STACEY DOOLEY was crowned the queen of Strictly last night after winning the show’s famous glitterball trophy in a spectacular final.
The 31-year-old investigative reporter came out on top after taking on vlogger Joe Sugg and singers Faye Tozer and Ashley Roberts in the finale of the show’s 16th series.
But broadcasting experts said she was already the series’ big winner even before the results were in.
Stacey and her pro partner Kevin Clifton topped the viewers’ vote to win the contest despite the judges giving them the lowest marks of the four pairings in the final.
They gave two couples – former Pussycat Dolls star Ashley and partner Pasha Kovalev, and Steps singer Faye and Giovanni Pernice – top marks for all three dances in the final, 120 out of 120.
But some critics said the progress made by Stacey and Joe Sugg was more impressive because they had no formal dance training.
Stacey’s dance partner Kevin Clifton had been in the final four times before but never won. In tears after the result was announced, he said: “It’s a Christmas miracle.”
Too emotional at first to say anything, Stacey finally managed to thank Kevin, calling him “the biggest gem”.
She added: “It’s very daunting doing something you’ve never done before, and then Kevin walks you through it.
“Kevin, you so deserve this.”
He told her: “You are absolutely wonderful. You’ve worked so hard and you are so lovely.”
Excited Stacey helped other dancers hoist cheering Kevin into the air, screaming and laughing at her success as the audience gave the pair a standing ovation.
Judge Craig Revel Horwood said this year’s show had been “the best”.
He said: “The 2018 series has exceeded all expectations.”
Stacey was previously best known among younger BBC3 viewers but commentators believe her personality and performance have been showcased in Strictly and cemented her position as the BBC’s new golden girl.
John Cook, professor in media at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “Her working class persona is very important to the BBC at the moment when diversity is such a hot-button topic.
“There is obviously gender and ethnicity, but buried slightly below that is class as well. There is an attempt to put more regionally diverse accents on screen.
“So, when the BBC find someone like Stacey they are keen to promote them.
“It has always been seen that people get in through their connections and public school backgrounds. Now there is tremendous efforts at entry level within the BBC about trying to encourage people from diverse backgrounds.
“Stacey is like a poster girl for that. I can definitely see her getting more of a prime time slot.”
Stacey herself has spoken of how much she has enjoyed appearing on an upbeat show, in contrast to the investigative work she has previously been involved in.
She said: “The lovely thing for me personally is you’re able to have conversations with the general public about lighter, celebratory things.
“Sometimes work is so intense and can be so harrowing. It’s very serious and it has to be, the subjects are very dark a lot of time.”
She said she had been surprised by how much she enjoyed ballroom dancing, adding: “Sometimes Kev (her professional partner Kevin Clifton) walks in and I’m making a tea and watching ballroom dancing on my phone like a complete lunatic.”
Stacey and Kevin’s foxtrot to Hi Ho Silver Lining and stunning showdance to Land of a Thousand Dances, combined with her favourite dance wowed the judges and viewers.
For Kevin, one of the show’s most popular stars, the triumph was fifth time lucky. He had previously reached the final with Susanna Reid, Frankie Bridge, Kellie Bright and Louise Redknapp, only to fall at the final hurdle.
Last night’s show also saw a return to the Strictly dancefloor for comedian Seann Walsh whose drunken kiss with pro partner Katya Jones caused trouble with her fellow dancer husband Neil.
The marathon two-and-a-half-hour spectacular on BBC1 saw all four couples perform stunning routines in a bid to come out on top.
Former Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts, 37, who had been in the dance-off each of the previous three weeks after a backlash over her extensive dance experience, did her Salsa to (I’ve Had The) Time Of My Life from Dirty Dancing.
Steps star Faye Tozer, 43, who had also faced some criticism for having been extensively trained in dance, did an emotive Viennese Waltz to It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.
And surprise package, Joe Sugg, 27, previously best known on as a YouTube vlogger – performed a fierce and feisty Paso Doble to Pompeii, by Bastille.
The social media star has been credited with bringing a new, younger audience to the show with many of his eight million YouTube subscribers tuning in. It had been thought that some of his fans who had found a way to vote from abroad may have influenced the result.
There had been speculation that this series would be the first to feature a same-sex couple.
Although that was ruled out for this year by the BBC, it has been backed by judge Craig Revel Horwood.
Strictly will be back with its annual festive special on Christmas Day.