Strictly: Natasha Kaplinsky and Brendan Cole dance samba
It has been almost 20 years since Natasha Kaplinsky wowed the world with her moves and clinched the first-ever Strictly title in 2004 – but where is she now?
The 51-year-old newsreader, who celebrated her birthday last week, had been co-hosting the breakfast show on BBC News at the time of her sudden victory.
She hadn’t initially wanted to do the show at all, telling the Mirror: “I honestly tried every single excuse not to do it, but I was cajoled and in the end, I ran out of excuses. I was absolutely petrified!”
Yet she and pro dancer Brendan Cole sailed to triumph in the first ever series, at 39 points ahead of the other finalist, EastEnders’ Christopher Parker.
Their chemistry sparked the first rumours of a Strictly curse, fuelled by Brendan’s split from his fiancee and fellow professional, Camilla Dallerup.
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While Brendan acknowledged the “chemistry was there” with Natasha, he shut down rumours of an “affair”, insisting that Camilla “chose to leave” him after she was voted off with David Dickinson.
Natasha, who scored highest on her samba, went on to take on the presenting role during the second series, after stepping into Tess Daly’s shoes while she was on maternity leave.
Natasha hadn’t finished there either, as she made two more triumphant returns to the show – once in 2012 for the Christmas special, and again as recently as 2018, when she took part in the BAFTA tribute to Sir Bruce Forsyth.
However, behind the scenes, Natasha’s life has been far from just glitz and glamour, as her career has also incorporated plenty of hard work and grit.
Last year, she became the president of the British Board of Film Classification, where she’s responsible for vital decision making about which age-group film footage is appropriate for, and which scenes should be censored.
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The Oxford-educated star has also been heavily involved in charitable missions, travelling all over the world in support of Children in Need over a period of more than a decade.
Natasha, whose paternal grandparents were Jewish, cares passionately about the fate of Holocaust survivors, and recorded testimonies from 112 people who’d never spoken out before until that date.
Prime Minister David Cameron asked for her involvement in the Holocaust Commission’s memorial project, which led to her receiving an OBE three years later, in 2017.
Then, in July 2019, the big-hearted star became a president of Barnardo’s, making a formal statement in which she told the parliamentary reception she was “delighted” to take on the challenge.
“There are so many challenges for children these days. It must be frightening growing up now,” she sympathised.
“They have so many concerns, environmental changes, the internet, difficulties breaking into jobs, and believing they’ll never be affording a house.
“It’s even harder for the most vulnerable children Barnardo’s supports – like children growing up in the care system.”
She concluded: “My aim is to visit as many services as I can and meet as many young people as possible, to learn more about the challenges they face and how the charity is helping them.”
Meanwhile, having suffered multiple traumatising miscarriages as well as giving birth successfully to a son and a daughter, Natasha also became patron of the National Maternity Support Foundation.
She has had the occasional return to stardom since Strictly – including becoming an extra in the English National Ballet along with husband Justin Bower and performing in stage shows such as Romeo and Juliet – but she’s made her appearances secretly in disguise.
The star – who has been an anchor on Sky News, BBC News, ITV News and Channel 5 in her time, as well as hosting documentaries and exploring her Belarusian refugee ancestry on the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? – has even founded her own mother and baby company, Mum And You.
She has been married for almost two decades, and shares daughter Angelica Pearl and son Arlo with husband Justin Bower.
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