Tess Daly: Strictly has shown the importance of on-screen representation

Tess Daly has said she feels Strictly Come Dancing has shown the importance of having on-screen representation as she recalled how “wonderful” it was for the show’s first all-male pairing to dance in the final last year.

The popular dance competition returned to screens this weekend for its 20th series, with Daly and Claudia Winkleman back on hosting duties.

Daly, who has presented the BBC One show since its first series in 2004, reflected on how she feels it has grown over the years with its audience.

Strictly Come Dancing 2022
(Guy Levy/BBC/PA)

She said: “I think the show has evolved and changed for the better. We never stop growing and pushing ourselves.

“We have the most incredible production team, our executive producer, Sarah James, is an actual genius.

“We’ve grown up with our audience. Last year we had our all male partnership dancing in the final and it was absolutely wonderful.

“I think it really showed how important it is to see representation on our screens.”

In the 2021 series, Bake Off star John Whaite and professional dancer Johannes Radebe became the first all-male couple on the show and finished as runners-up.

The 53-year-old model and presenter revealed that the team had “no idea” that it would last this long when it first started and that she has to occasionally remind herself of the significance of being involved in the show.

Reflecting on why she feels the programme has gripped the nation for so long, she added: “I think it is the warmth of the show and the joy that it brings.

“There’s always an air of celebration in the Strictly studio, and I really genuinely think that translates to the audience at home, they feel they’re a part of it, which they are because we couldn’t do it without them.

“Our audience has grown up with us, I meet people all the time who say ‘I’ve watched the show since I was a child, I watch with my family on a Saturday night, it’s the only show we’ve sat together as a family to watch, we plan our weekends around it’.

“It feels like a huge privilege to be part of people’s lives. It’s feel good TV at its best, and, let’s be honest, all of us need more of the feelgood factor in our lives right now.”

Children In Need 2014
Tess Daly started out hosting the dance competition alongside the late Sir Bruce Forsyth(Guy Levy/BBC/PA)

Daly started out hosting the dance competition alongside the late Sir Bruce Forsyth and Winkleman presented the spin-off show It Takes Two.

In 2010, Winkleman started co-presenting the results show on Sunday nights with Daly and later became a main co-host during the Saturday live shows following Sir Bruce’s departure in 2014.

Discussing the show’s longevity, Winkleman added: “We make it our absolute business to make sure that the celebrities have a good time, and I hope that emanates on screen.

“We’ve got the best professional dancers in the world, Dave Arch, a brilliant set, Tess, and the four unbelievable judges.

“I think its uplifting to watch people try something new, which is what the celebrities are doing.

“You go through ‘the journey’ with them. So a lot of little elements, all jumbled into one sparkly ball covered in spray tan.”

Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturday at 6:30pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.