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Tess Daly talks ghosts, stage fright and Strictly favourites in interview with 6-year-old girls

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Helen Bownass
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A group of six- and seven-year-olds ask Strictly Come Dancing presenter Tess Daly the questions that really matter in life.

Which would you rather be, a chair or a table?” “I wouldn’t want to be a chair because everyone would sit on me…” “I’d be a table because if they put a bowl next to you, you could have a bit of their food.” “And if they spill it, you could quickly suck it up.”

As the entertainment director of Stylist magazine, it’s not the sort of question I would typically ask, but I’m starting to wonder why not when I see how engaged Tess Daly, the host of Strictly Come Dancing, is with the year two and three pupils from Shoreditch Park Primary School in east London who are here to interview her. I’m also left wondering why I’ve never unhesitatingly piled on a celebrity for a full-body hug, as also done by seven-year-olds Naomi, Ceylan, Grace, Imani, Liyah, Ceylon and Sianna, and six-year-old Naima after asking Daly their unique questions. 

Over to them.

Imani: What has been your favourite year in your life?

Tess: That’s a lovely question. When I had my first baby that was a big year. When you become a mum it’s amazing, it blows your mind. You can’t believe you’ve got this little tiny person to look after. And they need you for everything! You know you can’t just say, “I’ll see you later, I’m going shopping!” I also got married and got a job on Strictly Come Dancing. My eldest daughter, who’s just turning 14, was in my tummy for the first series. And now she’s as tall as me.

Sianna: Do you enjoy dancing?

Tess: I dance every night at home in my kitchen; I’m a really good kitchen dancer. I’m enthusiastic but I’m definitely not as good as our professional dancers on Strictly. I’ve got two girls, the little one is nine, and last night they were doing routines for me and trying to make me judge them.

Naomi: Can you do the dab, orange justice or the floss?

Tess: My daughter’s always doing that! I didn’t know it was called that. Can you show me? [The girls all demonstrate]

Tess: That’s awesome.

Tess Daly | Strictly interview 2

Grace: Do you ever get stage fright?

Tess: I’ve never had stage fright, that would mean you were paralysed like a rabbit in headlights and you wouldn’t be able to speak or move. Sometimes we think it’s going to happen to the celebrities on Strictly Come Dancing; they get so nervous before they dance live, especially when they’ve never danced before. I get butterflies though before we go live. It’s like rocket fuel. If you’re ill and you’re doing live television, you forget you’re sick. It’s like being on the big dipper ride at the fair, ‘Whoop I’m going up.’ If you were running a race and all your parents were watching at sports day you might feel nervous. But you do it anyway, don’t you?

Girls: YESSSSSSSS.

Ceylan: What was your favourite subject in school?

Tess: I used to love science. Biology, chemistry and physics. I used to want to be a nurse. But then my sister cut herself really badly and I almost fainted. I couldn’t even look. I realised that I can’t be a nurse if I hate blood. I used to love English as well because I liked writing stories and I love reading. Do you like reading?

Girls: YES!

Imani: My favourite book is the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid collections.

Naomi: I love Lizzie Zipmouth by Jacqueline Wilson.

Naima: James And The Giant Peach. It makes me hungry.

Tess: Are you reading Enid Blyton? I’m reading her books to my little one right now. And it’s reminding me of when I was a kid. Oh, and I liked PE. Do you do hockey?

Girls: Yes.

Tess: Gymnastics?

Girls: Yes.

Naima: I do PE today at school but I probably missed it. But I don’t really like PE.

Tess: What do you like?

Imani: History! Right now we are learning about the Stone Age.

Naima: We’re learning about the Great Fire of London.

Sianna: In year three on Thursday we’re going to go swimming.

Ceylan: What’s your favourite animal and can you do an impression of it?

Tess: I reckon it’s rabbits. When I was a child I had lots of bunny rabbits and now my little girl’s got twin bunnies called Neville and Gloss. They’re tiny, they move together and never leave each other’s sides. This is my impression of a bunny. I’ve got really big front teeth so I can do a good one.

Imani: What is your favourite colour?

Tess: Red. Did you guess I’d say red?

Grace: YES!

Naomi: What are your favourite junk foods?

Tess: Chips, chocolate and cakes. Doughnuts.

Sianna: My favourite chocolate bar is Hershey’s.

Naima: Twix.

Tess: I love a Curly Wurly.

Ceylan: Crunchie.

Tess: If I have a Crunchie I’m running around bouncing off the walls.

Sianna: Can you tell us a joke?

Tess: I hope you get this joke, it’s one of my favourites. But I have very bad taste in jokes. What do you call a husband and wife fishing together?

Grace: Can I guess? Fish and chips?

Naima: Love fishes? What is it?

Tess: Rod and Annette.

[All the girls laugh.]

Liyah: Do you like ghosts?

Tess: I don’t believe in ghosts. I’ve got to see it first to believe it and I’ve never seen one. Have you?

Girls: NO.

Tess: Has anyone you’ve met ever seen a ghost? This is what I mean…

Naima: I’ve seen a ghost. But it wasn’t a real one, just someone wearing a white sheet. 

Tess Daly | Strictly interview 3

Imani: If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Tess: Well, apart from being able to sing like Aretha Franklin I’d want to fly. Imagine what it feels like to fly through the air? Wouldn’t that be great?

Imani: I want to be able to teleport, then I could teleport to the shop and buy chocolate.

Sianna: Without anyone seeing you.

Sianna: What is 12 times 13?

Tess: I wish you’d asked me what 12 12s are because that’s 144. OK, so 144 add 13 that’s 157*. I’m always telling my nine-year-old, if you learn your times tables off by heart now you never forget them and you use them every day. If you’re shopping and the oranges are 12p each and you need at least eight, what are 12 eights?

Naomi: What’s 146 times 12?

Tess: Oh my god! I’ll tell you later.

Ceylan: Who is your favourite on Strictly?

Tess: I like them all for different reasons. I can’t have a favourite because the others would be upset at me. I like Anton [Du Beke] because he makes me laugh. We’ve got a new one, Graziano [Di Prima], who likes dancing with his shirt open. I look away. I love all the girls because they’re so gorgeous, kind and clever and very fit – they dance for nine hours a day, you’ve got to have lots of stamina to do that.

Imani: What does stamina mean?

Tess: It’s like having a really good fitness level. But I see them eat chocolate all the time.

Sianna: Maybe it’s healthy chocolate.

Naima: What’s the difference between grown-ups and children?

Tess: There are so many differences. When you’re a grown-up you’ve got to do boring stuff like put petrol in the car, put food in the fridge and pay the bills. When you’re a kid you look after yourself and concentrate on the fun stuff like playing and school and seeing your friends. When you’re a grown-up you’ve got to do more work than play. You’ve got a few more responsibilities. But it’s fun because also you can do what you want, when you want. No one’s telling you you’ve got to eat all your greens and when you should go to bed. Its fun being a grown-up but it’s brilliant being a kid because you get to play.

Sianna: What do you like better, chicken or chips?

Tess: Chips. I love chips. I have chicken almost every day. But I never met a chip I didn’t like.

Ceylan: What’s better, cats or dogs?

Tess: I’m a dog person.

Ceylan: What type of dogs?

Tess: I’ve got a chihuahua and a shih tzu.

Naima: One of my mum’s friends has got a chihuahua and for Christmas I want a chihuahua. I would name it Twix after my favourite chocolate bar.

Tess: I’m allergic to cats, they make me sneeze. 

Ceylan: If you weren’t allergic to cats which would be your favourite: cats or dogs?

Tess: Still dogs. Dogs are really loving and they snuggle up for cuddles.

Ceylan: Which women do you look up to?

Tess: I look up to women who set a good example through their work or kindness and make a little bit of difference in the world and make other women think, ‘I can do that!’ I’ve met Oprah Winfrey. Have you heard of Oprah Winfrey? She’s a very powerful lady in America and has lots of businesses, writes books, she’s in movies. She had a tough life in the beginning and now she’s the most powerful woman in America. She’s got powerful from being really smart, working really hard and being lovely to everyone she meets. I like women who are kind and clever and set a good example.

Sianna: You’re kind and clever!

Naomi: If I had a dog, I would name it Tess Daly.

Naomi, Ceylan, Grace, Imani, Liyah, Ceylon and Sianna, all 7, and Naima, 6, all love reading and debating their favourite chocolate bar. They also loved showing Tess their dance moves at our photo shoot last week. 

Strictly Come Dancing is on Saturday at 6.40pm and Sunday at 7.45pm on BBC One.

Images: Rosaline Shahnavaz