‘Calling Strictly ‘box ticking’ is offensive – it’s my safe space that celebrates all’

As the nights get darker, pumpkin spice candles fill the aisles of HomeSense and the ‘big coats’ are retrieved from the darkest corners of our wardrobes, it can only mean one thing – it’s Strictly Come Dancing season.

We’re all more than ready for it thanks to the marketing campaign that begins in August with a slow drip feed of the line-up. And as sure as the sun is going to rise, you can bet the comments section on Instagram and Twitter feeds are going to be filled with fans remarking, “Never heard of them” or “They’re not even a celebrity.”

I get it. I’m guilty of being judgemental of a reality show’s contestant choices too, but the BBC show is catering to a large audience (around 5.6 million people watched the first weekend's show). One person’s nobody is another person’s idol.

I may never have previously heard of CBBC star Molly Rainford or Kiss FM’s Tyler West but within a couple of weeks I’ve no doubt I’ll be crying real tears at their Couple’s Choice routines. That is the power of Strictly.

Also, I secretly enjoy the lower radar celebrities because then I can tell myself, “One day they’ll let me on it.” I've already planned out how I'm going to manage the aftermath of my A Level in Dance being exposed. "It was a long time ago, and a completely different style of dance," I'll explain.

So let’s not hate on Strictly, let’s embrace every contestant. Resistance is futile. They are going to get us in the end.

As for people who think that it’s “woke” or “box ticking” – diversity on our screens is so important. Children and adults could see themselves reflected, potentially for the first time – and feel joy from that. I've spoke to people who've felt less alone from seeing someone like themselves on the dancing show – just look at what Rose Ayling-Ellis's appearance did for the deaf community.

The show is a celebration of everyone, and seeing people from different walks of life makes it so much more interesting. It's a mirror to the real world. If you don't understand that then this is your opportunity to learn about people that may be different to you, and see them flourish in this unique environment.

How boring would the world be if we only ever watched people on TV who were exactly the same as us. Being against positive inclusion is just inconceivable to me.

To say I’m a fan of the show is an understatement. It feels like one of those things that has always existed in my world. I can’t recall the first time I saw a celebrity stumble through a Cha Cha Cha, or get into a spin for the Viennese Waltz in the same way I can’t remember the first memory of my dad. The two just seem to have always been there for me. (Sorry dad for comparing you to an entertainment show).

For me it is a safe space. For two hours I’m going to sit in front of the TV and be comforted by the knowledge that nothing bad is going to happen. The very worst case scenario is someone will forget the routine, and Claudia Winkleman will make them laugh about it.

It’s this fantasy universe where nothing matters except fake tan, glitzy costumes, and doing some steps to an orchestra cover of a pop hit.

You can watch it with any family member or friend and be unworried about the show sparking any kind of discomfort, or a heated debate. Unless that debate is that a Rumba definitely should have got a 36, not a 32.

It could not be more wholesome during the weekend shows, but then from Monday to Friday the show satisfies another part of me. I can’t deny I love to gossip, and Strictly provides endless reams of it. There’s the annual conundrum of who is getting with who. I’m talking about the singletons here – let’s keep it light! Plus, the couples who are not always getting on. Put me in a room with one other person for 10 hours per day and I’m probably going to occasionally get annoyed too. And of course our endless fascination with who has too much dance experience.

You’ll catch me every Saturday night curled up on the sofa in my Strictly PJs (yes, I own Strictly nightwear) eating snacks, smiling and occasionally shimmying along. Long live Strictly Come Dancing!


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