BBC presenter Anita Rani has been a familiar face on television screens in recent weeks.
Best known for her work on BBC One’s Countryfile, Watchdog and The One Show, Rani is fast becoming one of the favourites to win Strictly Come Dancing with Gleb Savchenko.
Last week she and her Russian partner bagged 27 points after dancing the samba to Hips Don’t Lie by Shakira.
Former Strictly star Iwan Thomas has suggested Rani is the “dark horse” in the hit competition and could go on to win it.
“Everyone’s so good this year but I’m just going to take each week as it comes,” Rani told Eastern Eye.
“It’s been the most intense but brilliant experience I’ve ever had in my life. I’m only training for the fifth dance now; it’s insane. Every Monday morning I’m learning a new language from scratch.”
The 37-year-old said she did not have previous dance training and that it’s all very new to her.
“I’ve got no dance background. I’m an Asian kid who grew up in the 1990s; we didn’t do dance classes. My dad put me in a karate suit and I never went to do ballet or tap. But I loved dancing and finally I’m getting to learn a new skill.”
Before she started Strictly, Rani, who trains four days a week, revealed that she wanted to incorporate some hip-hop moves into her routines.
“I thought it would be great, but ballroom and latin are so amazing. I’m just trying to get my head around those two styles, never mind a third.
“Perhaps some freestyle dancing might be good fun, but I don’t think it would be very pleasant for people to watch!”
Rani described her dance partner Savchenko as a “beautiful, genetic freak”.
“It’s not just female viewers who see him as a heartthrob but male viewers as well. I call him the genetic freak because he is that beautiful; he is gorgeous. He’s also a really nice guy, massively humble, a brilliant dancer and fantastic teacher.
“I don’t get distracted by him because I’m just thinking about getting my feet in the right place; I don’t have time to think about how good-looking he is. I’m just focused on the dancing.”
Earlier this month Rani was on Who Do You Think You Are? where she found out what happened to her grandfather during the partition of the Indian subcontinent.
She uncovered that her grandfather’s first wife was called Pritam Kaur and she was just 25 when she died after throwing herself into a well – sacrificing herself as her village came under attack.
“I’m so overwhelmed by the response I’ve had to it because people have been talking about it on social media. So many people are saying they didn’t know anything about partition. They now would like to know more about their own family.
“Even when I was filming it, I realised it was so much bigger than the story of just my grandfather – it was the story of millions. I’m really proud I was able to make that programme.”
Rani said the face of television was beginning to reflect modern Britain after Nadiya Hussain won the Great British Bake Off. “It’s fantastic she won it, but it shouldn’t be a big deal that she’s Asian, it should be totally normal,” she said.
“Television needs to keep changing, but it has to be two-fold. People need to bang on the door and get the jobs, and people need to open the door and let them have jobs. It goes both ways.
“My programmes have been really wide-ranging, but I always say they’re the same really. All I’m doing is telling people’s stories, whether I’m doing it in India or on Countryfile or The One Show. I’m talking to people and getting them to share their stories with me; it’s my passion.”
*Show your support for Rani by voting for her on Strictly which airs on Saturday, BBC One at 6.35pm. Go to www.bbc.co.uk for more info.