I first stepped on a stage when I was five years old. Like lots of little girls around the world, I loved singing, dancing and dressing up. And now I’m one of the lucky few still getting to live that dream. And what better stage than Strictly!
A lot has been made of me being a seasoned performer, but every week when I start learning a new dance I feel completely out of my depth. In the rehearsal room I struggle with the new steps, I question whether I can perform the dance the way Gorka wants me to and I get incredibly nervous leading up to the weekend.
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But something happens to me when I step into the Strictly dressing room. When I’m in my costume, I’ve got my make-up on and I’ve had my hair done, I feel pretty, I feel amazing and something clicks.
I don’t have an alter ego – I don’t want to sound like Beyoncé! – but something happens inside me. It’s happened every week and touch wood it keeps happening – the performer in me comes alive.
Like everyone else, I’m nervous I’ll forget the steps or I’ll get my heel caught and fall flat on my face, but the one thing I have learnt over the years, and that I’ve brought to Strictly, is that you can’t let those nerves show on your face.
You have to smile and the audience will smile with you. The thing is, I fear some viewers see that as me not being genuine.
I can’t help but sometimes read the negative comments people have written on social media about me being fake and it does upset me. It’s just such a shame that some people can’t see how hard I’m working, how nervous I am, but also how much I’m loving every minute of this experience – there’s nothing fake about that!
All I can do is give it my all and hope that everyone picks up their phones and votes, because as we’ve seen with Aston going out and Debbie being in the dance-off, however well you do on Saturday night, nobody is safe.
And just in case, I’ll be keeping a firm grip on my good luck teddy, Family. I take him everywhere with me. He’s upstairs sitting in Claudia’s pod during the results show; and while I’m performing Billy – one of the amazing wardrobe guys – straps him to his belt so he can watch me. Then as soon as I’ve finished and I’m allowed to bring him on screen, I’m always holding him tight.
When I was on The X Factor my mum sent me a bunch of flowers for making it to the semi-final and Family was wrapped around them. He’s my little good luck mascot.
I should ask Gorka if he has anything he does for luck, although perhaps it’s better not to – I’d rather not know if he’s been wearing the same pants every Saturday!
Strictly Come Dancing is on Saturday 7.05pm, Sun 7.20pm BBC1