Strictly Come Dancing’s biggest ever surprises: The celebrities who became unexpected dancefloor stars

Don’t judge a book by its cover, as these contestants have proved over the last 17 series.

When Strictly Come Dancing kicked off its first live show of 2017, no one was expecting that the stand-in contestant with just two weeks of training behind him would top the leaderboard.

But ex-Emmerdale star Kelvin Fletcher proved he should never have been on the reserve list to start with and instantly became the favourite to win.

[Strictly 2019: All the latest news, results and gossip]

He joins a list of surprising celebrities who managed to shake off the viewers’ first impressions and wow the crowd with their hidden dancing talents.

Kelvin Fletcher

We almost never got to see the amazing dancing talents of Kevin, aka Andy Sugden.

He was on the reserves bench, who are resigned to never being called upon, but for the first time in Strictly history that changed when Jamie Laing injured his foot during the pre-recorded launch show and was forced to drop out.

Enter, Kelvin and his snake-hipped Samba with Oti Mabuse which got head judge Shirley Ballas hot under the collar and earned him 32 points, propelling him to the top of the leaderboard.

Jamie, watching on from the sidelines, looked gutted to have been replaced by a celeb who looks set to go down in Strictly history, and many are already tipping Kelvin to win.

Jay McGuiness

Remember when 2015’s Strictly line-up was announced, and everyone was confused as to why the slightly scruffy one from The Wanted would take part in a ballroom dancing contest?

By week 3, Jay and his partner Aliona Vilani had definitively silenced their doubters with a score of 37 points, the highest at that stage in the competition’s history, including a 10 for their now-infamous Jive on a Pulp Fiction theme.

Of course, the pair went on to win the series, taking Jay from the contestant many had expected to embarrass himself to the man who made ballroom cool.

Lisa Riley

Much as we love Strictly, it’s an uncomfortable fact that it can bring out some rather sizeist and ageist opinions amongst its hordes of viewers.

Former Emmerdale star Lisa Riley was on the receiving end of that prejudice when she signed up to the 2012 series, next to a load of Olympians riding high on their London performances that summer.

But Lisa and her partner Robin Windsor refused to be dragged down by the negativity and showed off Lisa’s incredible energy in performances that made it into the 30s a number of times, seeing them all the way to the semi-finals.

[Read more: Strictly's biggest ever controversies]

Joe Sugg

“Joe Who?” was the cry when Strictly signed its first social media star as a celebrity contestant in 2018.

Young, slightly awkward looking, and very firmly outside of the main viewer demographic’s field of knowledge, Joe was expected to crash out in the early weeks.

He certainly proved his worth in the competition by applying an incredible work ethic and discovering a love of dancing, making it all the way to the final as one of the fans’ favourites.

Chris Hollins

Who would have thought the diminutive sports presenter would turn out to have such a natural ability for dancing?

Chris Hollins was perfectly matched with the equally tiny Ola Jordan in 2009 and they quickly became favourites with the viewers and the judges.

Their Charleston was probably their best-remembered dance and Chris became the unlikely series winner, beating the likes of more statuesque performers Ricky Whittle and Ali Bastian.

Chris had actually scored lower than both of the actors in the final and semi-final, but was such a hit with the viewers that he was voted their champion.

[Read more: See all of the Strictly 2019 couples]

Abbey Clancy

Those who wrote off Abbey Clancy as an airhead model when she signed to the 2013 series were about to be left red-faced when she took to the dancefloor.

Abbey made the most of her model training to carry herself with grace throughout each dance and only ever dipped below 30 points once in the entire competition.

She was a worthy winner who stormed ahead of Natalie Gumede and Susanna Reid to take the Glitterball Trophy for her series.

Debbie McGee

Ok, we all knew that as a former ballerina, Debbie McGee would have some knowledge of how to perform a dance.

But the lovely Debbie’s ballet days were over in her early 20s and she was in her late 50s by the time she joined Strictly in 2017.

She was shrugged off at first as being chosen to fill the quota for contestants of a certain age, but Debbie’s flexibility, agility, and obvious talent for dance outshone many of her younger competitors and saw her reach the final, where her fans felt she was robbed of the Glitterball Trophy.

Strictly Come Dancing continues on Saturdays and Sundays on BBC One.

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