Oti swaps the glitterball for Cupid’s arrow

Saturday:Romeo & Duet; (ITV, 7pm)

Oti Mabuse
Oti Mabuse

She lit up the Strictly dance floor for seven years, and became the only professional to win the competition two years in a row after partnering with Kelvin Fletcher and Bill Bailey, but now Oti Mabuse has swapped the glitterball for Cupid’s arrow.

She’s the host of this effervescent dating show, which began last week and sees a singleton serenaded on a balcony by unseen would-be wooers.

Only when the lonely heart has chosen one of the singers do they get to meet face to face, but the drama doesn’t stop there.

The pair are then whisked off to learn a duet, returning later in the show to compete against other couples all looking to win the competition.

Each musical interlude is accompanied by musical director Vikki Stone and her live band The Heartbeats, who guarantee a toe-tapping time for everyone.

Unlike the contestants, Oti admits she doesn’t have the greatest voice. “I cannot sing!” she laughs, adding: “The thing I love about this show is it’s not about singing. You don’t have to have a great voice, you just have to connect with the person that you’ve matched with. It’s not a talent show. It’s just coming together and having a good time.”

She goes on: “One thing I learned on the show is that the song really shows off your personality. If I’m into rock and you sing R’n’B I know we might not match. In the morning we’re not going to listen to the same song, so we’re not compatible that way. It’s something they already have in common.”

Oti is used to dancing in front of an audience but working on this show was a different kettle of fish, and not an unwelcome one. “It was my first time hosting in front of a live studio audience. It was the best feeling. They were just so excited to be there. They couldn’t wait,” she says.

“The audience is such a vital part of the show as they’re saying, ‘come down!’ because they can see both people – or they’re like, ‘stay where you are’, or they’re confused, and when you’re doing your duet, they are voting. In another way they became my co-stars. It was just so special and amazing.”

She’s clearly thrilled to be presenting, explaining: “I always wanted something where I can connect with people and communicate and get to know them.”

She recalls one particularly swoonsome moment, saying: “There’s one couple and the screen opened and the guy was still singing and the guy that came down the stairs was so excited. They didn’t even wait, they just ran up to each other.

“The two gentlemen were just literally looking at each other and singing. I was like, ‘Yeah!’ Loved it. I think it’s really nice when they come on and they show their personalities.”

Oti adds: “I loved being able to ask the contestants questions as well, when they came down, saying, ‘why didn’t you come down?’ or ‘do you have regrets…’. Reading links and trying to do the whole thing, concentrating and to not look like you’re super-stressed.

“I loved everything about it. It’s been a great experience and I was so happy going home every night after every show.”