The Strictly Come Dancing final is upon us, with a new celebrity set to lift the Glitterball trophy and join the show’s hall of fame.
On Saturday (18 December), Rose Ayling-Ellis or John Whaite will become the 2021 Strictly champion, after fellow finalist AJ Odudu was forced to pull out of the competition today (17 December) after sustaining a foot injury.
Whoever wins will be taking over from last season’s winner Bill Bailey and joining an illustrious cast of dance divas.
Read below to see the previous Strictly winners and what they’ve been up to since the show…
Natasha Kaplinsky (Spring 2004)
Strictly’s first season would be virtually unrecognisable to new viewers now – there were only eight contestants and the judges sat shoved together on a tiny panel. The series also aired in the spring. The first winner was BBC Breakfast host Kaplinsky, who with Brendan Cole (who appeared on the show for 15 series) impressed the judges the most – although not that much, as no 10s were given all season. Kaplinsky still works as a presenter and an ambassador for a number of charities.
Jill Halfpenny (Autumn 2004)
It took two series for Strictly to find its feet, with the show’s first real “wow” moment coming in the form of Halfpenny and partner Darren Bennett’s sensational jive to “I’m Still Standing”. It showed that the show could turn its contestants into genuinely amazing dancers, and earned the first perfect 40 from the judges in the final. Halfpenny has continued acting, most recently appearing in the Channel 5 series The Drowning.
Darren Gough (2005)
Reality TV loves an underdog and cricketer Gough filled that role when he joined the cast of Strictly 2005. But the sportsman turned out to be surprisingly light on his feet and won over the public’s hearts together with his partner Lilia Kopylova. He was recently named as Yorkshire’s managing director of cricket and presents his own show on TalkSport.
Mark Ramprakash (2006)
The second in a cricket-playing double bill of winners, Ramprakash was responsible for one of the most shocking Strictly moments of all time, after his microphone got caught up in partner Karen Hardy’s dress mid-salsa and they had to stop their routine. Luckily, redemption came in the final, when the duo performed the dance perfectly and won the whole show. Ramprakash now works as a batting coach for England’s cricket team.
Alesha Dixon (2007)
Partnered with Matthew Cutler, Misteeq singer Dixon wowed the judges from her first appearance on Strictly and ended up beating out Matt Di Angelo and Gethin Jones to win the season. The show relaunched Dixon’s music career, bringing us the bop that is “The Boy Does Nothing”. It also landed her a controversial one-season stint on the judging panel where she replaced Arlene Phillips. She later moved over to Britain’s Got Talent, where she still serves as a judge.
Tom Chambers (2008)
Strictly series six will mostly be remembered for John Sergeant, who ended up removing himself from the competition after the viewers loved watching him drag his partner across the floor so much he worried he may win the whole thing. But throughout the series, eventual winner Chambers cemented his own title as a king of the ballroom with partner Camilla Dallerup. He was one of the first Strictly contestants to use the show to pivot to musical theatre, appearing in Top Hat in 2011 and Crazy for You in 2017.
Chris Hollins (2009)
Hollins and Ola Jordan were known as the pocket rockets during their appearance on Strictly, when they beat Ali Bastian and Ricky Whittle to the top spot after scoring 40 points for their amazing Bugsy Malone Charleston. Now, Hollins mostly presents golf programming on TV.
Kara Tointon (2010)
EastEnders star Tointon will go down in history as one of the best dancers to ever appear on Strictly – her and Artem Chigvintsev’s rumba, Argentine tango and paso doble are still wildly impressive to this day. In recent years, Tointon has predominantly performed on the stage, appearing in productions at the Royal Shakespeare Company and Theatre Royal Bath. She also played Kate Middleton this year in The Windsors: Endgame.
Harry Judd (2011)
2011 was the golden era of reality TV and the McFly boys were dominating, with Dougie Poynter being named King of the Jungle over on I’m A Celebrity weeks before drummer Judd lifted the Glitterball trophy with Aliona Vilani. Unfortunately, their bandmate Tom Fletcher had less luck on the show this series. Judd still performs with the band, who just finished touring the UK once again.
Louis Smith (2012)
Fresh off the back of Olympic success, Smith was already a much-loved face by the British public when he joined Strictly. The athlete was never afraid to incorporate his impressive gymnastic ability into his routines, most famously in his final showdance to Take That’s “Rule the World”. He’s also pivoted to musical theatre since leaving the show and can currently be seen appearing on the UK tour of Bring it On: The Musical.
Abbey Clancy (2013)
Model and WAG-about-town Clancy was the first celebrity to dance with now-Strictly favourite Aljaž Škorjanec. She helped him tango to victory in 2013, when they scored two perfect 40s across the series. Now, she continues to model and is also an ambassador for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Caroline Flack (2014)
Flack’s win on Strictly carries extra poignancy following her tragic death, but during her time on the show, she and Pasha Kovalev produced some jawdropping performances. The duo scored a rare perfect 120 points in the final. After Strictly, she presented the rebooted series of Love Island and also worked in musical theatre, starring in productions of Crazy for You and Chicago. Flack died by suicide in February 2020.
Jay McGuiness (2015)
Three years after she first won the show, Vilani once again waved her magic wand over a boyband member to become the first pro dancer to lift the Glitterball trophy twice. She and The Wanted’s McGuiness had it in the bag from week three, when their Pulp Fiction jive scored them the earliest ever Strictly 10 and earned them the title for the coolest dance ever. McGuiness went on to appear opposite fellow Strictly finalist Kimberly Walsh in Sleepless (a musical version of Sleepless in Seattle) and reunited with his Wanted bandmates earlier this year.
Ore Oduba (2016)
Few male celebrities on Strictly have embraced the ballroom world quite like Oduba, who went from underdog to winning the show in 2016 with Joanne Clifton. After hosting the Strictly live tour, the TV presenter also used Strictly to kickstart a musical theatre career, appearing in the Grease UK tour, Jason Manford’s musical Curtains, and played Brad in the UK tour of The Rocky Horror Show.
Joe McFadden (2017)
As the first series to air following the death of past presenter Bruce Forsyth, Strictly 2017 took some time for fans to get used to. But they ended up falling in love with the cast and its eventual winners, actor McFadden and partner Katya Jones. While McFadden was doing theatre long before Strictly came knocking, he too returned to the craft and recently appeared in the UK tour of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.
Stacey Dooley (2018)
Investigative reporter Dooley wasn’t initially a frontrunner to win Strictly, but her improvement from the show’s beginning to end helped her take home the trophy. Since the season aired, she’s continued presenting for TV and has continued in a relationship with her dance partner Kevin Clifton.
Kelvin Fletcher (2019)
Given his impact on the series, it’s easy to forget that Kelvin Fletcher wasn’t supposed to appear on Strictly (he was brought in to replace Jamie Laing after he injured himself at the launch show). It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for professional dancer Oti Mabuse, with Fletcher wowing the judges every week. He became known for both his intense stares and cheery grins. Next year, Fletcher will appear in a BBC documentary series about buying and moving to a farm with his wife and two kids.
Bill Bailey (2020)
After Mabuse won the 2019 series with Fletcher, Strictly bosses thought there was no way she’d go all the way to the end again with Bill Bailey. Yet the dancer and comedian ended up making an incredible pair. The duo arguably sealed the deal in week four with their couple’s choice routine to “Rappers Delight”. Some dances are so good that the audience just can’t let them go – no matter how good their competitors are. Bailey has since returned to touring with his comedy and has even thrown his hat into the ring to write a future UK Eurovision entry.
Strictly Come Dancing concludes Saturday 18 December at 7pm on BBC One.