who will win strictly 2019

Who’s Going to Win Strictly? The Dancing Data Dive

Hans Seeberg 10 months ago

Whenever Strictly Come Dancing starts, people invariably try to pick the winner. You hear phrases like, ‘Ooh, such-and-such was in a girl group so she can dance’, or ‘That bloke’s an actor so he’ll be used to getting into character’, as if shuffling around on a stage clutching a microphone or playing a rogueish-yet-vulnerable wideboy in a soap is somehow the perfect preparation for tackling the complexities of the Argentine Tango. Predictions are usually based on nothing but a hunch.

But what if trying to guess the winner of Strictly was based on data?

What if you pored over the statistics from all 16 series in order to pinpoint who might win based on actual facts, rather than a feeble observation that because Alex Scott used to run around and kick a ball for a living, she will therefore be a shoo-in to hold the Glitterball Trophy aloft come December like some sort of dance-related FA Cup?

Well, that’s what we did - because we love playing with data to make fun content - it's our livelihood. And it turns out that Alex Scott does stand a good chance of winning... but it’s not for the reasons you might think. We’ve crunched the data – here’s why the winner will almost certainly be a brunette, could well be a sports star, but definitely won’t be a comedian...

So, let’s go back to the beginning...

Which gender of celebrity is more successful on Strictly?

This is a pretty even percentage split, but the men are ahead when it comes to Strictly wins.
percentage split of strictly winners gender

What about age?

This is where you can start to build up a picture of who’s more likely to win. Analysing all 16 series of Strictly, this is what we found...

That automatically puts contestants such as Viscountess Emma Weymouth (33), Dev Griffin (34) and Alex Scott (34) in the right age group. In fact, 56% of all male winners have been in their 30's, while Caroline Flack was the same age as Alex Scott when she won Strictly in 2014.

This year sees two 19-year-olds compete – vlogger Saffron Barker and CBBC presenter Karim Zeroual. But they’ve got their work cut out: no teenager has ever won Strictly. The youngest winning age, spanning all 16 series and approximately 1700 dances, has been 23.

It’s not great news for this year’s older contestants, either. Only one celebrity has ever won Strictly in their 40's – Joe McFadden, when he triumphed in 2017 at the ripe old age of 41. So if you’ve drawn James Cracknell (47), David James (48), Michell Visage (50), Mike Bushell (53) or Anneka Rice (60) in the office sweepstake, don’t hold your breath.

In fact, just 8% of the celebs who’ve made it through to the final of Strictly since it started in 2004 have been over the age of 40.

Is hair colour a factor?

As crazy as it sounds, yes. Brunette celebrities nearly always win Strictly – 81% of the time, according to the data. Abbey Clancy is the only blonde ever to win the show, back in 2013 (we haven’t counted 2014 winner Caroline Flack as either a blonde or a brunette, as her hair was a mixture of the two when she competed). So Saffron Barker’s chances of winning based on hair colour alone are currently 6%. Expect her to be endorsing brown hair dye on her YouTube channel by the Week 2 mark.

In addition to that, all nine male winners on Strictly have had dark hair. Basically, what we’re saying is that it’s just as well Jamie Laing pulled out.

brunette celebrities win strictly

Winners’ occupations

OK, so far the odds are strongly in favour of the celebrity winner being somewhere in their early 30's with brown hair. What if we bring their occupations into it? The past 16 winners can be categorised into the following employment sectors:

Three of the past five Strictly winners have been TV presenters, whereas before that it was two in eleven – this has clearly been a recent growth area. However, if you go on data alone, it doesn’t look as though a TV presenter will triumph this year: 53-year-old Mike Bushell and 19-year-old Karim Zeroual are the only contestants from this profession. Remember, the oldest winner was 41 and the youngest 23.

Don’t bet on a comedian either

In total, 10 comedians have entered Strictly since the first series in 2004. And they are nearly always rubbish.

Basically, 70% of all comedians have left the show by Week 5 – Susan Calman is the only one to have lasted longer than that since 2010. In other words, don’t get too used to the sight of Chris Ramsey in a sequinned top.

Sports stars always do pretty well though, don’t they?

The short answer is, yes. There have been 35 sportspeople on Strictly since 2004 – here’s how they’ve got on:

That means that, on average, sportspeople make it to Week 8.

If you analyse this by gender, male sports stars make it to Week 8 on average – good news if you manage James Cracknell, David James or Will Bayley and you’re hoping to get that lucrative sports drink sponsorship in the bag before Christmas.

Females fare even better. Their average exit stage is Week 9, but that stat is skewed unfavourably by Martina Hingis being the first to leave in 2009. The other five sportswomen who’ve done Strictly have reached Week 8 (Victoria Pendleton), Week 9 (Jade Johnson) and Week 12 (Lauren Steadman and Claudia Fragipane), while Denise Lewis finished runner-up in the second series.

Meanwhile, as there’s no previous data on table tennis players or rowers to go on, it’s hard to say exactly how well Will Bayley and James Cracknell will do based on their sport alone. But, on average, footballers make it through to at least Week 7.

To summarise, sportswomen do particularly well and so do footballers. Remember what we said about Alex Scott? Keep an eye out for her.

Which soap is the most successful?

EastEnders and Corrie continually battle it out for supremacy in the TV ratings, and it’s no different on Strictly. This year there’s a head-to-head, with 42-year-old Emma Barton from Walford taking on Catherine Tyldsesley, 35, from Weatherfield. Now, based on age you’d have to fancy Tyldesley to go deeper into the competition, but analysing the records of contestants from both soaps leads you to a different conclusion...

eastenders vs coronation street

(not including Series 2 winner Jill Halfpenny, who has starred in both soaps)

Analysing this data means that the average week that a Corrie star is voted out of Strictly is Week 7, whereas those from EastEnders make it to Week 9.

It also shows that there is a 71% chance that Emma Barton will make it to Blackpool.

Only 29% of all EastEnders actors who’ve appeared on Strictly have gone out in Week 4 or before, but three of the five who contribute to that stat all went in the same series (Phil Daniels, Gillian Taylforth and Jessie Wallace in 2008).

And it gets better for Emma Barton...

Celebrities from EastEnders generally do well in Strictly, but one of the strongest and most consistent performers in Strictly is the EastEnders actress. Just look at their record:

Other than Jessie Wallace and Gillian Taylforth being terrible in 2008, there must be something in the water at the Queen Vic: all the stats point to Emma Barton going very far in this year’s competition. There’s more data to back that up, too.

Barton’s pro dancer, Anton du Beke, usually gets the comical ‘older’ celebrity, such as Ann Widdecombe or Judy Murray, as a partner. Everyone laughs for the first few weeks as he pushes and pulls his hapless partner around the dancefloor, before he’s voted off to make way for the professionals who’ve been paired with celebrities possessing a basic level of rhythm.

But beware: since 2008 Anton du Beke has had one partner who was in her 40's – Katie Derham, who was 45 when she appeared on Strictly in 2015. They got to Week 13.

Does who the celebrities are partnered with matter?

Strictly has an ever-revolving conveyor belt of professional dancers, so we started analysing the pairings of previous winners to see if the data revealed anything intriguing. And it did...

It turns out that the combination of a male celebrity and a Russian female professional has won a quarter of all Strictly series, with the next most successful combination – and a win-rate of 19% – being a female celebrity with a British male professional (that’s you, Alex Scott and Neil Jones).

In fact, Russia is the most successful country in the world when it comes to professional dancers on Strictly. They have a 50% win rate over the past decade, and Aliona Vilani is the only Strictly pro to win the series twice. But there is something slightly odd about who the Russians have been partnered with this year...

Are this year’s pairings a dig at Russia?

While there are no male Russian pro dancers in Strictly this year, there are three females: Luba Mushtuk, Nadiya Bychkova and Katya Jones.

Now, remember what we said about the average age of male celeb winners of Strictly being 32?

Based on that, you’d have thought there would’ve been a high chance of at least one male 30-something, in the form of Dev Griffin, Will Bayley or Kelvin Fletcher, being paired with a Russian.

Instead, Mushtuk, Bychkova and Jones have been partnered with James Cracknell, David James and Mike Bushell respectively, whose ages are 47, 48 and 53. They are three of the five oldest celebrities in the competition.

Just to remind you, there has only ever been one winner of Strictly over the age of 40. And he was 41.

Vladimir Putin will be fuming.

And has Katya Jones been punished for last year’s tomfoolery?

If you’re not sure what this is referring to, here’s a little refresher: no sooner had the 2018 series started than Jones and her celebrity partner Seann Walsh were caught canoodling outside a pub in London. The problem was that the person who caught them was from The Sun, who plastered it over their front page. And that Katya was married. And that Seann had a girlfriend. A very angry girlfriend, who promptly dumped him on Twitter. Cue contrite apologies all-round from the guilty pair, before a meek exit in Week 6.

Rumours swirled that Jones would be dismissed for the 2019 series, but what’s better than sacking someone for disgracing a family-friendly brand like Strictly? That’s right: pairing them with the oldest bloke in the competition, who’s got little chance of winning.

Damningly, the stats say that over the last decade, 22 celebrities over 50 have been booted out by Week 6. Don’t be Googling train times to Blackpool, Katya.

What about the dreaded Strictly Curse?

You know the Strictly Curse – the name given to the phenomenon that arises when a celebrity and their professional partner, having spent weeks pressed up against each other in a sweaty dance studio, decide that learning a flirty Samba routine to Single Ladies by Beyonce is the ideal basis for a long-term relationship. This barometer of future happiness then leads them to dump their husband/wife/partner, before the nation collectively tuts at their brazen actions. 'Ooh, it’s that Strictly Curse again' they say, essentially absolving the naughty couple of any blame because it’s a CURSE and they were therefore POWERLESS to stop it.

Whether you believe it’s an actual curse or just people thinking the grass is greener, what is clear is that the ‘Strictly Curse’ has happened enough times to be able to analyse the data surrounding it - lucky us.

We only studied the celeb/pro couples who were linked to each other during the show’s run. Running a Google search on the pair in question between September and December of the year they competed, we wanted to see when the rumours about them first started circulating, in order to see if we could identify the optimum week at which the Strictly Curse is most likely to strike.

Here’s what we found...

Stacey Dooley and Kevin Clifton, 2018
Dooley splits with her long-term boyfriend after winning the series; announces she’s with Kevin in early 2019.
When did the Strictly Curse strike?
Week 11. On 6th December, The Sun and Metro run stories about Dooley’s boyfriend being ‘paranoid’ and ‘jealous’ of Clifton. With good reason, as it turned out.

Seann Walsh and Katya Jones, 2018
The pair are spotted kissing outside a London pub during the series and the furore makes the national news. Oh.
When did the Strictly Curse strike?
Week 2. Didn’t hang about, did they?

Joe Sugg and Dianne Buswell, 2018
Buswell splits with her boyfriend three weeks into the show. After it ends, Sugg confirms that the two are an item. Who saw that coming?
When did the Strictly Curse strike?
Week 5. The earliest rumour we found was 24th October.

Georgia May Foote and Giovanni Pernice, 2015
Georgia ends things with her boyfriend the month after Strictly ends. Entirely coincidentally, she is soon dating Pernice.
When did the Strictly Curse strike?
Week 2. Pernice issues a denial about the pair on 30th Sep 2015 – just before the second episode.

Ben Cohen and Kristina Rihanoff, 2013
Splits with his wife the year after Strictly and then starts dating… Kristina Rihanoff!
When did the Strictly Curse strike?
Rihanoff invites Cohen’s wife to rehearsals so she doesn’t get jealous in Week 2, but no rumours about the pair were reported during the show’s run. This couple are therefore discounted.

Rachel Riley and Pasha Kovalev, 2013
Riley splits with husband a few months after Strictly, and starts dating Pasha soon after. They’re expecting a child in December though, so it all worked out well in the end.
When did the Strictly Curse strike?
Week 9. Around that time, it’s reported in The Sun that Riley’s closeness to Kovalev has contributed to her marriage breakdown.

Joe Calzaghe and Kristina Rihanoff, 2009
Calzaghe ends things with his partner during the first week of training. He and Rihanoff subsequently get together and date for four years.
When did rumours start?
Week 1. The fastest example of the Curse ever, with Calzaghe denying rumours he and Rihanoff are getting close after they’re spotted holding hands before the first episode even airs.

Matt Di Angelo and Flavia Cacace, 2007
She splits with fellow pro Vincent Simone a few weeks into the series, then starts dating Di Angelo after Strictly ends.
When did rumours start?
The whispering began around Week 8 for this pair.

Natasha Kaplinsky and Brendan Cole, 2004
The couple who invented the Curse! Cole split with pro dancer Camilla Dallerup during the show amid rumours of getting close to Kaplinksy. They always denied anything happened.
When did rumours start?
The first reports were around the time of Week 3.

Taking an average of all these instances, the optimum time for the Strictly Curse to strike is...


So tell us who's going to win...

Based on the data, we’re predicting that Alex Scott will win this year’s show.

Let’s refer back to the data:

  • Contestants with brown hair have an 81% win rate
  • Statistically, she’s about the right age
  • Sports stars perform strongly
  • Female sports stars have a strong record
  • A female celeb and British pro dancer are the second most successful pairing configuration

Who else could do well?

Since 2017 the final has featured four couples, so which other three couples will join Alex Scott? The data says...

Dev Griffin

  • Contestants with brown hair have an 81% win rate
  • At 34 he’s just three years older than the average age of a winning male
  • His partner, Diane Buswell, reached the final last year
  • 70% of all Strictly runners-up have been actors or musicians – Griffin has been both in addition to being a radio presenter

Emma Barton

  • Four out of five Strictly winners have had brown hair
  • EastEnders actresses have a great record in the competition
  • 36% of all finalists have been actors – the most well-represented profession in the final
  • Her partner, Anton, has done well with contestants in their 40s

Viscountess Emma Weymouth

  • Contestants with brown hair have an 81% win rate
  • At 33, she’s close to the average winning age

But the winner won’t be...

Saffron Barker
No teenager has ever won Strictly, while blonde celebrities have a measly 6% win rate.

Chris Ramsey
Comedians do terribly. 70% of them have been gone by Week 5.

David James, Mike Bushell, Michelle Visage or James Cracknell
They’re all too old. Only one person in their 40's (41) has ever won.

So, there we have it, the data has spoken. We'll see how well these predictions play out once the sequins-and-sparkle spectacular gets into full swing.

Plus, whether it's serious finance or serious samba, if you've got a data set you'd like us to bring to life get in touch. It's what we love to do.

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