Strictly’s Alexandra Burke: “Everything I do is for my mum”

The new Radio Times columnist reveals how her late mother will impact her dancing – and why she’ll be imagining her teddy bears in the audience

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I can’t believe this is really happening! I’ve been trying to get on Strictly for years, so being asked was a dream come true. I didn’t hesitate for a second – as soon as I got the call, I postponed my album and my single. I cancelled everything!

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Before I discovered singing, I loved to dance. At school I studied contemporary and street dance and loved every second. But then my mum [Soul II Soul lead singer Melissa Bell] discovered I could sing and encouraged me in that direction.

Strictly is an amazing opportunity for me to rediscover that first passion. The only thing that I’m worried might hold me back is my nerves. Everyone thinks that because I won “the other show” – can I mention The X Factor? – I’m comfortable performing in front of an audience and I’m used to being judged, but that was all about singing and I’ve been singing all my life.

Strictly Come Dancing 2017 full contestant line-up

More recently, I’ve been performing in theatre – I’ve just finished doing six or seven shows a week of Sister Act on stage on the UK tour, but again that was mostly singing, so I felt in control.

My biggest fear is falling flat on my face, live on air, in front of millions of people! The trick I’ve always used when I go on stage is to pretend I’m in my bedroom and performing to the teddy bears on my bed. So instead of Shirley, Bruno, Darcey and Craig, I’ll be dancing for my pink bear.

I can’t think about who is actually there. The one thing that will drive me is my mum, who recently passed away. My being on the show was a dream of hers, as well as mine, so doing the best I can on Strictly means a lot to me.

My mum was my biggest critic. And she has turned me into a perfectionist; everything I do is for her. So when I step on to that dance floor on Saturday night I want to do the best I can and make her proud.

By Alexandra Burke

Strictly Come Dancing starts 6.25pm Saturday, BBC1

Strictly Come Dancing 2017 full contestant line-up

Alexandra Burke

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Jonnie Peacock

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Debbie McGee

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Chizzy Akudolu


Charlotte Hawkins

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Brian Conley


Susan Calman


Aston Merrygold


Simon Rimmer

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Joe McFadden


Rev Richard Coles


Gemma Atkinson

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Ruth Langsford


Davood Ghadami

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Mollie King