It may have come from relative obscurity, but 2023 is poised to be a big year for Strictly Come Dancing champion Hamza Yassin, who lifted the glitter ball trophy with his dance partner Jowita Przystał on Saturday night.
He edged out fellow finalists Helen Skelton, Fleur East and Molly Rainsford in a tense final and insiders now expect big things for the wildlife expert, who he says is “over the moon” to win.
“I can’t put into words what this means to us and I am so grateful to everyone who voted. It made the long hours of training and hard work worth it,” Yasin said Sunday, the morning after receiving the award.
Przystał, who won in her first year as a professional on the show, described the 12-week series as “an amazing journey”. During the final show, all couples had to perform a routine chosen by the judges, their favorite dance and show dance.
East and Vito Coppola topped the leaderboard with 119 points. Yassin and Barzista were bottom with 113 points, but they won the hearts of the crowd and got the necessary votes to win.
After the final, Yasin was praised by viewers on social media, describing him as “the most natural successor” to Sir David Attenborough.
PR celebrity Mark Borkowski said he could be the right person to step in for the legendary wildlife presenter, who is 96 years old.
“Through it all, there’s just something about his humility, his humility, and where he’s coming from,” Borkowski said. “It’s an incredible example of someone who was just doing that and achieving so much. I think the BBC will have to find some kind of replacement for Attenborough and I think it’s the greatest achievement.” [Yassin] He’ll see if he can make some of that happen.
“He’s one of the rare winners of a reality show that seems to be more than just an entertainment celebrity. He’s got something deeper to tap into within TV, within social media, and beyond.”
Yassin, known as Ranger Hamza on CBeebies, was born in Sudan and moved to the UK at the age of eight, not knowing any English. He went to prep school in Scotland and then to Wellingborough Independent School in Northamptonshire, where he was diagnosed with dyslexia.
He studied Zoology with Conservation at Bangor University and obtained a Masters in Biological Photography and Photography at the University of Nottingham, before dropping out and moving to the Highlands of Scotland at the age of 21 to pursue his dream of becoming a wildlife photographer.
He has since become a regular face on CBeebies, Countryfile and Animal Park, a series that looks behind the scenes at Longleat Safari Park. In 2020 he produced a one-off Channel 4 documentary about his life and the wildlife living on the Ardnamurchan peninsula titled Scotland: My Life in the Wild.
Last year he also presented Channel 4’s Scotland: Escape to the Wilderness, taking celebrities Martin Clunes, Saida Warsi, Ben Miller and Reverend Richard Coles to see wildlife at locations across Scotland.
Craig Bennett, chief executive of Wildlife Trusts, said he was delighted that Yassin had won. “Hamza has definitely brought something fresh and new to the wildlife broadcast genre, and I hope we see more of him on our TV screens after this win,” he said.
Yasin took a break from the dance floor for a few weeks before rehearsals began for the Strictly Live Tour, where he and Przystał will be the main cast performing their best dances from the series, including the couple’s chosen dance, an Afrobeats-inspired dance.
Dance schools and studios across the UK saw a surge in demand for Afrobeats dance lessons after Yasin and Przystał performed the number, bringing judge Motsi Mabus to tears.
A London dance school, Danceworks, has more than quadrupled the number of its Afrobeats class after winning, while dance teachers have reported more inquiries about African dance styles over the past month.
“It’s really amazing how much impact this dance has had,” said Cherise Collings, Principal at Danceworks. “It shows what a difference it makes when people watch it on TV.”
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