Pendle star Natalie Gumede is looking forward to her final ballroom battle on the Strictly Come Dancing floor.
But before her journey comes to an end, the former Colne Park High School student has taken time out of her hectic schedule to thank every reader that has got behind our “Back Nat” campaign.
The Coronation Street actress could barely contain her excitement as she talked all things glitter, glamour and grace, and reflected on how it would feel to pick up that coveted glitterball trophy.
In her first Strictly interview with Leader Times Newspapers, she said: “Thank you to your readers from the bottom of my heart.
“We could not have done this without local support, and that is what we come back every Saturday for – to show everybody how lucky we feel and how grateful we are.
“To win would be mindblowing, but we are certainly not expecting it. It would be a massive celebration of all the work we have put in, and a cherry on top of a glittery rich cake.”
For Natalie (29), who now lives in London, Strictly has been a whirlwind of highs and lows – as she has battled health issues, remained a judge’s favourite and formed friendships that will continue away from the bright lights of the BBC cameras.
Her highlight has been dancing the American Smooth during Musical Week.
Her main frustration came from the criticism she faced over previous experience at the Chippendale School of Dance.
She has also enjoyed showing a lighter side to her character, after becoming widely recognised for the villainous role of Kirsty Soames on the Corrie cobbles.
“It has been so surreal – I am the Strictly Stalker Superfan, so I sometimes feel the same as when I was on Coronation Street”, the performer, whose next venture will be on the Strictly Come Dancing tour, said.
“I stand on set and realise that this is a massive thing I am part of, and I am a tiny piece of the show’s history. It’s wonderful.
“Artem and I have been working together for 13 weeks and have come through the process together.
“We have had challenges and frustrations, have pushed through our limitations, and we are still laughing – it’s very special.
“I think there has been some overinflation of my dance experience.
“I have never danced professionally, and I haven’t danced for 10 years.
“It has been a little frustrating here and there, as it has still been a learning process for me.
“I have worked hard and had some very technical dances to do.
“Nobody goes into the dance studio on a Monday, and after two hours says ‘I’ve got it’ – there are 30 to 40 hours that are put in to achieve what we do on Saturday.”
Despite jointly topping the leaderboard and scoring a perfect 40 for her salsa, Natalie still found herself in the last dance off with Casualty actor Patrick Robinson.
To watch her in action, as she competes against finalists Abbey Clancy, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Susanna Reid, tune into BBC One at 6-30pm and 8-40pm on Saturday.