There were more than a few blank faces when Strictly Come Dancing’s little-known line-up was unveiled this year to faltering fanfare – and Faye Tozer admits she was among them.
The Strictly superfan – one-fifth of Steps, the cheesiest pop group ever created – admits she never dreamed she was famous enough to be picked for the iconic BBC dance series.
“I never thought they’d have me on the show,” she says chirpily, with likeable honesty.
Feeling mean, as she is so impossibly nice, I ask if she means she thought it was for bigger names? “Yeah, absolutely,” giggles the 43-year-old.
Yet Strictly 2018 has proved critics wrong, turning out to be one of the best yet for eye-popping talent. And Faye “from Steps” – which she quips is her “alternative surname” – has sashayed her way into tonight’s semi-final.
Those cynics among us will, of course, whisper it is little surprise given her former dance experience.
Like fellow contestant Ashley Roberts, of US band Pussycat Dolls, exceptional Faye has come under fire for her dance training.
As a child, she learned ballet, tap and modern, and Steps was of course named after its famous dance steps to catchy tunes like Tragedy, which fans learned to follow themselves. Over the last two weeks, talented Ashley has found herself in the dance-off because of a lack of public support – while the likes of underdogs Stacey Dooley and Joe Sugg have soared to tonight’s semi.
Being unflinchingly honest again, Faye insists there is room for those who have had dance experience and those who have not. “It’s lovely to see the journey of the people who haven’t got any experience at all,” she says, “but I also enjoy the quality and detail and incredible things people with a bit more experience can deliver. It is a dance show at the end of the day."
Can she understand why the public might prefer the underdog, though?
“Absolutely, yeah,” she agrees. I’m learning it’s a stock phrase; Faye is nothing if not agreeable. But she adds it is not easy for anyone – and certainly not her as she learns both the complex Argentine Tango and technically tricky Samba this week.
“Strictly has always had a mix of abilities, but we are all learning something brand new,” Faye insists.
She is quick to point out Steps was a “line-dancing pop group”, after all – not exactly ballroom standard.
“Back in the 90s it was an incredible time for music but we’d be doing ‘Five, Six, Seven, Eight’,” she laughs.
“And you’d get cool people like All Saints doing Never Ever. Sometimes you had to grin through gritted teeth!
“Because of being in Steps, I’m used to learning routines but I’ve never learned