After 13 amazing weeks of glitter, excitement and sensational dances, 15 celebrities have become four and just one will be able to lift that glitterball trophy in tonight’s Strictly final. I caught up with Gemma and Aljaz just days before the final.
Each couple will battle it out in the ballroom for the very last time as they perform three dances in a bid to impress the judges and the audience at home. Although the judges scores will be for guidance only though as the winner will be decided entirely by the viewer’s votes.
This week, I was invited along to the Strictly Final press conference at the BBC, hosted by last year’s champion Ore Oduba, to hear what the finalists have made of their Strictly journey as they look ahead to the final.
On making the final...
Aljaž: It’s been beautiful from the very start. We’re mostly having fun and then we do some dancing. It’s incredible that we’ve been able to make the final. It’s been a beautiful series, lots of highs and a few lows. But we got here and it’s just been the best! I’ve loved it. I don’t want it to end really.
Gemma: When we did the first show, we watched it back recently and it was bad on the night, but watching it back now it was really bad! I feel very lucky first and foremost to be here in the final and just grateful. Aljaž has been so patient with me.
We’ve all had 57 training sessions since we started and for each single training sessions, hand on heart, he has made me laugh ’til me stomach hurts. And that’s what makes it so lovely that we’ve got here with that fun element as well as working and grafting hard.
On realising the potential in Gemma...
Aljaž: Every single day probably. On a Monday I’ll walk in and if we’re doing a waltz, Gemma will walk in with Latin shoes and a short skirt! Then on a Saturday she can deliver a beautiful waltz so every single week when you get in on the Monday, that’s sort of my favourite part of Strictly.
That’s when you realise that if you throw yourself into anything, if you give yourself enough time and you give it your best effort you can really achieve a lot. And this season I’ve definitely learnt that.
We’re only here because of her determination and willingness to learn. Bear in mind Gemma wakes up at 4:30am every day to do the breakfast show, so by the time I see her at 10am, she’s almost cross-eyed! I’m proud of Gemma every day, every week. It’s not about making it to the final. We all have to put on a great show every week and if the dance goes well then the job is well done, but I never really look too far ahead because then you might be disappointed.
On inspiring others...
Gemma: Since starting this show, obviously I love training and I go to the gym and I’m not your petit dancer’s physique. I’m broad, I’m tall and everyone said to me that there’s no way I’d be able to do it because I’m too muscular or too much of a tomboy.
Obviously getting here is a massive achievement but I love the fact that women who perhaps do weight-training or do boxing, or don’t like wearing dresses at the weekend and don’t like a spray tan, have said to me “I’m going to try and do some dancing because you can do it.” That’s what I like. Not that we’re paving the way for anyone but it’s just proving that you shouldn’t fit into a stereotype because of your build or because of what you’re naturally good at or what you gravitate to as your hobby.
I never in a million years would have thought I’d have a frock on dancing the Viennese Waltz with Aljaž. I feel more comfortable in a boxing ring, but I’ve done it so I’d like to think for any women who aren’t 5’2" and tiny, you can do it being my height and my build. And you can enjoy it!
On the public support...
Gemma: It’s so lovely because obviously we have judges in the show, and they’re there to give us constructive criticism, but ultimately it’s an entertainment show for the public. So when you’re voted through every week. It’s because people at home have enjoyed it and picked up the phone or whatever. This is the first job I’ve done where people of all different ages have come up to me and wished me luck. You forget that it’s such an amazing popular show.
It does mean a lot because we’ve had weeks where the dance hasn’t gone to plan and I’ve said afterwards “I’m so sorry” and then you get through and you wake up the next morning, and obviously you’ve got people who are experts at dancing from their armchair, but you’ve also got so so many more people who praise you for trying and that’s what we’re all doing.
I love it when people appreciate Aljaž and the choreography, because the pros work so hard. On a Sunday when we’re trying to recoup, these are lookig to the next routine so when that’s mentioned as well I think well done to these guys because they do work so so hard in creating the dance, let alone teaching it to us!
On their favourite dance by another finalist...
Gemma: I loved Alex and Gorka’s Paso. I thought it was amazing and because it was so early on in the competition the nerves were even more high and I thought the choreography was great and Alex nailed it.
On their show dance...
Aljaž: Well Gemma choreographed a beautiful routine. (Laughs) It’s basically paying tribute to our whole Strictly story really. How much Gemma has improved in her confidence and just her being a really strong woman from day one but now being a strong woman while she’s dancing.
It’s a great track and I’ve actually been wanting to do it for a little while. It suits Gemma really well in rehearsals so hopefully I know it’s going to go incredible on the night. It’s the last new dance we’re going to perform on Strictly so it’s all very very very emotional and sad because we want to throw everything in it. Everything that we’ve done. But the song is only one minute and 44 seconds long! I can’t wait to do it.
On backstage rituals...
Gemma: In week one, Susan danced to that song “If you know Susan, like I know Susan...” and the whole of the next week Giovanni walking through every corridor would sing “If you know Susan, like I know Susan...” to the point where I had to go “Enough Giovanni, just shut up now!”
But before every single show, no matter where we are in the building, he comes and finds me and goes “Gemma, do you know Susan?"
On life after Strictly...
Gemma: I’m going to carry on doing my radio show, I’ve just signed there for another year. And then I’m going to be hounding all this lot on the group messenger, making sure everyone is OK and asking when we’re going to go out dancing.
I’ve had friends who have done the show and they’ve all said to me “When it finishes, it’s kind of like a break-up. There’s kind of a grieving process” and I was like “Really?! Don’t be so stupid. But I get it now, because as we’re getting less and less time together, it does hit home that on Monday I’m not going to get a call from him (Aljaž) telling me what my choreography is or what time we’re starting. Hopefully we all keep in touch.