How Strictly's Stacey Dooley shunned life of drugs and crime to become nation's favourite to win the Glitterball trophy

The 31-year-old documentary-maker has been very open about her difficult upbringing and the tragic loss of her best friend who died from a heroin overdose before he turned 18.

Stacey's former neighbour, Meg Sheaf, has revealed Stacey was a 'devil child' when she was at school, but she has since made a dramatic U-turn and massively changed her ways.

Speaking to the Mirror, the 75 year old said: "Stacey is just a lovely young girl.

"She’s a typical Lutonian, very friendly and outgoing.

"She always had a smile on her face. Her favourite saying was, ‘Laugh like your ass is on fire.'”

Stacey agrees with Meg and has admitted she did not sit many of her GCSE's, and although she shunned drugs she was not the best behaved teen.

Speaking in her book On The Front Line With the Women Who Fight Back, Stacey wrote: "I didn’t collect my GCSEs. I didn’t even do most of them."

So rife was the drug use in her friendship circle, her mum Di even posted a picture of Leah Betts, who died after taking ecstasy aged, on their fridge to make Stacey realise the implications.

Writing in her book, Stacey explained: “My pals did loads of gear. Everyone was taking pills and sniffing coke. I’ve seen people take heroin. We lost one of our pals to smack before his eighteenth birthday.”

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Stacey Dooley lost her friend to drug overdose at a young age

Stacey never took drugs herself after seeing the picture of tragic Leah every day.

The TV star added: “I thought it was a bit over the top, but maybe it worked because I’ve never ever taken anything.  I could drink loads when I was younger, and smoke loads of fags, but I’ve never, ever done gear.”

The television presenter has gone on to boast an impressive career as she has released a book, as well as a string of documentaries, and has even been awarded an MBE for her work.

But the star has insisted she owes her career success to her mother Diane, who told Stacey to apply for the opportunity to take part in the BBC documentary Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts.

Stacey said: “I would probably still be in Luton, which isn’t a bad thing. But I wouldn’t have travelled the world.”

The beauty will battle it out against Faye Tozer, Joe Sugg and Ashley Roberts to be crowned champion of Strictly Come Dancing 2018 with dance professional Kevin Clifton.

But the nation have high hopes for Stacey to be crowned the champion, as she is currently the bookies' favourite to win with Joe Sugg and Faye Tozer next in the betting, while Ashley Roberts is the 33-1 rank outsider to go all the way.

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