After becoming the first professional dancer to win back-to-back seasons of Strictly Come Dancing, Oti Mabuse clearly needed a new challenge — and she's found it as a panellist on ITV's The Masked Dancer UK.
In the spin-off from The Masked Singer, Oti joins returning panellists Davina McCall, Jonathan Ross and Mo Gilligan, as well as presenter Joel Dommett, to try to guess which stars have donned spectacular costumes to perform for them. The big twist this time is, of course, that the contestants are dancing rather than singing, so the guessing game is much, much harder.
We caught up with Oti, 30, to find out why she couldn't resist this challenge...
Oti Mabuse on why she signed up to be a panellist
"The Masked Singer was such a big hit, it really paved the way," says Oti. "Everything about The Masked Dancer appealed to me: the idea of celebrities, who aren't really known for their dancing, trying a new skill — and doing it in a mask! And I get to do it with an amazing panel — Jonathan, Davina and Mo, and Joel as well. Sometimes I forget that I'm on the show because I'm having so much fun. You are going to see the inside of my mouth because I'm laughing so hard! It's a great, great show — kids are going to love it because of the outfits and the masks, and grown-ups are just going to have fun guessing the famous celebrities."
Oti on the challenges that the contestants face
"First of all, the masks are heavy!" says Oti. "They can't really see what they're doing, but it doesn't matter because they push themselves so hard. There are some of them who do cartwheels, some dance on their heads, some of them do the splits, and you just go, 'wow, how can you do that?!'. You have so much more respect for them because you know how heavy the mask is, and how much work they've been putting into it — they've been preparing for months."
Oti on throwing out her guesses...
"I just think of who I know that's famous," says Oti. "And everybody's like, 'no, that's a bit too much, you need to dial it down a bit!'. Jonathan's guesses are crazy, they are out-there, and then I'll come in and say something and Jonathan says, 'Oti, even I'm saying no!'. I've named people who it is well known that they were not even in the country at the time — not even that height, not even that age group, but I'll still name them!"
Oti on the standard of dancing from the Masked Dancers
"They have honestly blown it out of the park," she enthuses. "I think it will be such a pleasant surprise, because a lot of people have asked, 'how is that going to work?', but once you see them doing it, you almost go, 'oh my gosh, I'm actually watching a Beetroot dance!' — I am just blown away. I believe that the standard is really high, I cannot wait for everyone at home to see it. There are some who are growing and really starting to show improvement — I didn't expect the Beetroot to make me cry!"
The Masked Dancer begins on Saturday May 29 at 7pm on ITV.
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