These days the countdown to Christmas doesn’t start with early decorations in shops, perfect present suggestions in September or cheeky July advertisements: it starts when the Christmas entertainment shows begin and this includes BBC favourite Strictly Come Dancing.

Gemma AtkinsonGemma is the fourth participant to be revealed on Strictly Come Dancing

While the popular dance show hasn’t yet hit the screens, it has been ramping up the tension by introducing a new celebrity contestant every day and today was the turn of actress and model Gemma Atkinson.

Speaking on BBC breakfast Gemma admitted she felt "really bad" having to lie to her loved ones when rumours that she could take part started to emerge, as the only person she was allowed to tell was her mum.

"I can finally say I'm doing it! Sorry for lying!" she laughed. "I'm looking forward to just learning to dance as it's out of my comfort zone. Even wearing heels for me is a big thing. Putting me in a sparkling frock is out of my comfort zone.

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"I want to challenge myself and do something I've never done before.

"I did disco dancing from the age of nine to ten but that was kind of cartwheels across the floor, eat my pic 'n' mix and go home.

"As far as any dance training goes, I haven't had any.

"After a few drinks I think I'm Britney Spears but I'm not at all!"

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Fitness fanatic Gemma has appeared in popular soaps including Hollyoaks and Emmerdale and admits she hasn’t had any formal dance training and is hoping for a partner who is tall to match her 5ft 9in height.

The most recent contestant announcement comes after Loose Women panellist Ruth Langsford was revealed as the third participant following news of the former Saturdays singer Mollie King and EastEnders star Davood Ghadami.