Who is on Strictly Come Dancing 2021 and when does it start? Here's all you need to know as the BBC confirms the first Strictly celebs of the year.
Strictly Come Dancing 2021 is back – yes can you believe that it’s been a whole 12 months since we last eagerly awaited the line-up.
But we’re not complaining – even if it means the countdown to Christmas will soon be upon us – as BBC has decided to gradually confirm who will be competing for the prestigious Glitter Ball trophy.
Last year comedian Bill Bailey won Strictly Come Dancing with his professional partner Oti Mabuse after an electric final show. Bill, 55, broke the show’s record to become the oldest-ever winner and Oti is the first professional to win back-to-back titles – and only the second pro to win twice.
The 19th series of the multi-award-winning entertainment show, produced by BBC Studios, will return to BBC One bringing glitter, glamour, and glorious dancing to our Saturday and Sunday nights.
Holly Willoughby was tipped for Strictly 2021, but which celebrities have actually signed up for this year’s show? We look at who’s been confirmed so far…
Strictly 2021 lineup – Who is on Strictly Come Dancing 2021?
Ugo Monye is named as the 15th and final contestant of Strictly Come Dancing 2021. The broadcaster, sports pundit and former England rugby player is confident he’s got more than just the embarrassing ‘dad dancing’ moves.
Ugo, who is the dad of two daughters Phoenix Lilly, four, and Ruby, aged one, with wife Lucy, said, “What a dream come true! Strictly is the biggest entertainment show on TV and I can’t wait to show everyone I’ve got more than just dad dancing moves.”
Ugo started his rugby career at Harlequins in 2002, before going on to make 241 appearances for the club, he scored 89 tries, won a Premiership and made his England debut in 2008.
Since retiring in 2015, Ugo has become a respected face and voice in the world of sports presenting, hosting rugby coverage for BT Sport and ITV as well as the BBC 5 Live Rugby Union Weekly podcast.
He added, “My two beautiful daughters never had a chance to see me on the rugby pitch, so to know they can watch me waltzing and twirling every week is really special to me. I love an outfit at the best of times, so bring on the sequins!”
In July 2021, it was announced that Ugo would be one of the new team Captains on BBC One’s A Question of Sport. And his commitment to making rugby more accessible for all has seen him recently named the first-ever Chairman of England Rugby’s new Diversity and Inclusion committee.
Judi Love is confirmed as the 14th contestant confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing 2021. The Loose Women panellist and comedian kept it a secret from her co-stars.
Judi said, “I didn’t know I could act so well.”
And Katie Piper suggested she could be part of a ‘Strictly curse’. To which Judi replied, “I’d need a man first. My eyes are big so I’m always looking…I want to shimmy on someone who can lift this up.” she added.
“I’m so nervous, this is so far out of my comfort zone, but what an opportunity. These guys are like athletes, what they do with their body, how they move is so inspiring, so any opportunity to learn a new skill like this,” she added.
The Loose Women have vowed to support Judi every step of the way.
Judi said, “I think I am still in shock that I will be part of this amazing show. I’ve watched it for many years and admired the phenomenal abilities of these dancers and celebrities that have taken part and dedicated themselves to learning a new craft. I’m truly looking forward to pushing myself in something that I could have only dreamed of doing and now it’s actually coming true!! I can’t lie I’m soooo nervous but excited at the same time!!”
When she’s not on the ITV panel show, Judi is also known for producing a host of viral online comedy sketches, amassing a huge following on social media.
Judi has made appearances on The Jonathan Ross Show, The Graham Norton show, 8 Out Of 10 Cats does Countdown, Celebrity Juice, This Morning, Good Morning Britain, The Stand Up Sketch Show, The Big Narstie Show and Celebrity Masterchef.
Adam Peaty MBE
Adam Peaty MBE is the 13th contestant confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing 2021. As an Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth British swimming champion, Adam is used to the pressure of a huge contest but he faces a fresh challenge on the dancefloor.
Speaking about taking part, Adam said: “I think this will come as a surprise to a lot of people, but I’m so excited to finally share the news that I’ll be joining Strictly this year. I’m really looking forward to doing something totally different and challenging myself away from the pool. I’m hoping my competitive nature is going to compensate for my dancing abilities!”
He recently broke his silence on his near kiss with dance partner Katya Jones.
Adam made history by becoming the first British swimmer to defend an Olympic title, after claiming gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics and Tokyo 2020 in the Men’s 100m Breaststroke.
As well as his three gold and two silver Olympic medals, he is an eight-time World Champion, a sixteen-time European Champion and a three-time Commonwealth Champion.
The holder of the world record in 50m and 100m breaststroke events, Adam was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to swimming.
Actor Rose Ayling-Ellis is confirmed as the 12th Strictly Come Dancing 2021 contestant. And is now one of the Strictly 2021 finalists.
Best-known for her role as Frankie Lewis in Eastenders, Rose is not only the first-ever deaf actor to play a deaf character on the soap but she is to become Strictly’s, first-ever deaf star. She is partnered with professional dancer Giovanni Pernice who has split from Love Island girlfriend Maura Higgins. And the rumour mill has gone into overdrive this series, with fans wondering if Rose and Giovanni are a couple in real life now.
Rose, who uses British Sign Language, hopes to “break down barriers”. She said, “To be the first deaf contestant on Strictly Come Dancing is sooooo exciting.. and a little bit scary. It is the hardest secret I have ever had to keep so it feels amazing to finally have this out in the open! I hope I will do the deaf community proud and break down more barriers. But I am also very excited to learn an incredible new skill and even better I get to learn whilst wearing beautiful dresses made especially for me!”
Rose’s other TV credits include Summer of Rockets and BBC hit drama Casualty. She has also appeared in various stage productions.
Nina Wadia OBE
Actor Nina Wadia OBE is the 11th celebrity contestant confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing 2021.
Having appeared in many TV roles, she is most known for playing Zainab Masood in the BBC soap opera EastEnders, where she won awards for Best Onscreen Partnership and Best Comedy at the British Soap Awards.
Speaking about signing up for Strictly, Nina said, “I’ve always danced like nobody’s watching, so if we blindfold the judges I could actually win Strictly 2021.”
Her other TV credits include BBC Two sketch show Goodness Gracious Me, Open All Hours spin-off Still Open All Hours.
Nina has performed in a variety of theatre productions including the Tony award-winning The Vagina Monologues and recently appeared in the live-action film remake of Aladdin.
Nina is also a regular presenter on BBC One’s Sunday Morning Live.
As a JDRF ambassador, she received an OBE in the 2021 New Year’s Honours List for her services to charity and entertainment.
The 10th contestant confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing 2021 is actor, writer, and producer Greg Wise.
Most known for his film, television, and theatre roles, Greg shot to fame in Sense and Sensibility before going on to star in The Crown, Cranford, and Walking on Sunshine.
He also wrote the box-office hit film Last Christmas with his wife, Emma Thompson, and the book Not That Kind of Love with his late sister Clare Wise.
Speaking about joining the show, Greg said he hoped to make his sister proud. He explained, “My beautiful sister was a huge disco queen. She left our world almost exactly five years ago in a glitter ball coffin. This is for her. My gorgeous Diva sis, who would have been insane with excitement that her little bro was doing this.
He continued, “I will channel her, as her bro can’t dance – but I’m thrilled to be dipping my toes, knees, hips, and arms into this wonderful world, and hope to make her proud, and obviously make her laugh…”
Matilda “Tilly” Ramsay is the ninth celebrity contestant confirmed for Strictly Come Dancing 2021. Chef, social media influencer, and CBBC presenter is the daughter of Celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay.
She has more than 9.5 million followers on TikTok where she often shares funny videos of herself and her dad, and she hopes that by going on Strictly she can teach her dad a thing or two on the dancefloor.
Tilly, 19, said, “I’m so excited and grateful to be joining the Strictly family! I’m always up for fun new challenges and this will be my biggest adventure yet! I’m going to put my heart and soul into this and can’t wait to get my dancing shoes on and show my Dad how it’s really done! Bring on the glitz, glamour, and sequins!”
Tilly is no stranger to the TV, she presented Matilda and the Ramsay Bunch on CBBC, which earned her three Children’s BAFTA nominations which saw her family cooking adventures.
But Tilly has hit back after she was body-shamed when a radio host called her ‘chubby’.
She went on to publish her own cookery book in 2017 and held a regular cookery segment on This Morning, called Big Chef, Little Chef.
Joining the Strictly Come Dancing 2021 lineup is BBC One Breakfast host Dan Walker. The TV star was announced by Strictly who uploaded his official photo and captioned it, ‘Dan Walker? More like Dan Waltzer. We cannot wait to see @mrdanwalker swap @BBCBreakfast for the #Strictly ballroom!’
And after hosting this morning’s show, Dan, tweeted to tell fans how he was feeling about his upcoming challenge. He wrote, ‘Just got back to my phone to about a gazillion messages. Genuinely terrified but also looking forward to it. The campaign to represent #TeamGB in breakdancing at #Paris2024 starts here.’
Even his co-star Louise Minchin didn’t know he was set to star on the show.
She tweeted, ‘What a rascal, I cannot believe @mrdanwalker kept this from me!! Good luck Dan, I will be watching.’
To which Dan apologised, ‘Sorry… I was ordered to keep it a secret,’ he said.
Revealed as the seventh contestant to join Strictly Come Dancing 2021 is award-winning actress Katie McGlynn. Best known for her role as Sinead Tinker in Coronation Street, Katie won a National Television Award for Best Serial Drama performance in 2020.
Speaking about her new role on Strictly, Katie McGlynn said, “It’s been so hard keeping it a secret, but I can finally say that I’m getting ready to shake my shimmy and become part of the Strictly family! I’m really not a dancer, but I’m so excited to learn a new skill on this crazy journey and cannot wait to slip into some sequins along the way.”
Katie, 28, has also been a regular in Waterloo Road as well as BBC One dramas The Syndicate, Moving On and currently stars in Hollyoaks as newcomer Becky Quentin.
And she admits she’s ready for a change.
“Although I do get to have so much fun as an actress, a lot of my roles have involved quite serious and challenging storylines, so I’m fully ready to let my hair down and do something different, even if it is completely outside of my comfort zone. I can’t promise that I’ll be the best, but I’m going to give it 110% on the dance floor! As long as I don’t fall over I’ll be happy,” she added.
Sara Davies MBE
The sixth celebrity contestant confirmed for this years’ Strictly Come Dancing is Sara Davies MBE. As an entrepreneur and TV personality, Sara became the youngest ever dragon to join the panel of BBC’s Dragon’s Den in 2019.
Known by the nickname Crafting Queen, Sara set up her business Crafter’s Companion as a student and it has gone on to employ more than 250 people worldwide and has won more than 30 business awards.
But will she be able to add a Glitterball Trophy to her CV?
She said, “My Mam and Dad are going to be so excited. I’m really nervous because so far the producers keep asking me if I can dance. Truth be told – I haven’t got a clue! I’ve not danced since I did ballet lessons when I was little.
Sara is hoping her business drive will help her master the moves on the dancefloor.
She continued, “The business world has taught me that tenacity, drive, and determination deliver results, I hope that I can bring that to the dancefloor. And I’m excited to see the impact of all those hours of training on my mum tum!”
In 2016, she was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to the economy.
Joining Strictly as its fifth contestant is actor and children’s TV presenter Rhys Stephenson.
The CBBC star has presented shows including Blue Peter and Saturday Mash-Up! whilst also having made appearances on The Dengineers and Newsround.
Speaking about signing up for the show, Rhys, said, “I am BUZZING to be a part of Strictly Come Dancing 2021. I have dreamt about being on this show, and I know for a fact that it is going to exceed every expectation. I cannot wait to experience it all: the costumes, the orchestra, even Craig’s glare! I am READY!”
When he’s not presenting, Rhys dedicates his time as an ambassador for Place2Be, a charity that provides mental health services in schools.
The fourth celebrity contestant confirmed for the new series of Strictly Come Dancing 2021 is John Whaite – a chef, TV presenter and cookery author.
Speaking about his upcoming TV dancing debut, John, 33, said, “I’m so grateful, excited, and nervous to be joining the Strictly 2021 family. I’ve been wearing sequins and jazzy attire since I was three years old and can’t wait to hurl myself, full throttle, around the most glamorous dance floor on earth.”
Strictly first introduced same-sex couples last year, and John has some fabulous news.
He added, “What’s more exciting for me, is that I’m going to be one half of the first all-male partnership, which is a great step forward in representation and inclusion. Whoever it is I’m paired with, I hope they are up for a challenge as I want our routines to include lots of spectacular lifts!”
John won the third series of The Great British Bake Off, in 2012, at the age of 23. And since then he has presented various TV shows and currently has a weekly cooking segment on Steph’s Packed Lunch.
He has written for a variety of newspaper and magazine publications on the topics of food and mental health and has published five cookery books. John also runs his own cookery school, John Whaite’s Kitchen.
Revealed as the third contestant confirmed to join Strictly Come Dancing 2021 is TV presenter AJ Odudu.
Mostly known for her work on Channel 5’s Celebrity Big Brother and ITV’s Apocalypse Wow, AJ was delighted when she was unveiled as one of the first three contestants on The One Show by its presenters.
But she revealed that she had kept the news a surprise from her mum. She told viewers. “The secret’s out at last! Surprise, mum. Surprise!”
And when Alex asked if she really hadn’t told her, AJ, 33, replied, “No, she didn’t know, she’s at home right now, fuming, that I’ve dragged her all the way from Blackburn to London and (she said) you’re off out!”
The second contestant ready to start rehearsals is comedian and actor Robert Webb.
Some might remember him from Let’s Dance for Comic Relief back in 2009, where he performed to What A Feeling in a scene from the 80s film Flashdance.
Speaking about signing up for the contest, Robert, 48, said, “It’s very very exciting but with a slight undertone of quivering terror.”
Most will recall his TV work alongside fellow writer David Mitchell thanks to the pair’s work on Peep Show, Back, and That Mitchell and Webb Look.
McFly star Tom Fletcher has thrown himself into a reality TV contest of his own after his wife Giovanna Fletcher won I’m A Celebrity 2020.
Tom, 36, who is dad to sons Buzz, seven, Buddy, five, and Max, two, told The One Show viewers, “I’m so pleased the news is out, it’s been so hard keeping it a secret. It’s been so hard keeping it a secret (since Christmas).”
Tom will be stepping out of his comfort zone of playing the guitar and singing in a band, in order to deliver impressive routines week after week.
He added, “I feel naked without a guitar so that’s going to be something to get over.”
When does Strictly Come Dancing 2021 start?
Strictly Come Dancing 2021 officially starts at 7:45pm on Saturday 18 September.
The launch show on BBC One will see the celebrities find out who they will be dancing with professionally during the competition. And it’s a jam packed show that’s expected to go on until 9:30pm.
The live shows will then start a week later on Saturday 25 September. So audiences can look forward to the usual Saturday and Sunday night shows from this date.
Strictly Come Dancing 2021 judges
Anton Du Beke is confirmed as the new judge on Strictly 2021 – replacing Bruno Tonioli who is unable to sit on this year’s panel “due to the ongoing uncertainty regarding international travel restrictions caused by Covid-19”.
Anton will be joined by returning judges Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse, and Shirley Ballas.
Looking for something else to watch while you wait? Married at First Sight is another binge-worthy series. The new season of the UK version airs its new series in August this year! Taking on a different format to previous years, many have raised questions around whether the marriages on Married at First Sight UK are legally binding this year. Catch up on the new series on E4.
Alternatively try new spine-tingling drama, Vigil. The location where Vigil is filmed has become a recent must-visit destination after the BBC One show hit screens in August this year. The show is produced by the same company as both Line of Duty and Bodyguard.
Who are the pro dancers on Strictly Come Dancing 2021?
Strictly welcomes four new professional dancers for the 2021 series.
These include current South African Latin Champion Cameron Lombard and Jowita Przystal, who you may recognise as winner of BBC One’s 2020 series of The Greatest Dancer.
Former Junior Latin American champion and ex-Dancing With The Stars Ireland pro Kai Widdrington is the third new pro face. Whilst Nikita Kuzmin, a six-time Italian Latin and Ballroom national champion and former professional on Let’s Dance Germany is also pegged for Strictly 2021.
The following (and familiar) pro dancers will also be returning to Strictly 2021:
- Dianne Buswell
- Nadia Bychkova
- Amy Dowden
- Karen Hauer
- Katya Jones
- Neil Jones
- Oti Mabuse
- Gorka Marquez
- Luba Mushtuk
- Giovanni Pernice
- Graziano di Prima
- Johannes Radebe
- Alijaz Skorjanec
- Nancy Wu
Sadly pro dancer Janette Manrara (wife to Alijaz) has hung up her dancing shoes for 2021. She will instead be helping to host the popular Strictly spin-off It Takes Two, following Zoe Ball’s departure.
“I will not be dancing. I don’t want to well up because I have been welling up a lot today, but that has been the hardest part of accepting this amazing honour to join It Takes Two,” she said in a interview on the One Show. “I am still a part of the Strictly family, I am still going to be seeing my fellow pros all the time and I will keep dancing, as they say. I will find a way to keep dancing.’