Dust off your dancing shoes and limber up, people – it’s Strictly season!
Fifteen celebrities have signed up to compete in the 2023 run of the BBC dance competition, and one of these hopefuls is the actor Ellie Leach, 22, who many know best from her 12-year stint as Faye Windass on Coronation Street.
Throughout her time on the show, Leach’s character had a wide variety of storylines, including bullying, teen pregnancy and premature menopause.
Leach, who was born in Bury, Greater Manchester in 2001, made her debut on the ITV soap in 2011, aged nine. Her cousin, Brooke Vincent, was already on the programme as Sophie Webster, and Leach has recalled having a friendly face on set as being “really nice”.
Leach quickly won the hearts of the viewers who commended her performance as a young girl in the care system, who was later adopted by Eddie and Anna Windass.
As the years went on, Faye was involved in several hard-hitting plots, including getting pregnant at 13 and giving the baby up for adoption.
Another notable storyline included being sexually assaulted by Ray Crosby (Mark Frost). Despite its heaviness, Leach enjoyed tackling the difficult issue.
“As dark as it is, I really liked filming all the Ray stuff, just because it was a bit different for me,” she said in a Coronation Street YouTube interview earlier this year.
“That storyline with Ray felt like the transition from Faye being a child to her now growing into a young adult. That was a turning point for me, because I thought, ‘Oh, now I’ve got a lot more responsibilities to pull off these tougher, bigger storylines.’”
After 12 years on the Street, Leach’s final scenes as Faye aired in May 2023, with the character leaving for a new life in Slough. “It’s been a whirlwind, she’s had a very troubled life,” Leach said. “She’s been through all sorts. But honestly, it’s been the best experience ever.”
Outside of the soap, Leach has gained a significant online following – at the time of writing, she has 400,000 followers across Instagram and TikTok.
Leach is known for sharing moments from her real life – from the glitzier side of being a soap actor, to being candid about her insecurities with her skin.
“I just always want to be open with people,” she said on the panel chat show Loose Women in 2022. “I’m not gonna ever say that I’m perfect, because I’m not, and nobody is, but I just wanted to be open with my struggles.
“I think social media puts on such a big pressure [on people],” she continued. “It is hard, but I just wanted to show people that I’m just normal; I’m not any different.”
Speaking ahead of the Strictly launch, Leach gave some insight into what viewers can look forward to seeing her on screen. “I’m hoping to bring to Strictly a bit of excitement, a bit of fun and a bit of bubbliness,” she said.
Leach admitted that she’s not looking forward to potential tough critiques, adding: “I’m quite sensitive, so the judges’ feedback might hurt a little bit, but I know that they know what they’re talking about.”
And, when it comes to embracing the glamour of Strictly, Leach is first in line.
“I’ve played a character that’s been in a school uniform for so long,” she explained. “So now, I’m excited to get those sequins on, get that makeup on and get that hair done.”
Strictly Come Dancing airs from Saturday 16 September on BBC One.