Down to earth Stockport lass Tess started her career as a model, before getting her break as a television presenter on Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast, hosting their “Find Me A Model” segment and then took over as presenter of children’s Saturday morning show SM:tv after Ant & Dec left.
In 2003, Tess married television presenter and DJ, Vernon Kay, and in early 2004, Tess co-hosted the first series of Strictly Come Dancing alongside Bruce Forsyth. She had to miss the first half of the second series of Strictly, as she was on maternity leave with series one winner Natasha Kaplinksy holding the fort, but not long after daughter Phoebe was born, Tess returned to the programme, and has co-hosted the programme ever since.
After the success of Strictly, Tess and husband Vernon teamed up to co-host another celebrity reality show, Just The Two Of Us, a singing version of Strictly where celebrities teamed up with pop stars to learn to sing, and in 2008, another prime-time presenting role came her way in the form of the National Lottery game show This Time Tomorrow.
Claudia originally presented Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two, the BBC 2 weekday sister show to Strictly, but is now the co-host of the main show along with Tess. After graduating from Cambridge University with an MA in History of Art, Claudia’s first major job in television was on regional programme Central Weekend. Her career moved onto national television in programmes such as Holiday and This Morning, before she moved onto presenting shows on digital television channels. Far from being a backwards move, these specialist channels and programmes gave her the freedom to develop and flourish with her own style of presenting, and led her to the daily entertainment news show Liquid News on BBC Three.
In 2003, she hosted the Fame Academy sister show on BBC Three which gave behind the scenes news and interviews with contestants and celebrities – sound familiar? It was a great success, and Claudia was the obvious choice to host the new sister show for the new Saturday night phenomenon that was Strictly Come Dancing.
Claudia’s role on It Takes Two was to be the voice of the audience, and ask all the questions that the viewers want answers to. Her informal style of presentation allows the interviewees to relax, as well as bringing a sense of fun to the programme. Freely admitting she has no technical knowledge or expertise as dancing, she is brave enough to take part in the hugely successful segment, “Len’s Masterclass”, dealing not only with attempting to dance in fabulous, but ridiculously inappropriate, shoes, but also with head judge Len Goodman’s unique style of teaching – trying to make her laugh with innuendo or chastising her with strange names (”Fungus features” being one of his favourites).
After competing in series three of Strictly Come Dancing (you can see her dance results page here), Zoe came back to the show to take over hosting It Takes Two after Claudia stepped down following the birth of her third child. Alongside her Strictly role, Zoe has had her own Radio 2 early Saturday morning show, as well as standing in for regular presenters when required, including Ken Bruce and Chris Evans, and has also provided cover for Simon Mayo on 5 Live film review show.
JUSTIN LEE COLLINS
Born and bred in Bristol, Justin started his career as a stand-up comedian, but it was really only as a vehicle to get into his current career as a television presenter. In 1997, he reached the finals of the BBC New Comedy Awards which led to him getting his first television show with MTV, and then worked for XFM radio, hosting a late night Sunday programme, but it was presenting the crossover Strictly Come Dancing weekday show on BBC Three, that started to get him wider public and industry recognition. When the programme moved to BBC Two, Claudia Winkleman took over, but by now Justin had moved to Channel 4, and was headlining the Bring Back occasional specials, which have included Grange Hill and The A Team, before joining Alan Carr to present the acclaimed The Friday Night Project and The Sunday Night Project shows.
Natasha was one of the presenters of the BBC Breakfast show on BBC One when she won the first series of Strictly (you can see her dance results page here), and when Tess went on maternity leave, Natasha co-hosted the main show with Bruce Forsyth for the first half of Series 2.
SIR BRUCE FORSYTH
The quintessential entertainer, Bruce was born in London in 1928, and started his career as a child in theatre but didn’t hit the big time until 1958 when he was hosted the weekly television variety showSunday Night At The London Palladium. His career went from strength to strength, and in the 1970’s he hosted the extremely popular gameshow The Generation Game, and went on to present others, including You Bet! and Play Your Cards Right. After an appearance as guest host on BBC panel show Have I Got News For You, his career was revitalised and led to discussions with producers about bringing a variety inspired programme back to family Saturday night viewing, andStrictly Come Dancing was born!
As a stalwart of British entertainment, Bruce was awarded the OBE in 1998 and the CBE in 2006, then received his knighthood in 2011 becoming Sir Bruce Forsyth. In 2008 received the highest accolade given by the British Academy of Film and Television at their annual awards (BAFTA’s), the Academy Fellowship. Bruce was the host of Strictly until the end of Series 11, and continued to host the Christmas Special and other Strictly charity spin-offs for Comic Relief, Sport Relief, etc.
Bruce passed away in August 2017, and Strictly paid tribute to him in the 2017 launch show: