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Tilly Ramsay on her perfect partnership with Nikita and dad Gordon's fatherly advice

Strictly Come Dancing has welcomed a new star!

Emily Horan

As one of the youngest contestants ever to grace the Strictly dance floor, 19-year-old Tilly Ramsay is already a fan favourite to win following her stunning debut Waltz with her professional dance partner, Nikita Kuzmin - and is our star for HELLO!’s October Digital Cover! 

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The performance made her mum Tana, watching from the live audience, weep - and Tilly later revealed that her dad, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, also choked up while watching the show in the US. Ahead of their second routine this Saturday, Tilly and Nikita sat down with us to discuss her TikTok fame, their match-made-in-heaven dance partnership and how they have their eyes on the prize...

Tilly Ramsay and Nikita Kuzmin are October digital cover stars!

Tilly and Nikita, you seem like you’re the perfect Strictly partnership! How are you getting on?

T: “I’m over the moon, I couldn’t have asked for a better teacher. I thought we’d get on, but we’ve surprised ourselves with just how well we have. Nikita is very good at spotting when I’m starting to lose my focus or getting tired and he’ll say, 'We’ll take a walk and have a minute’. 

He’s a very supportive teacher – he’s good at making me feel good about my dancing, which is the best thing because I was quite a self-conscious and embarrassed dancer when I first started, but now I feel comfortable with him.”

N: “Tilly has been the best student I could ever wish for for my first partner on Strictly. There couldn’t have been a better match. We’re getting on so well – we’re laughing a lot but also she knows when I snap my fingers and it’s time to concentrate, she’s fully in it.”

Nikita, this is your first year on Strictly. Has it been everything you hoped it would be so far?

N: “It’s been much better than I’d hoped. I knew it would be a journey, but it’s just been incredible. It’s so much fun – I’m doing what I love, and we’re able to perform on the best dance floor in the world. To do it with Tilly, and have her as my first Strictly partner, is just amazing.”

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WATCH: Tilly and Nikita share details about their Strictly experience so far

Tilly, you’ve been turning the tables during dance training by teaching Nikita some TikTok dances…

T: “We’ve been loving TikTok.”

Have you been able to incorporate any of Tilly’s TikTok moves into your Strictly choreography? 

T: “We will try, but I don’t think they’re very ‘ballroom’! It’s a challenge, but we’ll do our best. [laughs]”

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Tilly and Nikita are hoping to sail through the competition

Do you have your eyes on the Glitterball?

N: “Absolutely. We know the competition is fierce, but if you don’t go for the Glitterball, why should you even do it?”

T: “We want to try our hardest and make sure we enjoy the process along the way.”

N: “Yes, it’s important to take it week by week.”

Who do you think is your biggest competition? 

T: “It’s hard to tell – AJ and Kai smashed it out of the park and blew everyone away on week one.

N: “We loved John and Johannes – such a strong dance and a strong couple.” 

T: “We loved everyone!” 

Tilly, you’ve just started University, studying Psychology, as well as doing Strictly! How are you managing to juggle it all?

T: “I actually watched a lecture and took some notes down while I was having hair and makeup done for this shoot! [laughs]. I’ve been making sure I’m very organised, telling Nikita when we need to take a break so I can do lectures, and we plan to have lunch at the same time. I use my day off on Sunday to do admin and organise the week ahead. I haven’t struggled with it so far, but it is quite early on. It’s about finding the balance between studying and dancing.”

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Tilly has been juggling studies with rehearsals

N: “I honestly have so much respect for her juggling both. I’ve been joking around and saying: ‘This is impossible!’, but she’s doing such a great job in dealing with it. She always tells me in advance when she has lectures, to make sure she has a break. Then she’s straight back after her lecture to carry on training. I’m proud of that, it’s incredible.”

Tilly, have you had a chance to show off your Strictly dance moves on the University social scene?

T: “No, I haven’t had a chance to show off my dance moves on the social scene yet. Since I started Strictly, I’ve taken a step back from meeting large groups of people and I’m doing as much remote studying as possible, purely to lessen the risk of not being able to dance if I catch Covid.”

Tilly, at 19, you are one of the show’s youngest-ever contestants. Does that come with any additional pressure?

“I wouldn’t say it’s been an advantage or disadvantage either way – age doesn’t always matter with Strictly. The one thing I have found is [being a young contestant] comes with inexperience for me, in terms of controlling my nerves – I haven’t done as much live TV as some of the others. But obviously, none of us have done live dancing before!”

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The pair's first performance wowed the judges and viewers alike

Tilly, how has your family supported you on your Strictly journey so far?

“I’m super close with my family and they’ve always been the best support system I could ask for. Strictly really reiterates that. My sisters help me pick out outfits for It Takes Two – they love that kind of thing. I’ve got my brother Jack keeping my grounded, telling me what he thought of my dancing, and I’ve got mum and dad to chat to and have their support.”

Tilly, has your dad given you any fatherly advice?

“His advice to me when I started Strictly was to work hard, have fun and put my everything into it because it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Nikita, you started dancing at a young age…

“Yes, I started dancing aged four in Ukraine. My family and I moved at the age of nine to Italy and the main reason, as well as searching for a better life, was dancing. My sister found a dance partner there, and then I found a partner there, and I became Italian Champion at the time.”

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The pair spoke to HELLO! about their time in competition

Have your family and your girlfriend Nicole been supportive of your Strictly journey so far?

N: “My family and my girlfriend have been an amazing support since I started Strictly. I try to call them every day to update them on how it’s going. We’re used to living far away from each other. I lived in Denmark for most of my youth, then I lived in a separate city in Italy to them, then in Germany for the last five years. It would be a dream for them to come and watch Strictly live. My mother is a huge Strictly fan – she knows more about the show than I do!”

Tilly, you have a lot of siblings – have they been fighting it out for tickets to the live show? 

“I’m not even getting involved in that – I said to mum she can deal with it!”

Tilly, you have some great dance moves in your TikTok videos. Has that helped prepare you for Strictly?

T: “The TikToks are very different – I don’t think they prepared me too much! But I’m taking all I can into the ballroom with me.” 

Tilly, you’ve inherited your dad’s culinary skills… but how else have you taken after him?

“My dad is always very positive – he may not always seem it on TV! [laughs] I’d like to think I’ve taken his hard work, determination and positivity and I am bringing that to the ballroom.”

MORE: Dan Walker leaves fans in hysterics after Strictly reveals 'secret mics'

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We can't wait to see their next routine

Have you shown Gordon any of your Strictly moves yet?

T: “Definitely not – because I know his next question will be: ‘Can you show me how to do that?’ I’m not sure he’d pick it up as quickly as me [laughs].”

Nikita, you met Gordon for the first time over FaceTime in one of the Strictly VTs. Were you nervous? 

“I was extremely nervous to meet Gordon for the first time. He’s FaceTimed us a few times now and he’s been lovely and so supportive. He’s also supportive on social media, but when we video call, I can see how much he shines [with pride] for Tilly and how much he wants her to succeed.”

MORE: Strictly Come Dancing week two dances announced - but who has Couple’s Choice?

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The couple are performing a Charleston for week two

Tilly, you’re a chef and cookery presenter. Has Nikita been able to cook for you?

N: “I haven’t been able to cook for Tilly yet, but when we shot the VT for Strictly [in which Tilly cooks a meal for Nikita] she enjoyed it so much. It was like our dance training, but in reverse roles. She had a smile on her face and lots of confidence. She taught me a few chef techniques. I hope to cook something for her!”

T: “I’d love that!”

More images from our exclusive shoot with Tilly and Nikita are available in Hello! Magazine, out Monday.

Strictly Come Dancing is on Saturday, BBC1 at 6.45pm 

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