Rose Ayling-Ellis’s year in TV: ‘After Strictly, people told me they wouldn’t be upset if they had a deaf child’

The EastEnders star on inspiring other deaf actors, her passion for painting, and why missing subtitles make her switch off

Rose Ayling-Ellis, 27, joined the cast of EastEnders in 2020. In 2021, she made history as the first deaf contestant to take part in Strictly Come Dancing, going on to win the competition with her dance partner, Giovanni Pernice. The pair’s silent dance to Clean Bandit’s Symphony won must-see moment at this year’s Bafta TV awards.

You made a huge impact on Strictly in 2021 – how did you feel when you were asked to take part?
I felt really privileged, but it was also scary because they had never had anyone like me on the show – it would be a completely new experience for them and for me. But I’m so glad I said yes. I didn’t know the reaction to Symphony would be that big [Rose and Giovanni performed a Couple’s Choice dance to the Clean Bandit song, complete with a silent section]. It was really nice for the deaf community to be portrayed in a positive, joyful light. People started to see things in a different way; I had people messaging me saying they wouldn’t be upset if [...]

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