School dance group in Norfolk to Love Island fame: Caroline Flack’s rise to stardom
PUBLISHED: 12:12 16 February 2020 | UPDATED: 16:05 16 February 2020
Love Island, X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing, I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! Caroline Flack was a star of prime-time TV, but her rise to fame started from humble beginnings in Norfolk.
Caroline was born in London, where home backed on to the Tottenham Hotspur football ground, prompting her lifelong love of Spurs. But as a child her family settled in the village of Great Hockham, near Thetford.
Growing with her brother Paul, sister Elizabeth and twin Jo, she attended Great Hockham Primary and then Wayland High School in Watton, where she was a keen member of its teenage dance group The Gug.
She got her first taste of performing in panto as a youngster. She did ballet classes in Thetford and performed in local plays.
At 16 she left Norfolk to study music and theatre for three years at Bodywork Company in Cambridge. "It's the only real qualification I have," she told the EDP in 2017.
She then made the move to London but her ambition to perform on stage morphed into a presenting career. "I always wanted to work in entertainment but it took a long time and a lot of hard work to get there," she recalled. "You think you will just go to London and get a job in television and that will be that but it is not like that."
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Her first big break came playing Bubbles on sketch show Bo'Selecta in 2002 which led to a series of presenting jobs for a variety of music and entertainment shows, including Big Brother's Big Mouth, the Eurovision Song Contest, Gladiators and Saturday morning kids' show TMi (Too Much Information).
Another children's TV show was talent show CBBC Fame Academy which she co-presented with another fledgling Norfolk star Jake Humphrey.
In a tweet following her death he said: "Ask anyone that worked with or knew her and her sense of fun and adventure will be one of the first things they mention. She was a dynamo. So sad. Thoughts with all her family."
Her breakthrough came on the ITV2 spin off show of I'm a Celebrity…Get me Out of Here and then in 2011 she joined the X Factor team - firstly as presenter of the Xtra Factor, and then working on the main show itself along with former contestant Olly Murs for one series, replacing Dermot O'Leary, in 2015 and her autobiography, Storm In A C Cup, was also released that year.
In 2014 she was crowned winner of Strictly Come Dancing lifting the glitterball trophy and there could have been nobody more proud in the studio audience than her mum, Chris, and her two sisters, Jody and Lizzie.
Sitting on the front row, the trio watched with delight as Caroline and her dance partner, Pasha Kovalev, wowed the judges and 11.5 million viewers.
The duo's three performances achieved top marks from the judges every time - the first time any Strictly finalist has done this. In an emotional speech on stage Caroline declared: "this is the best feeling in the whole world".
"Norfolk was so behind her. I think that was one of the main things that kept her going. It means a lot that people went out and voted," her mum, said at the time.
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Speaking about the pair's triumph, Pasha Kovalev later told the EDP: "Caroline is very talented in many different ways and when it came to dancing she opened up.
"It took us weeks, if not months, to get there because she was questioning her ability and whether there was a dancer in her. But then the last couple of shows, and those last few dances, I think she finally tapped into that inner dancer and connected it to her emotions and her personality.
"I've partnered some amazing celebrities throughout my time on the show, but winning it with Caroline was really like the icing on the cake."
But it was reality dating series Love Island that took the presenter to the peak of her career. Taking over as host as the show was relaunched in 2015, over five series she became synonymous with it.
Throughout her rise she was a frequent visitor back to Norfolk. She returned to talk to pupils at Wayland High School and drew a huge queue of fans to a signing of her autobiography in Norwich.
In 2017 she was due to appear at Norwich Theatre Royal, playing Irene in a touring production of the glitzy musical Crazy For You, alongside fellow Strictly winner Tom Chambers, but had to pull out due to on-going back pain.
"Norwich is my hometown," she said at the time, adding that while her parents visit her in London a lot she always tried to get back to the home comforts of Norfolk.