Donegal’s own dancing queen Grainne Gallanagh is relishing every thrilling moment of her new journey on RTE's Dancing with the Stars.
After making a stunning debut last week, the Buncrana nurse and model wants to represent her county for as long as possible in the celebrity contest.
As the first elimination show looms, Grainne is now counting on her supporters at home to help her stay on the dancefloor.
Being from the north west gives her a unique advantage, Grainne says.
“Everyone at home is so supportive. It’s almost better being from a small town because everyone is so excited for you,” the former Miss Universe Ireland told Donegal Woman.
Grainne’s fanbase is so passionate in Buncrana that she even has a life-sized cutout outside O’Flaherty’s bar on Main Street.
“I nearly died when I saw that,” Grainne laughs, but she is clearly enjoying the craic and the entertainment that the light-hearted show brings to viewers.
“I’m so delighted to be able to represent Donegal. The show is something that people can look forward to, it’s not like negative news we see all the time, it’s lovely and it’s a nice lift for everyone.”
The glitz, glamour and fun come alongside a lot of hard work on Grainne’s part. She faces back to back rehearsals in preparation for each Sunday show. This week, she’s taking on a fast-paced jive and will be aiming to put her best foot forward as the competition heats up.
It will be a weekend of mixed feelings on Dancing with the Stars as one couple is sent home on Sunday.
“I don’t want to go home and I don’t want anyone else to go either,” Grainne said. “I’ll be sad about whoever goes home because we are quite a tight knit group.”
The celebrity line-up has already turned into a friend squad and Grainne says she is loving the “hype and buzz” of the group rehearsals.
Her professional dance partner Kai Widdrington is also keeping the craic going during the long rehearsal days, she says.
“Kai has been amazing. That’s a big part of it. It’s mad to see what you can do with the right training and the right partnership,” she said.
Grainne earned high marks from the judges last week to take third place on girls night. As a novice dancer, she admits she was shocked to see how far she had come in just a few weeks.
“Watching the show back I was like – ‘is that me?’”, she said.
Dancing with the Stars is just one of the major achievements Grainne has had in recent years.
After winning being crowned Miss Universe Ireland in 2018, she went on to place in the Top 20 in the world finals and built up a modelling career that has taken her to walk in the world’s largest swimwear show in Miami.
Building confidence and chasing her modelling dreams has brought her a long way.
“You have to take every opportunity you’re given. You have to do it because if you don’t, you will look back and regret it,” she said.
All the while, Grainne has been working as a women’s health nurse in London. Amidst all the glamour of TV and modelling, the LYIT graduate says she will never give up on her first career.
“I’ve been very lucky with the opportunities I’ve been given and I don’t take that for granted,” she says.
“People ask me all the time what’s next, but I’m never going to fully give up nursing. I worked too hard for that. To become a nurse and to know everything you do – it would be sad to give all that up.
“At the same time, being a nurse is flexible and allows me to do these things.”
Grainne will have an extra special supporter in the audience this weekend as her sister Jennifer comes home from Australia to cheer her on.
And the Buncrana girl is hoping that all of Donegal will get behind her and cast their votes when the lines open on Sunday evening.
She said: “Thanks so much to everyone for the support so far. I really appreciate anybody who has been voting and following my journey.
“I would love to stay in as long as I can and keep representing Donegal.
“Everyone has been so nice and hopefully they will keep rallying for me now.”