 18?
Predicted placement: Runner-up
Predicted partner: Janette Manrara
Who?: HRVY has had a meteoric rise to fame over the past few years after starting out by uploading videos of singing to Facebook. The pop sensation currently has over one billion streams, a global following of over ten million, and is expected to release his debut album in November. During his career, he has supported acts like Little Mix and The Vamps on their tours, and has had two sold out UK and European tours. And HRVY isn’t just a singer, as the 21-year-old also presented on BBC’s Friday Download from series 7 to series 9. Let’s be honest, HRVY is going to dance incredibly well, and you’ll be seeing him all over Strictly coverage when it returns. There is no doubt that he will make the final, but perhaps he’ll fall just short of picking up the final prize.
Predicted placement: 12th place
Predicted partner: Anton du Beke
Who?: Jacqui Smith was one of Gordon Brown’s Home Secretaries from when he was Prime Minister, until she was replaced in a reshuffle following the 2009 expenses scandal. Jacqui was elected to the constituency of Redditch in Labour’s 1997 landslide victory, and was one of its highest-profile casualties when she lost the seat to the Conservatives during the 2010 general election. As an MP, she always voted in favour of LGBTQ+ rights, voting to repeal Section 28, introduce same-sex civil partnerships, allow same-sex couples to adopt children and to bring in the Equality Act. Politicians on Strictly are there for the entertainment value, with both Ann Widdecombe and Ed Balls making it all the way to sixth place, however, when Edwina Currie danced on the show, she was the first voted off, and somehow we think this could be the same for Jacqui.
Predicted placement: 5th place
Predicted partner: Oti Mabuse
Who?: He’s back again! Made in Chelsea’s Jamie Laing was supposed to dance last year, but a knee injury forced him to pull out and get replaced with eventual series winner Kelvin Fletcher. Jamie has starred on Made in Chelsea since it started airing in 2011 and has appeared on other celebrity shows like Celebrity Bake Off and Celebrity Hunted. Jamie has also launched his own business, Candy Kittens, and earlier this year launched his own podcast, 6 Degrees from Jamie. Jamie is very likely to be an incredibly good dancer, but questions remain over whether the public will warn to him, as many think Strictly should avoid reality TV stars. He might not have dance experience, but he could end up becoming the unpopular talented dancer like Ashley Roberts and Alexandra Burke from previous seasons.
Predicted placement: 8th place
Predicted partner: Nadiya Bychkova or Luba Mushtuk
Who?: Let’s be honest, if you’re reading this and you know who Jason Bell is, it’s likely because you’re an ace at Girls Aloud trivia and know that he’s Nadine’s husband. However, that’s not what got him his celebrity status, as Jason is also a former NFL cornerback for teams like the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans and New York Giants. Jason now presents BBC coverage of the sport, alongside Osi Umenyiora. Plenty of American footballers have taken to the floor on America’s Dancing with the Stars, but this is the first one to compete on Strictly, and it could be the perfect time as our straight friends tell us that the sport is enjoying a renaissance of popularity over here in the UK. American footballers often do well on Dancing with the Stars, with many reaching the final, but we can’t see that for Jason. Not because we think he’ll be terrible, but mainly because Americans don’t do well on Strictly. Michelle Visage took an (unfair) early exit last year, Michelle Williams ended up in the bottom two on four separate occasions, and there was a tonne of vitriol aimed at Ashley Roberts when she competed a few years ago.
Predicted placement: 7th place
Predicted partner: Dianne Buswell
Who?: JJ Chalmers was a Royal Marine reservist serving in the Helmand Province in Afghanistan when he was injured in an IED blast. He suffered facial injuries, lost two fingers, and had his right elbow disintegrate in the explosion. Following years of rehabilitation, he captained the trike team at the 2014 Invictus Games, a sporting event for wounded service members, where he won a gold and two bronze medals. Following on from his success, JJ began presenting Paralympic Invictus Games coverage on the BBC. He has also presented for the London Marathon, Commonwealth Games and featured in D-Day memorial programmes. Strictly has been featuring paralympians over the past few years, and it’s always so inspiring (as cliche at that word is) to watch them succeed, here’s hoping JJ can make some headway in the competition as well.
Predicted placement: Runner-up
Predicted partner: Giovanni Pernice
Who?: EastEnders is omnipresent on Strictly Come Dancing, and this year is no different as Walford’s Tiffany Butcher, aka Maisie Smith, has quickstepped over to take part. Maisie has played Tiffany Butcher on the popular soap since 2008, however, it’s not the only appearance she’s made on our screens, as she played a Young Elizabeth in The Other Boleyn Girl. As Tiffany, Maisie has been involved in hard-hitting storylines including one where she was groomed and later raped. At just 19, Maisie is one of the youngest contestants to have ever competed on Strictly, and we have a feeling that like Louisa Lytton and Claudia Fragapane, she’ll go quite far. Will she manage to beat them and make it past fourth place? We think so!
Predicted placement: Champion
Predicted partner: Karen Hauer or Katya Jones
Who?: Max George rose to fame as part of Avenue, who competed on The X Factor in 2005, but he’s known worldwide as being part of The Wanted, a band which has sold over 600,000 album and two million singles in the UK alone. Since the band split in 2014, Max’s career took him to a brief stint in acting, and he appeared in six episodes of Glee as Clint. More recently, Max has returned to music and released Barcelona in 2018 and Better On Me last year. Max has big shoes to fill on Strictly, as his bandmate Jay McGuiness won the show five years ago. And much like his bandmate, we think Max might be the one to snatch the Glitterball Trophy. In any sense, he’ll probably do better than when Blue singer Lee Ryan appeared two years ago.
Predicted placement: Runner-up
Predicted partner: Katya Jones or Janette Manrara
Who?: Double Olympic gold winning boxer Nicola Adams should need no introduction, but we’ll give her one anyway. Did we mention she won two gold medals at the Olympic games? And in fact, she was the first ever woman to win a gold medal for boxing in Olympic history. Elsewhere in her illustrious career, she’s won gold medals at the EU Championships, European Championships, Commonwealth Games, European Games and World Championships. While defending her WBO title in 2019, she suffered an eye injury, and she announced that she would retire from the sport in order to prevent further damage to her eye. Nicola will not only be providing us with LGBTQ+ representation this series, the boxer is proudly lesbian, but she’ll make Strictly history in its first same-sex pairing. Hopefully she’ll fare better than other boxers on the show like Anthony Ogogo, Audley Harrison and Joe Calzaghe.
Predicted placement: 9th place
Predicted partner: Gorka Márquez
Who?: Ranvir Singh has been the political editor for Good Morning Britain since 2014, as well as having presenting experience on a whole range of ITV shows like ITV Lunchtime News, ITV Evening News and ITV News at Ten. She’s also been a newsreader on Lorraine and has presented on North West Tonight, Daybreak and Loose Women. Ranvir was the news presenter on the day of the 2017 Westminster attack, and her team would go on to win the Golden Nymph Award for Live Breaking News at the 59th Monte-Carlo Television Festival for how they handled their reporting. Daytime TV presenters have a mixed record on Strictly. People like Alex Jones, Matt Baker and Susanna Reid have gone quite far, with the latter two making it to the final, whereas others like Dr. Ranj Singh and Charlotte Hawkins took more early exits. And in the case of Kate Garraway, she was the series 5 comedy act. As for where Ranvir ends up, she might be more Dr. Ranj than Susanna Reid.