Jill Halfpenny: How Strictly Come Dancing changed my life

She won the show with dance partner Darren Bennett.

Jill Halfpenny says she got “frightened” after her Strictly Come Dancing win.

The actress and former soap star, 43, triumphed in the second series of the ballroom dancing show with partner Darren Bennett.

She told The Big Issue: “The experience of winning Strictly Come Dancing was mad. When I started it I was ‘Kate from EastEnders’ but by the end people knew my name….

“But I got frightened by it. I do this thing where I go into my shell a bit. I would tell myself to enjoy it and be proud. Let the insecurity go.”

Jill Halfpenny and Darren Bennett
Jill Halfpenny and Darren Bennett (Owen Humphreys/PA)

But the actress, who won the BBC One show in 2004, added: “I am ridiculously hard on myself. I don’t condone that at all – anyone … thinking being a perfectionist is a positive thing, it absolutely is not.”

Halfpenny says she still sometimes feels “that I don’t belong” and said of starting out at an early age: “When I was 16, I felt like the luckiest girl alive. I was living my dream, already working on Byker Grove.

“But even though I loved what I was doing… bringing attention to yourself in comprehensive school can inflame things and being on the telly even more so.

“So the flipside was people at school being like, ‘Do you think you are good because you are on the telly?’”

The Big Issue, sold by vendors to lift themselves out of poverty, is available to buy from across the UK for £2.50.

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