He may have come from relative obscurity but 2023 is predicted to be a big year for the Strictly Come Dancing champion Hamza Yassin, who lifted the glitterball trophy with his dance partner Jowita Przystał on Saturday night.
He pipped fellow finalists Helen Skelton, Fleur East and Molly Rainford to the title in a tense final and insiders are now predicting big things for the wildlife expert, who said he was “over the moon” to win.
“I can’t put into words what this means to us and I’m so thankful for everyone who has voted. It’s made the long hours of training and hard work worthwhile,” Yassin said on Sunday, the morning after taking the prize.
Przystał, who won in her first year as a professional on the show, described the 12-week series as “an amazing journey”. During the last show, all couples had to perform a routine chosen by the judges, their own favourite dance and a show dance.
East and Vito Coppola were top of the leaderboard with 119 points. Yassin and Przystał were bottom on 113 points, but they won the public’s heart and secured the necessary votes to win.
After the final, viewers praised Yassin on social media, calling him “the most natural successor” to Sir David Attenborough.
The Celebrity PR Mark Borkowski said he could be the right person to step into the shoes of the legendary wildlife presenter, who is 96 years old.
“Through the whole thing, there’s something about his humility, and his humbleness and where he’s come from,” Borkowski said. “He’s an incredible example of someone just getting on with it and achieving so much. I think the BBC will have to find some sort of replacement for Attenborough and I think the greatest achievement for [Yassin] would be seeing if he can fulfil some of that.
“He is one of the rare winners of a reality show that seems to be more than an entertainment celebrity. He’s got something deeper which can be exploited within television, within social media and beyond that.”
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 the independent Wellingborough school in Northamptonshire, where he was diagnosed as dyslexic.
He studied zoology with conservation at Bangor University and did a master’s in biological photography and imaging at the University of Nottingham, before dropping out and moving to the Highlands of Scotland at the age of 21 to follow his dream of becoming a wildlife photographer.
He has since become a regular face on CBeebies, Countryfile and Animal Park, a series looking behind the scenes at Longleat Safari Park. In 2020 he made a one-off documentary on Channel 4 about his life and the wildlife living on the Ardnamurchan peninsula called Scotland: My Life in the Wild.
Last year, he also presented the Channel 4 show Scotland: Escape to the Wilderness, where he took celebrities Martin Clunes, Sayeeda Warsi, Ben Miller and the Rev Richard Coles to see wildlife in locations around Scotland.
Craig Bennett, the chief executive of the Wildlife Trusts, said he was delighted Yassin had won. “Hamza has definitely brought something fresh and new to the genre of wildlife broadcasting, and I hope we will see more of him on our TV screens after this win,” he said.
Yassin has a break from the dancefloor for a few weeks before rehearsals begin for the Strictly Live Tour, in which he and Przystał will be the headline act performing their best dances from the series, including their couple’s choice dance, an Afrobeats-inspired dance.
Dance schools and studios across the UK saw an increase in the takeup of Afrobeats dance classes after Yassin and Przystał performed the number, which reduced judge Motsi Mabuse to tears.
One London dance school, Danceworks, had numbers more than quadruple for its Afrobeats class following the win, while dance teachers reported significantly more inquiries for African dance styles over the last month.
“It’s quite surprising how much of an impact that dance has made,” said Cherise Collings, a manager at Danceworks. “It goes to show how much difference it makes when people see it on TV.”