Strictly champs now – curse splits, fiery rant at show and heartbreaking death

Viewers are eagerly waiting to see who will lift the glitter ball trophy and be crowned the Strictly Come Dancing 2021 champion this evening.

The series has seen strong competition so far, with stellar performances from finalists including Rose Ayling Ellis and John Whaite.

Just like previous years, it's going to be a close competition, with the judges having to choose between two incredibly talented couples to crown their ultimate winner.

Unfortunately, AJ has been forced to drop out following an injury, so for the first time ever the Strictly final will be between just two people.

Since Strictly began in 2004, celebrities have found new levels of fame after winning the show, with many going on to take their dancing skills to the stage.

Ahead of tonight's final, Daily Star looks at where former Strictly Come Dancing winners are now.

Natasha Kaplinsky

News broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky was the first ever winner of Strictly Come Dancing in 2004, alongside professional dance partner Brendan Cole.

Since then, she has been awarded an OBE for her services to the Holocaust Commission and continued to present the news on BBC, until leaving to join Channel 5 in 2008. From there she also went on to present the news on ITV from 2011.

In her personal life, Natasha has been married to Justin Bower since 2005 and they have two children together.

She also contributed to the book, Letters from Lockdown, in which she spoke about her husband's battle with Long Covid.

In the book she wrote: "There are times when he literally just goes to bed for a week and feels dreadful.

"I cannot tell you how much gratitude we have to NHS key workers. They’ve certainly got us through the pandemic.

“We feel so lucky because there are many who haven’t had the happy ending that we have."

Jill Halfpenny

Jill Halfpenny followed in Natasha's footsteps to win the second series of Strictly Come Dancing, alongside professional dance partner Darren Bennett in December 2004.

She was already a well known face to viewers, starring in rival soaps EastEnders and Coronation Street as Kate Mitchell and Rebecca Hopkins respectively.

Along with a dazzling onstage career in productions such as Chicago, where she once again showed off her dancing skills, Jill is now a presenter for BBC Radio 2.

She also returned to TV in 2021, appearing in drama series The Drowning.

In her personal life, she was married to Craig Conway from 2007-2010 and they had one child together.

Darren Gough

Cricket player Darren Gough won the glitterball trophy in 2005 with professional dance partner Lilia Kopylova, and the duo even went on to perform in the first ever Strictly Come Dancing Christmas special in the same year.

Despite having retired from the world of professional cricket in 2008, Darren has kept a foot in the sporting world as he is a host on Talk Sport Radio.

He was also appointed an MBE in 2020 for services to cricket and charity.

Darren hit out at the show back in 2020 for allowing celebs with dance experience to compete, saying: "That’s my biggest bugbear now. They always say they haven’t done it but they have. I believed the public would vote them out because they would see right through that

"When I look back, my biggest compliment from anyone is that people always thought men shouldn’t dance.

"But over the years – especially with all the popularity you get from the show – a lot of people who are already great dancers want to sign up to do the show."

Mark Ramprakash

The England Cricket team seems to be full of talented dancers, as in 2006, cricket player Mark Ramprakash won Strictly Come Dancing in 2006.

After lifting the glitterball trophy, he continued to play cricket for England until moving behind the scenes, and becoming a batting coach for the team, and was also made an MBE in 2013 for services to sport.

In his personal life, he was married to Vandana Bhatt from 1993-2010.

Alesha Dixon

Singer Alesha Dixon already showed that he had impressive dance moves in the pop group Misteeq, before winning the glitterball trophy in 2007 with professional dance partner Matthew Cutler.

She then moved from the dance floor to the judging panel from 2007-2009, before going on to join the panels of other famous talent shows including Britain's Got Talent, The Greatest Dancer and most recently, Walk the Line on ITV in 2021.

Alesha also continued her music career after leaving Strictly, releasing hit singles including The Boy does Nothing, and three successful solo albums between 2008-2015.

She has also built bridges with her ex MC Harvey, who she ended her marriage with after discovering he was having an affair with singer Javine.

Speaking this year, MC Harvey revealed the pair had secretly met up at his step-dad's funeral and cleared the air in a phone call after, saying on Anything Goes With James English podcast: "Alesha then rang me, six months before I met my wife, and she said:, ‘I just want you to be happy, Harv.'

"I apologised to her about what happened in the past, we had a mature conversation. We talked about our kids, I said to her: ‘Your kids are beautiful.’ She said: ‘Your kids are beautiful.'"

Tom Chambers

Soap actor Tom Chambers won Strictly Come Dancing in 2008 alongside professional dance partner Camilla Dallerup, returning to perform in the Christmas special that year.

It seemed you couldn't keep him away from the dance floor, as he returned for the 2015 Christmas special and has since had a glittering career onstage in productions such as Top Hat and Dial M for Murder.

Having already won the nation's hearts on medical dramas including Holby City, he has since gone on to star in programmes including Waterloo Road and Father Brown.

He also delighted fans when in 2016, he reprised his role of Sam Strachan in Casualty, and also had a soap role as Clive in Emmerdale in 2018.

In his personal life, Tom has been married to Clare Harding since 2008 and they have three children together.

Chris Hollins

BBC presenter Chris Hollins followed in fellow journalist Natasha Kaplinsky's footsteps and lifted the glitterball trophy in 2009.

He has since continued to be a familiar presence on our tv screens, hosting programmes including The Food Inspectors and Cash in the Attic, as well as BT Sport Live.

Although quiet about his personal life, the presenter has been married to Sarah Alexander since 2012.

Kara Tointon

Kara Tointon won Strictly Come Dancing in 2010 alongside professional dance partner Artem Chigvintsev, and also his heart, as the pair began a relationship while working together.

However, their romance was not meant to be, and the couple split up in 2014.

The former EastEnders Dawn actress has continued to show off her impressive dance moves on stage since leaving the soap, performing in West End shows such as Pygmalion and starring as Maria in ITV's Sound of Music.

She also hasn't left our TV screens, appearing in programmes including Mr Selfridge, Henry IX and is listed as appearing in a number of TV series currently in production.

Harry Judd

While McFly's Tom Fletcher was voted out of the 2021 series of Strictly, his fellow band member Harry Judd lifted the glitterball trophy in 2011 with professional dance partner Aliona Vilani.

Despite McFly taking a break from music, the band have since reformed and have continued to perform on tours, both on their own and with Busted, as the supergroup McBusted.

He also published a book, Get Fit, Get Happy, as well as appearing on programmes including Celebrity Juice and most recently Cooking with the Stars.

It is estimated that Harry's net worth is also a huge £1.5 million.

Harry also recently welcomed his third child with wife Izzy Judd, who he has been married to since 2012.

Louis Smith

Olympian Louis Smith showed off his impressive physical prowess on the dance floor in 2012, winning Strictly alongside professional dance partner Flavia Cacace.

In the same year, he had also won a bronze and a silver medal in Gymnastics at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

After continuing to represent Britain in the Olympics, he has retired and moved into theatre and TV work, where Louis has since won another talent show – The Masked singer.

He was appointed an MBE in 2013 for services to gymnastics.

Abbey Clancy

Model Abbey Clancy regularly dazzled viewers and the judges alongside professional dance partner Aljaz Skorjanec with their dance routines, winning Strictly in 2013.

Abbey has since hosted Britain's Next Top Model, and has also published two fiction books: Remember My Name and I'll Be Home For Christmas.

In 2019, she also welcomed her fourth child with footballer and podcast host husband Peter Crouch, who she has been married to since 2011.

The couple also recently shared festive snaps of themselves at home on Instagram, including one post of Peter holding a guitar and Abbey in a Christmas hat, along with another snap of a huge Christmas tree being professionally installed into their mansion.

The company who installed the tree also shared photos on their own social media pages, with the caption: "Gorgeous for gorgeous @abbeyclancy. Enjoy my darling"

Caroline Flack

Caroline Flack and professional dance partner Pasha Kovalev stole the show in 2014, as not only did they lift the glitterball trophy, but they are the only duo in Strictly history to receive 40 points for each of their finale dances.

After winning Strictly, Caroline became a host on popular television programmes the X-Factor and Love Island.

Sadly, in 2020, Caroline took her own life and stars took to social media to pay tribute to the presenter.

Strictly host Tess Daly said: "Absolutely shocked and devastated at this tragic news. Rest in peace Caroline you beautiful girl."

Her co-host Claudia Winkleman added that it was "such heartbreaking news".

Jay McGuiness

Jay McGuiness was the first member of boyband The Wanted to compete in Strictly, with Max George following in his footsteps a few years later.

However despite Max George being voted out of the 2020 competition, in 2015, Jay lifted the glitterball trophy with professional dance partner Aliona Vilani.

He is due to embark on a UK tour with The Wanted in 2022, after the group reformed this year.

They most recently performed on ITV show The Full Monty, performing hit single Glad you Came with fellow band member Tom Parker, who announced in October 2020 that he had been diagnosed with an inoperable grade 4 glioblastoma.

Tom told host Ashley Banjo: "Obviously I did this show two years ago and I didn't think I'd be two years down the line and have cancer, but here we are," he said.

"But we're doing it for a good cause and everyone is here for a good purpose."

Ore Oduba

TV presenter Ore Oduba won Strictly Come Dancing in 2016, with professional dance partner Joanne Clifton.

It seems it sparked a love for performance, as the presenter has since moved into a career onstage, performing in a UK tour of Grease and in various West End productions including The Rocky Horror Show.

He has also recently participated in Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins on Channel 4.

Ahead of this weekend's Strictly final, he also revealed to The Mirror that he cannot wait to watch the show, saying: "It could be one of the closest finals ever, and that makes for an amazing show, I can’t wait to watch."

He also revealed that he still has a close bond with professional dance partner Joanne Clifton, adding: "I messaged her and sent her flowers for the opening night of her show only the other day and yes the show gave me a best friend for life."

Ore has been married to Portia Oduba since 2015 and the couple have one child together.

Joe McFadden

Nearly a decade after Tom Hollins lifted the glitterball trophy, fellow Holby City actor Joe McFadden won Strictly with professional dance partner Katya Jones.

Known to viewers as Raf Di Lucca in Holby City, the fan favourite and soap heartthrob character was killed off in 2016, much to the disappointment of viewers.

Joe is another former Strictly winner to have taken to the stage since winning the competition, performing in productions including Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.

He has also most recently starred in Ghost Seekers in 2020.

Stacey Dooley

Journalist and broadcaster Stacey Dooley won Strictly Come Dancing in 2018 with partner Kevin Clifton, with the duo also becoming a real life couple over the course of the competition.

The couple are still together, and their love of dancing and one another appears to be as strong as ever, with Kevin recently treating Stacey to her first ever ballet show.

He posted on Instagram: "Took @sjdooley to her first ballet. Obvs it was @matthewbourne13 @mbnewadventures one."

Stacey has since returned to broadcasting to host programmes including Glow Up and DNA Family Secrets.

She was also been made an MBE for her services to broadcasting in 2018, and has appeared as a contestant in programmes including The Great British Bake Off for Stand Up to Cancer.

Kelvin Fletcher

Soap stars have a history of success in Strictly Come Dancing, and Emmerdale's Kelvin Fletcher was no exception, lifting the glitterball trophy in 2019 with professional dance partner Oti Mabuse.

His success came three years after he left Emmerdale, after playing Andy Sugden until 2016, with the actor since going on to appear in programmes including Death in Paradise and Moving on.

Kelvin is also a huge fan of motorsports, and has regularly competed in races including the British GT Championships.

However, it seems he would be keen to put his dancing shoes back on, tweeting in October: "I’m here if you need me @bbcstrictly."

Fans were delighted by the idea, with one commenting: "That’s what I was thinking! Get ready," with a second saying: "Oh my that would be amazing."

Since 2015 he has also been married to Liz Marsland and the couple have one child together.

Bill Bailey

The most recent star to take the Strictly crown was comedian Bill Bailey, winning the competition alongside Oti Mabuse.

Not only did Oti win the glitterball trophy for the second year running, but Bill is also the oldest ever winner of Strictly in its history.

As well as returning to tour the UK, he has since collaborated with another Strictly winner, Stacey Dooley, on the tv programme This is My House.

He has also shown that he has a flair for gardening in the programme, The Great Garden Revolution.

Since 1998, he has been married to Kristin Bailey and they have one child together.

Earlier this year he also paid tribute to his friend of 30 years and fellow comedian Sean Lock, after he died of cancer aged 54.

Writing in The Guardian, Bill said: "He was as funny off stage as on. I will remember a kind, generous and loyal friend who I loved dearly, and feel a great sadness at his loss."

He added: "He leaves us all a wonderful comic legacy and – for me and those lucky enough to have known him – some cherished memories and unforgettable nights of laughter."

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