When Angela Scanlon was making her New Year’s resolutions, she decided 2023 would be the year of “yes” and wrote “surprise me” in her diary. So when she was asked to sign up to the 21st series of Strictly Come Dancing she decided to go for it.
“I went into this year with the mentality of whatever is chucked at me, I’ll say yes,” she says. “It’s maybe a bit bigger than I was hoping for but I asked for it, so I’d better go with it.”
The 39-year-old Irish broadcaster is known for hosting BBC Two’s Your Home Made Perfect and her stints on The One Show.
But she’ll be doing less talking and more dancing as she competes against the likes of comedian Les Dennis, Love Island’s Zara McDermott, West End star Layton Williams and Coronation Street’s Ellie Leach.
As we chat, she’s preparing for a week of rehearsals, having just learnt the identity of her pro partner, revealed last night during Strictly’s launch show. “I felt like I was in limbo waiting to hear and everyone kept saying, ‘Who do you want it to be?’ I didn’t want to say it out loud because if it didn’t happen, I’d have been quite devastated.”
This isn’t the first time Angela had been approached about Strictly, but the mum of two young daughters, Ruby and baby Marnie, feels now is the time.
“I have a five year old and an 18 month old and it still feels a little delicate for me, but I’m really big into timings. We’ve had the conversation before and it hasn’t been right – I’ve been trying to have a baby or thinking about having a baby or pregnant. When it came in this year, there wasn’t really a question. Ruby loves the show. She was like, ‘Can I do it, too? Are we doing it together?’ She was quite devastated when she realised she couldn’t dance with me.”
Angela’s tech entrepreneur husband Roy Horgan was in favour of it, too. “He said go for it. That’s always been his mentality. Hugely supportive and of the school of thought that you regret the things you don’t do rather than the things that you do,” she says. “Sometimes I can be selective or protective of myself, but actually, I’m just a bit afraid.”
Despite her intensive rehearsal schedule, Angela and Roy, who married in 2014 and live in London, should be able to spend more time together now she is tied to the UK for Strictly.
She says, “I travel quite a bit for work. I do a chat show in Ireland and my work here takes me all over the place. The idea that I’ll be waking up at home every day feels like a bit of consistency – even though everything else feels very different.”
It’s the week before training starts when we’re having our chat, but Angela reveals the celebrity cast, including Amanda Abbington, Adam Thomas and Angela Rippon, have already launched a WhatsApp group.
“I’d just come back from the summer holidays so It was a proper back-to-school feeling when I met them all. I felt like I was four again. I’m excited but obviously anxious. We’re all doing something that’s completely out of our comfort zone, though.”
The ex-Robot Wars host turned to friends and Strictly alumni Ellie Taylor and radio DJ Clara Amfo for advice.
“Ellie has a young daughter, so I was kind of conscious of how that works with kids and waking up on a Sunday morning, your day off, when you’re up at 5.30am – I have two early-bird children.
“I think mostly I’m trying to manage my expectations of myself and everybody else around me,” she adds. “The resounding feedback has been, ‘Brace yourself but it’s the best thing you’ll ever do’. That’s my motivation in life generally, to do things that feel frightening and really uncomfortable, and I feel like I haven’t done it for a while.”
While Angela sees Strictly as a professional challenge, she reckons it’s going to be a weighty personal one as well.
“After school we neglect to take up new things that make our brains work in different ways – and our glutes. I think I’ve had quite a complicated relationship with my body for many years so there’s a part of me that’s excited to do something where I’m getting strong and right in it.
“There’s something magical about dancing. It’s quite healing without getting too airy-fairy. We’re supposed to move our bodies and be free and expressive, and I haven’t been very good at that in many years.”
Is she ready for the attention that comes with Strictly? “I don’t know that I am,” she confesses. “I think I’m a pretty solid, grounded human. I’ve got an amazing family who are not in that world and not that impressed by it.”
Angela adds Westlife’s Nicky Byrne, who was on the show in 2012, had told her he could never have prepared for Strictly. “No matter where he went, he had kids and grannies telling him they loved his tango. He said, ‘Just embrace it all’. So I’m going to try and enjoy it all.”
What Angela isn’t ready to embrace, however, are the Strictly spray tans. “Sequins? Literally roll me in them. But fake tan? I haven’t worn fake tan in 15 years. I had quite an intense relationship with it. I was very committed and it wasn’t a light hue. Maybe a little bit of make-up but I don’t know if I’m going to be getting into the booth every Friday.”
As for the dances she can’t wait to tackle, Angela admits she’s raring to go with the rumba. “On the one hand, it fills me with absolute dread, but it also looks slow. It might be a bit restful.”
She did Irish dancing as a child, but doubts it will come in handy now. “Irish dancing is very rigid and you dance on your own so you never have to factor in another person’s limbs. Maybe I can do it for a Couple’s Choice,” she laughs.
Strictly Come Dancing launches on Saturday 16th September at 6:45pm on BBC One.
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