We did it. It has been 13 weeks of immense fun and hard work and now I can look back and enjoy all that my dance partner Gorka and I have achieved. The time spent away from our families and all the training hours between other work commitments and home life has paid off. We didn’t quite lift the glitter ball trophy – this one went to Hamza and Jowita, who connected with the crowd and were brilliant in all series. It will be a big boost for whatever Hamza decides to do next.
But, if Strictly taught me anything, it’s to never say no. Until our seventh week Jive, I thought I was there to catch up on the numbers. So when things started to click, I started to believe that we could be suitors.
There has been a lot of attention (from the judges and the press) about my growing confidence. But for me, it’s not really a question of trust. I was confident enough to sign up for the show; confident enough to get on that dance floor and try; confident enough to take criticism and improve, week after week. I would say maybe it’s more about my growing self-confidence.
It takes courage to do it strictly and I gave it my all. In turn, the experience gave me joy, made me smile on a personal level, and allowed my family to see me shine. From the start, I told my kids that I had worked hard to earn a glitter ball, so it was a shame not to bring it home to them.
Naturally, Gorka and I were disappointed not to win because we worked hard. He is a generous and authentic guy and above all he is very generous with his time and his talent. But, to be fair, any of the bottom four deserved to win. I am extremely proud of Molly and Fleur and their fighting spirit, surviving four dances each.
Our prep day for Saturday night’s grand finale began at Elstree Studios at 7am. Once we had done a warm-up and a group call, it was time to repeat the group number. I had injured my leg a few weeks ago, so the physical therapist bandaged me up and we stabilized it during dress rehearsal. Everyone was emotionally and physically exhausted by the time we got to the live show, but the excitement and adrenaline carried us through.
I was glad I managed to catch my hat in our Jive this time around and improve on a routine I learned six weeks ago. We also did a showdance on Shine by Emeli Sandé. It was a celebration of the joy of dancing, working as a team and trusting each other. Strictly is an entertainment show; it’s supposed to be joyful, so hopefully the viewers got to enjoy it as much as we did.
Craig even brought his 10 paddle for us when we got back to our Mein Herr routine from Musicals Week. Once again, the studio audience rewarded us with enthusiastic applause and a standing ovation, which felt like validation to us as a team. We were so wrapped up in the hysteria in the room after our last dance that I couldn’t speak when Claudia asked me what it would mean to win. I did it for my family, who supported me logistically and with love.
I still can’t describe the atmosphere in the room that night. I would like to bottle this public reaction. Anton said it was “the reason why performers live”. I still don’t really consider myself a performer as such, but it’s a moment I’ll never forget.
As said to Rachel Ward; Helen Skelton presents Christmas on the Farm on Channel 5 on Tuesday at 9 p.m.