Strictly Come Dancing is set to make a festive comeback with an all-star Christmas special, ensuring a captivating showcase of dance, sparkle, and holiday joy. Six new celebrity contestants are poised to grace the dance floor, each vying for the coveted title of Christmas Champion 2023.

Now, let’s delve into an interview with Tillie Amartey and Neil Jones.

How are you feeling about being a part of this year’s Strictly Christmas special?

Tillie: I am feeling really overwhelmed, but so privileged to be part of such an amazing show.

Neil: I’m always excited. I’ve been telling Tillie everything about it. It’s just such a great show, and knowing all your family are at home, you’ve opened your gifts and then get to watch the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special!

Tillie: We’re going to be spreading some Christmas cheer.

What made you want to take part?

Tillie: You can’t say no to Strictly. I want to prove to myself and other younger people, that you can do anything you put your mind too. Yes I’m an actress and a presenter, but why can’t I dance as well?!

Did the Christmas theme make it extra appealing?

Tillie: The cherry on top is that it’s the Christmas special.

Have you got any previous dancing experience?

Tillie: When I was seven, maybe six, I did one dancing competition, because my mum was a dancer, and I did the competition, but then she asked me if I wanted to horse ride, so I took that instead as I didn’t do too well… so I’m going to say no!

Do you think you’re naturally a good dancer?

Tillie: No. Nothing in life has ever come easy to me, that’s acting, presenting. Anything I do in life I have to work hard for.

Tell us about your partner… How are you finding training?

Tillie: Neil is amazing, he’s so patient, it’s never a problem if I don’t get something straight away, because he will just remix it for me.

Neil: Tillie has been brilliant. At the beginning I thought she was a dancer. When she told me she wasn’t, I didn’t believe her, and then I realised when we started she really didn’t have any experience. But she picks everything up really quick, and she has her own way and style of dancing which is great.

Talk us through your outfit…

Tillie: The outfits and makeup are one of the main reasons I said yes to the show. You’ll have to tune in and see.

Which judge are you hoping to impress the most?

Tillie: Anytime I watch Strictly, I think ooh, I want to impress all of the judges, that would be fab-u-lous! But I think I want to impress Craig, oh and Shirley, because we’re doing a Jive and Shirley really knows her stuff on the Jive so that would be good.

Neil: Yeah I would say the same. Doing a Jive, we want to impress Shirley. If she turns around and says that Jive was brilliant, then you know it was good.

The Strictly 2023 Christmas celebrities and professional dancers pose on the ballroom floor
(Image: BBC/Guy Levy)

What is your signature dance move at the Christmas party?

Neil: Mine’s probably the worm.

Tillie: The classic two-step. It’s versatile and can go with any song.

Do you think you will be taking home the top prize this year?

Tillie: I don’t know, I’ve not even thought about it. I’m enjoying it so much, I’m not even focussed on winning. If we were to win its just the star on this amazing Christmas tree that we’re a part of. It’s not my focus, being on the show is a win.

Neil: I’ve been top of the table two times in a row now, so it could be third time lucky!

What is the best present you have ever received?

Tillie: I’m going to have to say my dog Lollipop

Neil: My daughter, I like to say to people don’t get me anything.

What is the worst present you have ever received?

Neil: My mum would always do the same thing every year, she would let us open one gift the night before, so we would go to the tree and grab a present, but she wouldn’t let us pick our own. And the gift she’d let us open was the pyjamas, and I didn’t want to open the pyjamas!

Tillie: We have a Christmas Eve fairy who brings pyjamas, but I love them. I always say if someone has got you a gift they’ve thought about you, and that’s a gift in itself, but I would say the worst experience I’ve had was one Christmas morning and my egg sandwich wasn’t runny, it was hard. It just didn’t kick off the day right.

What do you love most about Christmas?

Tillie: I just love being with my family. Sharing memories, laughing and dancing around the kitchen. Just getting together as a family. We lost my grandad a couple of years ago, so it’s nice that every Christmas we make new nice memories. My grandad was the centre of Christmas for me because he would make the egg sandwiches in the morning. So we make new traditions. I love the food too. There’s three of everything and there’s even a vegetarian option, and there’s no vegetarians in the family!

Neil: For me it really is all about the food and giving out the presents. I hate receiving presents, but I love giving them.

Do you have a Christmas tradition?

Tillie: My Christmas tradition is we all make a stocking out of socks, so we wear them and stretch them out to make them bigger, and we make our own name cards. And whoever has done the best decorated stocking and name card seems to get more chocolate in the stocking. We also always have ginger biscuits before we go to bed on Christmas Eve.

Neil: Normally my tradition is to go away on holiday, which we will do, but now I have my daughter we will have to create a new tradition around her.

Will you be making a New Year’s resolution?

Tillie: Being kind, especially now, because you never know what anyone is going through.

Neil: I think a resolution should be for the whole year, so make a resolution before New Year’s and start it early.