Katya Jones caught the public’s imagination last year thanks to the wonderfully wacky routines she choreographed for celeb partner Ed Balls in her debut series.
This year has been a different kettle of fish for the dancer, as she partners one of the hot favourites to win - Joe McFadden. Here’s what you need to know about Katya:
Who is Katya Jones?
World Latin Champion Katya was born in St Petersburg, Russia, and started dancing at the age of six. Polymath Katya also trained in gymnastics, singing, drawing and piano.
Since 2008 Katya has danced professionally with Neil Jones, who is also her husband and another Strictly pro. Former Strictly pro – and It Takes Two favourite – Karen Hardy has trained Katya in the past.
Neil and Katya have won both amateur and professional Latin dance competitions and, by her own admission, Katya is very competitive.
“I know it is extremely intense, but so am I. I am fierce, fabulous and would love to win,” she said on joining Strictly.
In her first series of Strictly Katya was partnered with former politician Ed Balls. #TeamGlitterballs reached round 10, coming sixth.
Outside of dancing, Katya and her husband Neil have a range of apparel called The Joneses’ Apparel – a unisex clothing line which comes complete with a QR code which links to interactive content.
“I started The Joneses’ Apparel because I knew that Katya loved it all so much,” Katya’s husband Neil, another Strictly pro, explained to the Daily Mail. “I got her started and I was like ‘you design it and I'm going to fund it and now it’s yours. We still work on it together but it's yours’.”
Katya certainly paid her dues by coaching Ed Balls and in 2017 she returned to the spotlight for very different reasons as the partner of Joe McFadden.
The Holby City star quietly crept up the leaderboard and achieved some of his best scores with the Charleston, Quickstep and Samba.
Joe and Katya may not have garnered the same level of gushing praise from the judges as some of their rivals, but they slowly established themselves as the dark horses of the competition and eventually triumphed in the final ahead of Alexandra Burke, Debbie McGee and Gemma Atkinson.
Best-ever finish: 2017 winner with Joe McFadden
Worst-ever finish: Katya came sixth with Ed Balls in her debut Strictly appearance,
Former celebrity partners: Ed Balls.
Did you know? Katya and Neil have a dog called Crumble.
Celebrity partner 2018: Comedian Seann Walsh
Joe McFadden on Katya
"Any partner is going to do well with that girl. I’m jealous of all the partners that she’s going to have because they’re all going to do well because she wouldn’t have it any other way."
Ed Balls on Katya
"Above all the only reason we have been able to learn and to entertain is because of Katya, and it's her first series. She is going to go on to be a total dynamite, knock-out Strictly star, she is just the best there is. Absolutely amazing. She is utterly brilliant."
Sean Walsh kiss scandal
Seann Walsh's fake tan had barely even had time to dry before he got caught in a scandal with Katya.
Just three weeks into the 2018 competition, The Sun published photos and video of a drunken Seann and Katya on a night out in London where they stumbled out of a bar and snogged in the street.
What made it even worse was that the kiss happened on his girlfriend actress Rebecca Humphries' birthday, and Katya is married to fellow Strictly pro Neil Jones.
I’m so sorry about any offence or hurt I may have caused with my actions. I wasn’t thinking and it was a one-off mistake after some drinks. I love my husband and we are very happy together, this is not a reflection on our relationship.— katya Jones (@Mrs_katjones) 7 October 2018
Both Seann and Katya tweeted apologies after the story broke, putting it down to a drunken mistake, but Rebecca tweeted her own version of events, which made it clear Seann had not bothered to try to make amends in real life.
Photo credit: David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock