No sooner had the current season of Strictly started, than we viewers were hooked to the ballroom action and deciding who we liked best!
With so many good dancers to choose from, it’s hard to predict who will scoop the glitterball in December.
As we sashay our way toward the Strictly 2021 final, it feels like the perfect time to look back at the last 18 – yes 18 – series to remind ourselves of which stars have previously taken home that prized trophy!
Strictly Come Dancing winners in full
Series 1: 2004 (July) – Natasha Kaplinsky and Brendan Cole
Once upon a time back in the summer of 2004, the BBC launched a brand new reality competition show called Strictly.
Among the first set of contestants to take part was the formidable newsreader and television presenter, Natasha Kaplinsky, who danced with dancer Brendan Cole.
When she was first approached about taking part on the show, the then BBC Breakfast host almost turned it down.
“My immediate reaction was, ‘No thank you!'” Natasha revealed recently. “I was getting up at 3.20am to be on-air from 6am and also I worried that taking part in an untested dance show might be a risk for my career.”
Luckily, she decided to accept the BBC’s offer (donating her fee to a children’s charity Merlin) and took to the dance floor like a duck to water, receiving the highest mark in eight out of ten dances and even scoring a perfect ten.
During the series there were rumours of a romance when Brendan ditched his girlfriend and fellow Strictly pro Camilla Dallerup, but neither commented on the rumours at the time.
However, recently Natasha put the rumours to bed once and for all, revealing: “There was no romance with Brendan, just a huge level of respect for the way he taught me,” she says.
“Our ‘affair’ was said to be taking place alongside three or four other men the red tops claimed I was involved with – including Tony Benn! The reality was, I’d fall into bed alone at 8pm every evening, exhausted.”
In the final, she took on EastEnders star Christopher Parker and was crowned the first-ever champion.
After her stint as a contestant, she returned to Strictly for the first half of the second series to co-host with Bruce Forsyth, while Tess Daly was on maternity leave.
She also took part in the Christmas Special in 2012.
Looking back on her experience, Natasha only has good memories.
“I pinch myself that I was the first winner of the first series of a programme that has gone on to dominate light entertainment globally. Nothing can take that away,” she says, adding, “The whole experience was magical.”
Series 2: 2004 (December) – Jill Halfpenny and Darren Bennett
Back in 2005 Jill Halfpenny was best known for her roles in shows such as Byker Grove and EastEnders, but her spell on Strictly helped her to forge a successful career on the West End stage.
Coupled with pro dancer Darren Bennett, the Geordie actress wowed the judges and went on to receive the full 40 marks from the judges for their Jive in the final.
Three years later she and Darren returned to the ballroom for a Christmas special and proved she’d not lost her skills by impressing the studio audience enough to vote her Champion of Champions.
Although she went on to land many roles in the West End such as Chicago, Jill says that she was left a little ‘frightened’ by the process.
“The experience of winning Strictly Come Dancing was mad,” she recalls.
“When I started it I was ‘Kate from EastEnders’ but by the end people knew my name.
“But I got frightened by it. I do this thing where I go into my shell a bit. I would tell myself to enjoy it and be proud. Let the insecurity go.”
Jill says she is a big fan of the show, but admits it took her a while to get over the stress of being on it.
“There was a time when the music used to make me feel slightly sick, because I just felt so nervous even at the sound of it, but now I’m just a fan.
“I just watch like everybody else does, I just love it.”
Strictly Come Dancing winners: Series 3: 2005 – Darren Gough and Lilia Kopylova
For the third series, English cricketer Darren Gough teamed up with pro dancer Lilia Kopylova and unexpectedly went on to scoop the title.
Even more outstanding was that the pair also appeared on Christmas Specials in 2005 and 2007 where they received top marks for the Quickstep and American Smooth respectively.
After his triumph Darren created a ten-step guide on how to win the glitterball, which included this sage advice: “It’s not always the best dancers that win, I’m a perfect example of that.
“By the end I was pretty nifty, but I’m not a natural dancer. If you’ve got your personality, use it!”
Series 4: 2006 – Karen Hardy and Mark Ramprakash
There must be something about cricketers that gives them an advantage on the dance floor as, a year after Darren Gough’s triumph, fellow batsman Mark Ramprakash also scooped the title.
But it wasn’t all plain sailing.
During one episode, he and pro dancer Karen Hardy had to restart their Salsa when Ramprakash’s microphone got caught on her dress.
Despite this, they still managed to score four nines for the routine.
When they reprised their Salsa in the final, they were awarded 40 marks helping them to secure a win with viewers.
Even though he managed to impress the judges and viewers, Mark admitted that he doubted his ability during the series: “I’d never say I was confident going out to dance because it can take one small lapse in concentration and you can go wrong.”
Of his experience on the show, he paid tribute to his pro dancer, saying: “From the very first day I met Karen Hardy she has given me the experience of a lifetime. It has been an absolute privilege to be on the show.
Unlike many winners, Mark didn’t pursue a telly career and returned to the sport he loved.
Series 5: 2007 – Alesha Dixon and Matthew Cutler
Having been a hugely successful popstar in the band Mis-Teeq, it came as little surprise that gorgeous Alesha Dixon would be a superstar on the dance floor.
Week in, week out, she and her pro dancer Matthew Cutler dazzled viewers and judges with her agile moves and it was inevitable that she would soar her way to the final and scoop the glitterball.
While the pair were strictly professional during the series, Alesha later admitted that the intense training had led her to have strong feelings for her partner.
“I was single at the time. I probably tried to snog him, knowing me,” she told Jonathan Ross.
“Thing is, on Strictly, I was just so focused on doing well that I didn’t have time for the hanky panky and the nonsense that goes on.
“Do you know what though, the sexual chemistry is real. You’re rubbing up upon them! It is intense so I can see how it goes down that road.”
Back on the dance floor, she surprisingly never scored a perfect ten throughout the series, averaging an impressive 36.5.
Her appearance on the show not only revived her music career, it also helped launch her as a TV star when Strictly producers invited Alesha to become a judge on the show, ditching veteran choreographer Arlene Phillips in the process.
Although the singer took the job in good faith, viewers were outraged as it was assumed that Arlene had been a victim of ageism.
Later Arlene spoke about the terrible way the producers had handled her departure, having found out from the press before her bosses had the courtesy to tell her.
“I didn’t have a contract that automatically rolled onto the next year, but I think it was handled so poorly,’ she recalled.
“As a woman I should’ve thought about it, I should’ve demanded why the woman had gone, and three men remain.
“I should have asked them to analyse it. I should have had the strength to at least ask for reasons and if not getting the reasons, a damn well apology.”
Speaking recently on actress Natalie Anderson’s podcast, The Capsule, Arlene said: ‘I didn’t have the strength, I didn’t have the will. I was pathetic.”
Alesha, on the other hand, went from strength to strength, enjoying her time on the judging panel, which led to Simon Cowell poaching her for the Britain’s Got Talent.
Looking back, Alesha credits the show with helping her get over tough times in her life such as her marriage split from So Solid star Harvey.
“Winning Strictly Come Dancing changed my life,” she told Digital Spy. “It came into my life at a time when I needed a lift, I needed something positive, and it really, really was the tonic that I needed.”
“For about five years, Strictly Come Dancing was a huge part of my life and it was just a wonderful experience that I will hold dear to me for the rest of my life.”
Strictly Come Dancing winners: Series 6: 2008 – Tom Chambers and Camilla Dallerup
Swoonsome Tom Chambers was a star of Holby when he was teamed up with Camilla Dallerup in series six.
Although he failed to get tens across the board, he and Cam surprised many by winning the show.
And his victory had a massive impact on his life.
Aside from taking home the glitterball, Tom’s win opened doors for him that took him to the West End, where he starred in a variety of hit shows.
“I owe my entire theatrical career to Strictly,” says Tom.
“I got to do White Christmas and Fred Astaire’s role in Top Hat in the West End, which got me an Olivier nomination. It’s been magical.”
Looking back, Tom admits he found being on the show quite a scary experience but says he can’t really recall too much of it
“The show dance is the only one I remember,” he told a newspaper. “It’s like I’ve got amnesia because it’s such a white-knuckle ride. I’ve had to watch my other dances on YouTube.”
However, what he does remember best were his moments with original host Sir Bruce Forsyth. “If you were first you got to stand with Bruce and chat to him,” recalls Tom.
“It was fantastic. He’d tell me about golfing and being in the bar with Sean Connery. Once I asked, “Bruce, how do you do it? We’re exhausted but you have to come out and be entertaining all the time.” He said, ‘Tom, if I rest, I rust.'”
Series 7: 2009 – Chris Hollins and Ola Jordan
Presenter, journo and sportsman Chris Hollins may not have been a household name, but when he was matched up with Ola Jordan, he had judges and viewers in awe.
Throughout the series, the pair of them danced their socks off and never once ended up in the dreaded dance-off.
He also gained the highest scores for two of his performances in the final.
Following his success on the show, Chris went to present lots of shows including Watchdog and Secret Britain.
Strictly Come Dancing winners: Series 8: 2010 – Kara Tointon and Artem Chigvintsev
Kara Tointon was best known at the time for starring in EastEnders.
A skilled actress, it appeared to viewers and judges that rhythm and grace came easily to her so it was no surprise that she eventually won the show.
But the lucky lass left the show with more than just a trophy – she found love too, falling for the charm and talent of her pro dancer Artem Chigvintsev.
The pair dated for a while but split in 2014.
While Artem is dating his Dancing With The Stars partner, WWE wrestler Nikki Bella, Kara has had two children with her fiance Marius Jensen – Frey born in 2018 and Helly born in January 2021.
Reflecting on her time on the show, Kara says she had fun but admits she was not happy with her performances in the final, which she has described as a car crash after she was forced to dance both a Waltz and American Smooth with an injured arm.
“You are meant to get better every week, but I had quite a bad injury in the final the day before, I pulled some ligaments in my arm,” she said.
“On the day of the final, I was in quite a lot of pain. So my final dance was a bit of a car crash. It was just awful because I couldn’t really move.
“When I watch it back, I cringe at the final. But all the other weeks I remember very fondly.”
Series 9: 2011 – Harry Judd and Aliona Vilani
Hunky McFly drummer Harry Judd proved he had some get up and go when he won the show with his pro Aliona Vilani.
Harry stunned the judges with his moves every week and topped the leaderboard in week seven.
But it was only in the final that he managed to achieve the perfect score of 40. In fact, he did it twice.
Ten years on, Harry, who went on to appear in theatre show Rip It Up with other Strictly stars and continues to tour with McFly, says he still keeps a close a eye on the show.
“It’s hard not to tune into Strictly in my household,” he said. “My wife Izzy loves it.”
He’s currently cheering on bandmate Tom Fletcher.
Strictly Come Dancing winners: Series 10: 2012 – Louis Smith and Flavia Cacace
Bendy Olympic gymnast Louis Smith showed the judges and viewers from the outset that he would be a great mover on the dance floor and, coupled with Flavia Cacace, it was a dead cert he’d make the final.
In fact, he didn’t just make the final, he won the whole show in one of the most hotly contested finals in Strictly Come Dancinghistory.
After the show, Louis made various TV appearances, toured the UK with Strictly alumni Harry Judd, Aston Merrygold and Jay McGuinness in Rip It Up! and last year he won the first series of The Masked Singer.
Reflecting on the show, he admits his experience on Strictly ‘was just all positives’.
“You know the numbers that Strictly hits, it’s obviously a fantastic show and I really enjoy it and I think it’s evolved very well,” he says.
“I think it’s one of the best shows out there and I will always have the fondest memories.”
Series 11: 2013 – Abbey Clancy and Aljaz Skorjanec
Model, TV presenter and wife of Peter Crouch, Abbey beat off finalists Susana Reid, Natalie Gumede and Sophie Ellis-Bexter in a spectacular final show in series 11.
Notching up her first ten during Blackpool week, and her first 40 during Musicals Week, Abbey couldn’t believe her luck.
Looking back, she says Strictly Come Dancing was “the most perfect experience [she’s] had.”
Following her triumph on Strictly, Abbey returned to Britain’s Next Top Model as the new host, nine years after participating and coming runner-up on the modelling show.
She also published a book called Remember My Name in 2016.
Series 12: 2014 – Pasha Kovalev and Caroline Flack
Having quit The Xtra Factor, Caroline signed up to Strictly and was partnered up Pasha Kovalev.
It was clear from the outset that the multitalented lass could move around the floor, one week scoring perfect 40s, and viewers and judges lapped her up, making her their winner.
Speaking about her win, she gushed: “This is the best feeling in the whole world. This has been the best experience of my whole life, mostly because of Pasha, but also because of the other contestants. I’m so lucky to get to know this incredible bunch of people.”
After her win, Simon Cowell snapped her up to host The X Factor with Olly Murs, but left after just one series.
In 2020, Caroline took her life.
The Strictly team paid a special tribute to the star last October.
In it, Pasha said of Caroline: “We saw how she transformed into that beautiful dancer with a big heart on her sleeve. That series will always have a special place in my heart.”
Strictly Come Dancing winners: Series 13: 2015 – Jay McGuiness and Aliona Vilani
The quiet one of The Wanted proved to audiences that there was more to him that met the eye.
Together with Aliona Vilani, Jay captivated viewers with his deft moves but it was his Jive to the track Misirlou that he is best remembered for, during which he recreated a scene from the film Pulp Fiction.
When he won, he said: “It feels surreal. It does feel amazing because I enjoyed every second of our last dance. In my head now I think, ‘Oh people enjoyed it, too.'”
But he later said that even though the judges liked what he did on the dance floor, nerves built up when the viewer votes came in.
“I think people can really fall in love with your dancing, and then you still don’t win, or people can really like you as a person and you still don’t win,” he said.
“It actually comes down to who votes. Even if someone does amazing and the judges love them all the way through the series, I think that when you’re all stood there waiting for the results no one has any idea of who might get through.”
Jay went on to perform in the UK tour of Rip It Up and has reunited with The Wanted.
Series 14: 2016 – Ore Oduba and Joanne Clifton
When Ore Oduba appeared on Strictly he was a little known sports presenter.
But no sooner had he hit the dance floor and shown off his impressive moves, the nation had fallen in love with him and his pro Joanne Clifton.
Although all of his routines hit the mark with viewers, it was his Jive to Runaway Baby that had judges and viewers agog.
And to think that initially he hadn’t wanted to appear on the show.
“When I got the call I became a jibbering mess,’ he recalled. “I’m more competitive with myself than anyone else. Always strive for perfection, even if it’s completely unrealistic.”
After his win, Ore’s dream of guest presenting This Morning came true and he went on to front shows such as The One show and a programme for Radio 2.
Ore and his wife Portia welcomed their son Roman in early 2018 and they are currently expecting their second child.
Strictly Come Dancing winners: Series 15: 2017 – Joe McFadden and Katya Jones
Holby star Joe McFadden couldn’t believe it when he and Katya Jones beat out Alexandra Burke and Debbie McGee to be crowned winners of the 2017 series of Strictly.
Consistently good throughout the show, the pair were only awarded their first 40 of the series during the finale.
“Oh my goodness! It’s completely surreal! We did it!” a giddy Joe said at the time.
And yet in spite of his win, Joe admitted that when he was first asked about signing up he was in two minds about saying ‘yes’.
“In the beginning I was like, ‘I can’t do this, there has been a terrible mistake, I shouldn’t be here. I’m not right for this show,’ and you really believe that,” he said.
“But everyone feels that way, especially in the beginning, and that’s the thing that draws us all together and you think ‘everyone else is managing so I just need to knuckle down’.
“I don’t think anyone has ever refused to go on.”
Having been part of a show like Strictly, he says he has a new appreciation for how hard and nerve-wracking it is to appear on competition shows.
‘When I watch Strictly I’m going to be feeling the nerves because I know how nerve-wracking it is being pushed out in front of all those people and not really being sure of what you’re doing but having to appear confident and having to be entertaining.’
Series 16: 2018 – Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton
Best known as a serious broadcast journalist, it came as a massive surprise that Stacey Dooley was such a sensation on the dance floor.
Of course, she partnered up with Kevin Clifton which no doubt helped too.
But there’s no denying this girl could dance, beating Ashley Roberts, Joe Sugg and Faye Tozer to the glitter ball.
When Tess announced their win, Stacey paid tribute to her partner: “Kev, listen, you know how highly I think of you. I think you’re the biggest gent. It’s no coincidence he’s been in the final as many times as he has. I’ve had the most incredible time. It’s daunting, you feel silly, a bit of an idiot, but Kevin walks you through – you deserve this.” They then picked up the Glitterball Trophy together.
Months later, the triumphant pair announced that love had blossomed since the show, which didn’t come as a surprise to Stacey’s ex Sam Tucknott, who told the press he had suspected something had been going on during the series.
Stacey remained adamant that she and Kev got together long after she and Sam had split, admitting, “I didn’t want to be such a cliche – it’s so cringe and cheesy. I want to be cooler than this. Kev and I were pals for such a long time.
“I liked hanging out with him. So it was much later down the line for us.”
Series 17: 2019 – Kelvin Fletcher and Oti Mabuse
Hunky former Emmerdale star Kelvin Fletcher was apparently originally in talks to appear on Dancing On Ice when series 17 of Strictly began.
However, when Made In Chelsea’s Jamie Laing had to pull out with an injury, Kelvin signed up to Strictly.
A child ballet dancer, the muscular actor gave Craig Revell Horwood orgasmic thrills as he swept Oti Mabuse across the floor, flexing and flashing his pecs.
The pair wowed week after week with some unforgettable dances, not to mention Kelvin’s incredible hip action in the Samba.
Them hips don’t lie!
Some time after winning, he told a podcast how much he had enjoyed the experience on the show.
He said: “I love the show and I used to watch it with my wife and I thought, ‘I’ve never danced, but I feel like I’ve got rhythm,’ he said, clearly choosing to forget about his ballet experience.
“Every time we go to a birthday or a wedding, I’m always up dancing, I felt like I had a bit of groove in me and I just thought I’d give it a go.
“I had wanted to do it for so long, I’ve auditioned for it before, but they said no, coming at the last minute wasn’t the ideal scenario, but sometimes opportunities present themselves.
“Never in a million years did I think I’d go on to win it.”
Series 18: 2020 – Bill Bailey and Oti Mabuse
As funny as he is, few ever expected to see Bill Bailey win Strictly.
But with dance floor dynamo Oti Mabuse, he did just that.
When they became winners, Bill said: “It feels surreal, it feels extraordinary, it feels wonderful. I never thought we’d get this far, I never thought we’d get to the final – but I had the most extraordinary teacher, the most extraordinary dancer!”
So there you have it, all the Strictly Come Dancing winners… who do you think will join the ranks this year? Join the debate on our Facebook page @EntertainmentDailyFix.
Strictly continues on BBC1 every Saturday.