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At the start of the year, Natalie Gumede was one of the most hated faces on TV thanks to her terrifyingly convincing portrayal of Corrie psycho Kirsty Soames.But as we approach the end of 2013, the actress has re-invented herself as one of the most popular contestants on the 11th series of Strictly, the nation’s favourite show.
Being the darling of Saturday night prime-time TV is certainly a far cry from being loathed as the wild-eyed, violent partner of beleagured Corrie mechanic Tyrone Dobbs.“This has always been about more than winning or losing,” says Natalie.“I’ve learnt so many massive life lessons from being on Strictly. “I’ve had to deal with my insecurities, manage my ego, be more patient and resilient.” After months of training and stress, it’s no surprise what’s at the top of Natalie’s wish list this Christmas. “I really do hope that I’ve now put Kirsty Soames to bed,” says Natalie, 29, who left the Weatherfield soap in April.“I think I’ve shown the real me, because on this show I’m not hiding behind a character – I feel like I’ve really let myself go and expressed myself.” From the first week of the contest, when Natalie notched 31 points out of 40 for a superb cha-cha-cha, she was quickly hailed as one of the stand-out talents and the bookies installed her as an early favourite to win. “A real circus follows Strictly around, but if you allow outside factors to affect you it just spoils your experience.” Kirsty says she will look back on her gruelling Strictly experience with nothing but good memories. “I had been a huge fan of Strictly right from the first series, but being part of it exceeded my expectations, massively. The extremes of emotion and adrenalin make it so raw.
It really is indescribable just how tough Strictly is.
As a contestant you are in this big goldfish bowl, with 10 million people watching every week and scrutinising you.” To her credit, Natalie coped well, culminating in a scarily good Viennese Waltz in the Halloween special, notching 38 out of 40.
“That was the highlight of the series for me,” remembers Natalie.
“Everything came together and that performance was the reward for all the hard work we’d put in.” However, Natalie fell ill in the lead-up to the next show and was taken to hospital after fainting.
“I was devastated to miss the chance to dance the jive that week,” she says.
After being given a bye, Natalie returned with a near-perfect Charleston and now feels that she can look back with pride on her Strictly Come Dancing experiences.