THERE IS one thing, says Strictly glitterball champion Ellie Leach, that people have found most surprising about her since she took to the famous dancefloor.

“It’s that I am NOTHING like my Coronation Street character,” she says, with a giggle. “I’m completely different from Faye, and I think having been on Strictly now just being myself, people have realised that.

“They’re like, oh, she DOES smile. She DOES like having a bit of a laugh…”

Glasgow Times: Ellie Leach, who won Strictly 2023Ellie Leach, who won Strictly 2023 (Image: Marc Brenner)

To be fair, Ellie’s screen alter-ego Faye Windass has not had much to smile about over the last 12 years, having endured bullying, assault, pregnancy at the age of 13, a jail sentence and a diagnosis of premature menopause.

Ellie departed the soap in emotional scenes last year, when Faye decided to leave behind her fiancé to be with her daughter. Waltzing straight out of Weatherfield into the sparkly world of sequins, fake tan and giant hair has been a life-changing experience for the young actor, she explains.

“I grew up on Corrie,” says Ellie, who is from Manchester. “I was on the show from the age of nine, and people knew me only as a character. On Strictly, it was really nice just to be me for a while.

“It was scary – I hadn’t ever done that in front of a public audience before – but I learned such a lot about myself.

“I know I’ve said this a lot and some people think I’m just being a bit dramatic but Strictly did change my life, and my whole outlook on life. My confidence grew so much. Before, I always had that fear of the unknown but now I actually feel like I can embrace that.”

Glasgow Times: Ellie and VitoEllie and Vito (Image: Marc Brenner)

She pauses. “Lots of people live a ‘what if’ life,” she says, slowly. “I definitely think now, I’d rather try something new and have it not work out, than never try it all.”

After charming the telly audiences, Ellie and professional partner Vito Coppola won the 2023 series final, in a closely fought match with Bobby Brazier and Dianne Buswell and Layton Williams and Nikita Kuzmin. And Ellie had no hesitation in signing up for the live tour, which comes to Glasgow this weekend (January 26 to 28).

Audiences get the chance to vote for their winner at each show, and as the Glasgow Times went to press, Ellie and Vito had yet to claim the trophy, with Bobby and Dianne having won three times and Layton and Nikita being crowned champions four times.

There’s no hard feelings from Ellie, though.

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“I think it’s great we all get a chance to win on the tour,” she beams. “Obviously me and Vito winning the series was amazing, but it’s so much fun seeing everyone doing their best dances, and having the opportunity to take home a glitterball trophy.”

She adds, apologetically: “I’ve actually never been to Glasgow. So I am really, really looking forward to it.

“It’s a lot of fun just to all be together. During the series, you spend a lot of time just with your partner, so this has been good getting the chance to sit down and catch up with everyone.

“And we’re dancing the paso doble and the American Smooth on the tour, which were our favourites, so I’m so happy to get the chance to dance them again.”

When she was a little girl, Ellie suffered from shyness, so her mum signed her up for acting lessons.

“She thought it might help,” says Ellie. “I really liked going along, and then I got the audition for Corrie, and things just took off from there.”

Ellie is remaining tight-lipped about what else is coming up in 2024.

“Oh, it’s like what Vito and I said on the show all the time – you’ve got to live for the moment,” she says, airily. “I plan on not missing out on any opportunity, and enjoying every moment.”

She pauses. “I’m trying not to think about when the tour is over and I don’t have Strictly in my life any more, because it makes me a bit sad,” she admits.

“I think I will keep dancing though, because I have fallen in love with it.”

The Strictly Come Dancing Live UK Tour also features Annabel Croft dancing with Graziano Di Prima; Krishnan Guru-Murthy dancing with Jowita Przystal; Angela Scanlon dancing with Carlos Gu; and Angela Rippon and Kai Widdrington, plus professional dancers Nadiya Bychkova, Karen Hauer, Katya Jones, Neil Jones, Robbie Kmetoni, Jake Leigh and Nancy Xu.

TV judges Shirley Ballas, Anton Du Beke and Craig Revel Horwood are keeping a close eye on things, and Janette Manrara, who presents Strictly’s sister show It Takes Two, is hosting.

Strictly Live is at the OVO Hydro on January 26 at 7.30pm, January 27 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm and Sunday, January 28 at 1.30pm.