She has impressed the judges and the nation with her dance routines on Strictly Come Dancing. And ahead of Saturday's final, Debbie McGee has opened up about what it's like to be an "inspiration" - particularly to those over their fifties. "I can't believe the reaction I have had from all age groups, saying how inspiring I am in lots of different ways," she shared during a press conference. "I get stopped all the time - and it's a fantastic feeling." When asked whether she was "conscious" about her age, the 59-year-old replied: "I've received so many messages, people saying that I've made a real difference in their lives. It doesn't matter what age you are, just have a go of it."
Debbie McGee with dance partner Giovanni Pernice
She added: "It has been absolutely fantastic, I can't quite believe I have made the finals. Yes, I have been aware of [my age] and yes I'm very proud to be inspiring so many people. That has been a huge part of my Strictly experience. The downside was that the whole country now knows my real age." But it's the public's incredible support which has kept Debbie and her dance partner Giovanni Pernice motivated. "To think that someone who has watched me on Strictly, I have made their life happier," she confessed. "I have made them want to do more for themselves, whether it's just going to the dance or start dancing. For me, that has been an incredible experience – the fact that I have inspired so many people, I wasn't expecting that."
Despite her popularity amongst viewers, Debbie has been subjected to her fair share of criticism on social media. "I've always listened to everything. If it's constructive, I will take it on board," she noted. "If anyone says anything just negative for the sake of criticising, I've always just completely shut it out. That's how I've dealt with the negative publicity." She concluded: "Strictly is a family, we all support each other. Giovanni has always been there for me if I got worried about something. But the thing with Strictly is that, the negative side of it - it's not even one per cent [of my experience]. Everything else is so positive and happy that it weirdly doesn't affect you much. Everything about Strictly is a happy experience."
Strictly Come Dancing's 2017 final will air on 16 December from 6.30pm on BBC One.