Zara McDermott takes a leap of faith onto the Strictly dance floor

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Zara McDermott is stepping out of her comfort zone and into the dazzling world of dance on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing.

Having risen to fame on Love Island, Zara is now best known for fronting various documentaries on BBC Three.

And it’s making those films that inspired her to take up the challenge of Strictly.

Zara McDermott & Grazio Di Prima
Zara McDermott & Grazio Di Prima. Credit: BBC/Ray Burniston

She states, “I meet so many women who are literally so nervous to be on camera, to be interviewed, and I’m presented every single day with really brave people who are pushing themselves out of their comfort zone. I feel like with this, I’m doing the same thing, like they’ve almost inspired that kind of leap of faith for me.”

While she acknowledges her lack of dance experience, Zara is determined to give it her all. She emphasizes the importance of not being too hard on herself, saying, “I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not professional… it’s okay not to be good at it in the first few days.” Zara’s perfectionist tendencies are something she’s working to overcome, as she wants to enjoy the journey rather than just aim for perfection.

When it comes to the glitz and glamour of Strictly, Zara is absolutely “buzzing” about it, particularly the outfits. She expresses her excitement about the dazzling costumes she’ll get to wear throughout the competition.

Reflecting on past seasons, Zara fondly remembers watching the show with her Nan when she was just seven years old. She says, “She’s sadly passed away now, but I just think that she would be over the moon if she knew that I was doing this. I feel like she’s looking down on me and I’m thinking of her a lot with every moment of this; she’s my little guardian angel watching and being really proud.”

As for dance experience, Zara’s background is far from extensive. She reveals, “I went to a sports college, and we had to do a physical activity for GCSE, and you either had to do PE or dance. I didn’t want to do PE, so I did dance, and I could just tell my dance teacher was looking at me like ‘oh, no, no’. She did give me a C, to be fair, I just scraped a pass because I think I did everything right; I just think I didn’t look great!”

To prepare for the intense physical demands of the show, Zara is focusing on her fitness. She’s incorporating stretching, cardio, and other exercises into her routine. Given the risk of injuries due to the unfamiliar dance movements, she’s particularly cautious about taking care of her body.

Zara McDermott
Strictly Come Dancing 2023: Zara McDermott Credit: BBC/Ray Burmiston

Zara has received advice from past Strictly contestants, including Vick Hope and Jamie Laing. Vick shared a humorous anecdote about eating a whole rotisserie chicken in the bath when feeling both tired and hungry, which Zara intends to avoid. She also remembers seeing Jamie Laing’s disappointment when he couldn’t participate due to an injury, making injury prevention a top priority.

When it comes to her fellow 2023 contestants, Zara admits, “I don’t know anyone. It’s a nice fresh start.” She views everyone as potential competition, acknowledging the high level of talent in the competition.

As for the coveted Glitterball Trophy, Zara admits that while she’s trying not to fixate on winning, it’s a dream she shares with her fellow contestants. She views her lack of natural dance ability as an additional incentive to give it her all.

Finally, despite her upcoming Strictly journey, Zara confesses, “I don’t have a signature dance move for parties. That’s the funny thing about it. Absolutely not. I just stand in the corner and try not to move too much. I just do a little bop.”

Strictly Come Dancing begins on Saturday, 23 September at 6:15PM on BBC One.