Strictly’s Tess Daly shares real name after changing it to become model

Strictly Come Dancing star Tess Daly has shared her real name with fans, confessing to changing her birth name three decades ago.

The 51-year-old was born "Helen," but decided the name Tess sounded more glamorous when her modelling career first launched.

Speaking to Weekend about the name change, the blonde starlet explained her mum Sylvia still preferred to use her birth name, rather than her stage name.

She said: "My mum's really the only person who still calls me Helen, and that's not often.

"She tends to call me 'love', so when she does say 'Helen' it can take me a while to respond."

When Tess' modelling career kicked off in her teens, her model agent insisted she ought to change her name, as the agency had another "Helen" on their books.

Tess continued: "My agent was obsessed with [the actress] Nastassja Kinski at the time, who was in the film Tess, and thought I looked like her.

"So Tess it was. I was gullible and impressionable. Mind you, two weeks later I was in Japan then travelled the world. Paris, Milan, New York."

The Strictly star added: "I've never changed it by deed poll or anything because I think it would be disrespectful to my parents."

Tess, who is married to fellow TV star Vernon Kay, was born in Stockport, only to leave the UK in her teens to pursue a modelling career in Japan.

Speaking about the experience in an interview with The Guardian, Tess admitted it was "tough" to become independent at such a young age.

She said: "Initially I was terrified… I could barely speak to anyone from home without crying and having to keep the tears from my voice because you didn't want them to worry about you.

"Yeah, it was tough.

"[I was] penniless as well and then I started to work a little bit and I really enjoyed it. Had to go through the pain barrier though."

Now, three decades later, and Tess is one of the most famous names in UK showbiz, thanks in part to her presenting role on Strictly.

Tonight will see the starlet join co-host Claudia Winkleman on the stage, as they welcome 12 new acts to the famous dance floor for the competition kick-off.

Don't miss it!

Strictly Come Dancing airs on Saturdays at 7.50pm on BBC One.

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