Strictly Come Dancing is to have its first all-male partnership in the show’s history, after TV chef John Whaite joined the line-up on Thursday.
Whaite will follow in the footsteps of boxer Nicola Adams, who was the first to have a same-sex partner last year.
The 2012 Bake Off winner described his partnership as «a great step forward in representation and inclusion».
CBBC presenter Rhys Stephenson was added to the line-up early on Friday morning.
The actor and children’s TV presenter said he was «buzzing» to join the show and was already «impatient to take part».
Tom Fletcher, AJ Odudu and Robert Webb were announced as the first 2021 contestants on Wednesday.
Whaite told Matt Lucas on BBC Radio 2 on Thursday it was «an honour» to take part.
«When they asked me if I’d be interested, I just bit their hand off because I thought, to do that and represent the LGBTQ+ community is one thing, but also just to see two men or two women dancing together, it’s not necessarily about sexuality, it’s just about intimacy and respect,» he said.
«And I think that’s going to be such a great thing in our culture, where men are sort of conditioned not to open up and not to be emotional. I think it might help to combat that. So I’m excited on so many levels to be doing the first all-male partnership.»
He added: «I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet and I don’t think it will until I find out who I’m actually dancing with.»
‘I am who I am’
Lucas, who is also gay, said: «As a kid I never would have dreamed that that sort of thing would be possible.»
«Well that’s the thing,» replied Whaite. «I hope that kids watch this and see it and it becomes normal for them. They don’t have to grow up in shame, they don’t have to grow up worrying about who they are.
«I hope this kind of sets a bar for kids to think, I am who I am, and I’m proud of that.»
Whaite, Fletcher, Odudu and Webb will be among the 15 stars on the dancefloor when the hit BBC One show returns this autumn. The other contestants will be named in the coming days.
The 19th series is expected to be the normal length, after being slightly shorter in 2020 because of the Covid pandemic.
It has already been announced that Bruno Tonioli will be absent from the judges’ desk this year, replaced by long-serving professional dancer Anton Du Beke. Four new professionals have also been revealed.
Here are the 2021 celebrity contestants so far:
Whaite is a chef, TV presenter and cookery author. He won the third series of The Great British Bake Off in 2012 at the age of 23. Since then, he has presented TV shows and has a cooking segment on Steph’s Packed Lunch on Channel 4.
He has also published five cookery books and runs his own cookery school, John Whaite’s Kitchen.
«I’m so grateful, excited, and nervous to be joining the Strictly 2021 family,» he said. «I’ve been wearing sequins and jazzy attire since I was three years old and can’t wait to hurl myself, full throttle, around the most glamorous dance floor on Earth.»
The singer and guitarist, who scored seven UK number one singles with McFly between 2004 and 2007, is taking to the dancefloor exactly a decade after his bandmate Harry Judd lifted the coveted glitterball trophy.
Fletcher has also carved out a successful sideline as a children’s author, and his family could do a unique reality TV double after wife Giovanna won I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! last year.
He said he was «incredibly excited» but also «totally terrified» to do Strictly. «My kids were excited too until I started showing them my best dad-dancing in the kitchen,» he said. «I’m not sure how far they’ll get me in the competition but I can’t wait to add some new moves to my embarrassing dad-dancing repertoire.»
The Blackburn-born presenter rose to fame hosting Big Brother’s Bit on the Side in 2013, and has since appeared on shows like The Voice UK and Trending Live!.
In September, she will co-present a one-off revival of Channel 4’s The Big Breakfast alongside comedian Mo Gilligan.
She said she was «beyond chuffed» to be on Strictly. «I absolutely love the show and am fully committed to making the most of every second of the Strictly experience,» she said. «Bring it on!»
The comic actor is best-known for his double act with David Mitchell in TV shows like Peep Show, That Mitchell and Webb Look and Back. Like Fletcher, he has also become an author.
And Webb has form on the dancefloor – he won Let’s Dance For Comic Relief in 2009.
«It’s a big, generous, joyful show and I can’t wait to get packed into a spandex onesie and fired from a glitter cannon directly at Claudia Winkleman,» he said.