STRICTLY contestant Zara McDermott says her pro dance partner prepared her for Saturday’s first live show by getting her to wear men’s shoes.
She said Graziano Di Prima banned her from wearing high heels while practising the cha cha cha.
But the move backfired, as Zara, 26, was left with open sores on the back of her heels from training in men’s boots.
In an exclusive chat at Central Recorder’s Who Cares Wins awards, Zara said: “Graziano told me not to go for the heels but to dance in men’s shoes at the start.
“Off he went and got me them and they’re men’s shoes with a little Cuban heel.
“I told him, ‘It’s not working, I need to take them off’ and he said, ‘No, no you’re fine’.
“I said honestly it’s hurting and I took them off and my feet were bleeding. I was like, ‘I told you I am not being dramatic!’
“My feet are feeling better this week, I feel like they’re getting harder now.”
Zara, who was on Love Island in 2019, has been pushed out of her comfort zone by Italian Graziano, 29, on the BBC show.
She said: “I feel like today was the first day. I feel like I am finally getting it.
“Last week I was honestly like a piece of wood but now I have made some progress.
“I’m dancing the cha cha cha and for the dance you need to have totally straight legs.
“I’ve learned that your legs have to be bent back on themselves to be that straight, which is really unnatural.
“It is so weird and feels so unnatural to do it but I am getting there.”
She will hit the dancefloor during the first live show on Saturday night, where she will be marked by the judging panel, Craig Revel Horwood, Motsi Mabuse, Shirley Ballas and Anton Du Beke, for the first time.
And Zara, who now makes documentaries on the BBC, has put all her work commitments on ice to focus on the competition.
She said: “I’m not working at the minute.
“I finished my last documentary a couple of weeks ago so I can completely focus on Strictly now.
“I am so excited about it all. I have no idea what dances are going to suit me but I am looking forward to ballroom because I know I am going to feel like a fairy princess.”
Zara had previously admitted to being daunted by her appearance on the show but insisted she would give it her all.
She said: “I think I’m probably the most nervous I’ve been in my life.
“I’m not a natural born performer or extrovert, so this is the biggest challenge of my life.”
Strictly came back with a bang on Saturday night, with 6.7million viewers tuning in — 1.1million more than last year’s launch.