Everything the judges say you take personally, even though you try to tell yourself, 'It's just a TV show'
There is no mistaking that Denise Van Outen is having a ball as she glides around the stage for the Strictly Come Dancing Live tour.
She looks stunning in a shimmering body-hugging costume and beams and giggles with dance partner James Jordan as they take their applause and exit the spotlight.
The live shows, running until February 10, visit eight cities and although it is a hectic schedule, it is clear that Denise has left behind the stress and tension of competing in the BBC One series.
While all the competitors face being judged by the panel and the show's millions of viewers, Denise was put under particular pressure.
IS YOUR CAR KEY BENT ? REMOTE FOB NOT WORKING ? LOST CAR KEYS ?...View details
FOR ALL YOUR CAR KEY NEEDS CALL US NOW ON
SNAPPED KEYS, LOST KEYS, KEYS LOCKED IN VEHICLES,
WE ALSO REPAIR 90% OF ALL REMOTES AND KEYS, NO FIX NO CHARGE.
Terms: FREE REMOTE KEY FOB BATTERY ONE PER CUSTOMER
SAVE £3.00 WITH THIS FREE BATTERY
Contact: 01482 423414
Contact: 01482 423414
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Controversy erupted after DJ Chris Evans reportedly suggested her appearances in West End musicals gave her an unfair advantage.
She also suffered a personal loss when her grandfather, 89, died during the pre-training period for the series – she dedicated her first dance, which coincided with the day of his funeral, to his memory – and later in a fall during a rehearsal, she severely damaged a rib.
"I have been so looking forward to this tour because it's Strictly without all the pressure and the cameras and you haven't got to worry too much about how you're scored," Denise said. "It's so much more relaxed. I'm fully recovered from the injury and all I have to think about is having fun."
"You get very caught up in it," says Denise, 38, who was a runner-up in the competition, with Olympic gymnast Louis Smith crowned the Strictly champion.
"Everything the judges say you take personally, and you hate the negative things, even though you try to keep telling yourself, 'This is just a TV show.
"James kept reminding me, 'You're only going to do this competition once, so just enjoy it', but it means so much while it's going on."
The actress, who first found national fame in the Nineties as a presenter on Channel 4's The Big Breakfast, appears philosophical about the criticism she received over her place in the competition.
"It started in week one. At the time it felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall. I just wanted people to realise that what I did every Saturday night in the show was achieved purely through hours of hard work, about ten to 12 hours of training a day," she said.
"I've only danced in one show, Chicago, in 2001, and that wasn't Latin or ballroom.
"The other shows I've been in, Tell Me On Sunday and Legally Blonde, I was acting, not dancing.
"It was a little bit difficult to deal with because I felt it was unfair that I was singled out."
Kimberley Walsh had just done Shrek in the West End, and past competitors have been also been to stage school or had previous dance training.
Throughout it all she has had the support of her husband, actor Lee Mead, and he and their two-year-old daughter, Betsy, will travel from the family's home, a farmhouse in Kent, to join her throughout the month-long Strictly tour.
The couple married in 2009 after meeting when she was a judge on BBC One's Any Dream Will Do talent show.
Mead, now 31, won, landing the lead role in the musical Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
Juggling their career commitments so they can spend time together as a family is a priority, says Denise.
"It can be hectic, especially when we're both working at the same time, but family life comes first for both of us and when we get offered things, we check how we can make it work around our daughter," she says.
"We're so lucky as my mum and my best friend help us look after Betsy, so we have a good support system.
"But when this tour ends, we're really looking forward to a break together as we've been apart so much over the past few months."
She confides that they hope to have another child, and says: "I'd like another baby but there's no timetable for it. We'll just see what happens."
For more information about Strictly Come Dancing Live, visit www.strictlycomedancing live.com