Tess Daly's real name is Helen and we are shook

It’s hard to imagine Strictly Come Dancing’s Claudia Winkleman passing the mic back to anybody but Tess Daly – let alone ‘Helen’.

But if it weren’t for the presenter’s agent liking a particular film 34 years ago, we may have just been tuning in to watch Helen and Claudia socially-distanced dancing.

Tess, 51, has explained that Tess isn’t actually her real name, after being forced to change it as a teenage model.

The star was first scouted as a model aged 17 while waiting outside a McDonalds in Manchester, but had to reconsider her name – Helen – as there was already a Helen Davies on the books.

Speaking to Weekend, Tess said: ‘Helen Daly was too similar and I was told it wouldn’t work.’

She didn’t actually choose Tess, though, as she explained: ‘My agent was obsessed with Nastassja Kinski at the time, who was in the film Tess, and thought I looked like her. So Tess it was. I was gullible and impressionable. 

‘Mind you, two weeks later I was in Japan then travelled the world. Paris, Milan, New York.’

Fast forward three decades and Tess is one of the most recognisable names in British telly, thanks to her hosting gig on all 18 series of Strictly since 2004.

However, she has never officially changed her name, saying: ‘I’ve never changed it by deed poll or anything because I think it would be disrespectful to my parents.’

Her mother Sylvia still calls her Helen sometimes though, with Tess admitting that it can take her a while to respond.

Before becoming a TV staple, Tess worked in Paris and New York as a model, and was the face of La Senza and Danone, as well as starring in two Duran Duran videos and the video for The Beloved song Sweet Harmony. 

She went on to host SMTV Live between 2002 and 2003 before landing her biggest job to date, co-hosting Strictly alongside Bruce Forsyth.

Now the lead host alongside Claudia, Tess – who has two children with husband Vernon Kay – is back on our screens for the 18th series of Strictly, which has a different feel this year due to coronavirus restrictions.

Last week’s launch show saw judges Shirley Ballas, Craig Revel Horwood and Motsi Mabuse sitting at individual desks, while Tess and Claudia can no longer touch on stage.

However, the professionals and their celebrity partners have formed bubbles so they can dance together, and we will see the results of their training tonight as the 12 couples take to the floor for their first routines.

And we will see a same-sex celebrity couple dance for the first time, as Nicola Adams performs a quickstep with partner Katya Jones. 

Strictly Come Dancing is on at 7.25pm on BBC One. 

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