Life has changed a lot for Ellie Leach in the last few months. In May, the actress said goodbye to the famed cobbles of Coronation Street after 12 years playing Faye Windass on the soap, and at the same time, she went through a relationship breakup.
So it's little wonder that as the Bury-born 22-year-old embraces all the sequins, shimmies and ballroom glamour of Strictly Come Dancing, she's seeing it as a welcome chance to thrive as her own person.
"It's been really nice to throw myself into something new. This is all about me now," says Ellie, who made her debut on the Strictly dancefloor with pro partner Vito Coppola over the weekend, having been given the jive as her first dance, as she joins HELLO! for this exclusive photoshoot.
"I just want to give 100 per cent of myself to Strictly. I'm really excited to enjoy myself and hopefully get a little bit of extra self-confidence."
Ellie and her dance partner Vito Coppola
Ellie is "buzzing" to be on her Strictly journey with Vito – and there's only one person who was more excited than Ellie when she was partnered with the Italian professional when the Strictly pairings were revealed.
"My mum is obsessed with him and she was like: 'I hope you get Vito, I hope you get Vito', so the fact that he's my partner is amazing," laughs Ellie of her dance teacher.
More Vito Coppola
Ellie on Coronation Street
After spending almost half her life playing Coronation Street's troubled teenager Faye, from the age of nine, Ellie sees Strictly as marking the beginning of a brand-new chapter in her life.
"People have seen me grow up on Corrie and might still think that I am still that schoolgirl, but hopefully people can see that I am grown up now," she says. "I want people to know me for me rather than as a character."
Ellie's advice from Strictly alumni
Being snapped up for the nation's favourite dance contest so quickly after hot footing it away from the comfort of Coronation Street was "unexpected", she says.
"I've always wanted to do Strictly, so I was over the moon and so shocked that it came so soon after leaving Corrie," says Ellie, who has been getting plenty of advice from her former co-stars and Strictly alums, including Catherine Tyldesley, who did the show in 2019, 2015 finalist Georgia May Foote, and 2022 contestant Kym Marsh.
"Kym told me: 'You'll have the best time and just enjoy yourself'. A lot of the previous contestants have said it's over in the blink of an eye," says Ellie.
Ellie's acting experience
The star might be used to being in front of TV cameras – and her acting skills will no doubt help when it comes to the serious or sensual dances like the rumba – but Ellie feels the pressure of dancing live in front of the nation every week will be a whole different ballgame.
"The live [television] aspect does really scare me because it's completely different to anything I've ever done before," she says. "On Corrie, we're told to ignore the cameras and pretend they're not there but on Strictly, you have to perform for them. But I am excited to be pushing myself out of my comfort zone."
Every Strictly Come Dancing winner so far
2004: Natisha Kaplinsky (partner Brendan Cole)
2004: Jill Halfpenny (partner Darren Bennett)
2005: Darren Gough (partner Lilia Kopylova)
2006: Mark Ramprakash (partner Karen Hardy)
2007: Alesha Dixon (partner Matthew Cutler)
2008: Tom Chambers (partner Camilla Dallerup)
2009: Chris Hollins (partner Ola Jordan)
2010: Kara Tointon (partner Artem Chigvintsev)
2011: Harry Judd (partner Aliona Vilani)
2012: Louis Smith (partner Flavia Cacace)
2013: Abbey Clancy (partner Aljaž Škorjanec)
2014: Caroline Flack (partner Pasha Kovalev)
2015: Jay McGuiness (partner Aliona Vilani)
2016: Ore Oduba (partner Joanne Clifton)
2017: Joe McFadden (partner Katya Jones)
2018: Stacey Dooley (partner Kevin Clifton)
2019: Kelvin Fletcher (partner Oti Mabuse)
2020: Bill Bailey (partner Oti Mabuse)
2021: Rose Ayling-Ellis (partner Giovanni Pernice)
2022: Hamza Yassin (partner Jowita Przystał)
Strictly Come Dancing will continue on Saturday 30 September on BBC One and BBC iPlayer
To read the full article, pick up the latest issue of HELLO! on sale now. Subscribe to HELLO! to get the magazine delivered free to your door every week or purchase the digital edition online via our Apple or Google apps.