Strictly’s Rev Richard Coles: “We stripped to our pants”

The Radio 4 presenter and vicar writes his first Strictly column for Radio Times on exfoliating, spray-tanning and donning the glitter on Saturday nights

Strictly Come Dancing Richard Coles Dianne Buswell

There’s so much to enjoy in the Strictly experience, but for a nosey person like me, being backstage is particularly delicious. I’ve watched the show for years, and while I enjoy the world it conjures from glitter and dreams, I’ve always been curious about how they actually do it.

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Who sews the rhinestones on the dancers? Who ensures that the glitter arrives? How did I go this sensational shade of conker? To the last question the answer is thanks to Gemma, from the spray tan team, whose empire is next to wardrobe and make-up in the Corridor of Strictlification.

It is Gemma’s job to ensure we are bronzed to ballroom standards. We queue, in batches of “boys and girls”, and are admitted two by two for the health and safety briefing (allergies, skin conditions, new tattoos or piercings?). We promise we have exfoliated, and then strip to our pants, an unusual experience for a vicar in his middle years, who would normally recoil from getting undressed even for surgery.

But there’s no time for embarrassment and I have now got so used to looking like a blancmange while standing next to the Herculean Davood Ghadami that the anxiety dreams have almost stopped. We step, at Gemma’s instruction, into what look like mini bio-hazard shower cubicles and onto two sticky footprints that protect the soles of our feet from the gunge. Then we exfoliate once more, and turn and raise our arms and legs as she expertly applies the spray, which feels a little ticklish and smells a bit of old biscuits.

We step out, five minutes later, looking like we’ve had a fortnight in Gran Canaria. We’re halfway to being Strictlified, base metal turned, if not into gold, at least into tinsel. But anything that adds a bit of sparkle to the buttoned-up middle-50s is worth an open hip twist and a cha-cha-cha.

By Rev Richard Coles

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Strictly Come Dancing begins on Saturday 23rd September at 6.25pm on BBC1