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EastEnders actor Rose Ayling-Ellis becomes first deaf contestant to join Strictly Come Dancing

EastEnders actor Rose Ayling-Ellis – who is best known for playing Frankie Lewis in the soap – is set to become the first deaf contestant to step foot on the dancefloor in the new series of Strictly Come Dancing.

She will be the sixth disabled celebrity to take part in the reality show and will be following in the footsteps of Jonnie Peacock, Lauren Steadman, Katie Piper, Will Bayley and JJ Chalmers.

The 26-year-old is the 12 contestant to be confirmed and will be joined by other celebrity dancers including McFly star Tom Fletcher, actor Nina Wadia, Tilly Ramsay, the daughter of the chef Gordon Ramsay, the actor Greg Wise, who played Lord Mountbatten in The Crown, the presenter AJ Odudu and the Peep Show star Robert Webb.

Who is Rose Ayling-Ellis?

Frankie played by Rose Ayling-Ellis

Actress Rose Ayling-Ellis is best known for her role in EastEnders, which she joined in 2020, playing Frankie Lewis. Rose is the first-ever deaf actress to play a deaf character on the soap.

She has previously appeared in various stage productions, and her other TV credits that include Summer of Rockets and Casualty.

She decided to do acting as a hobby and her TV career “happened by accident” when she met a deaf director who wanted to make a short film.

Rose uses hearing aids and communicates with a combination of British Sign Language (BSL) and spoken Sign Supported English (SSE).

Rose AylingEllis competing on Strictly

The news that Rose would be competing on Strictly was revealed on Thursday 12th August exclusively on the @BBCEastEnders twitter account.

Following the announcement, Rose said: “To be the first deaf contestant on Strictly Come Dancing is sooooo exciting.. and a little bit scary. It is the hardest secret I have ever had to keep so it feels amazing to finally have this out in the open.

I hope I will do the deaf community proud and break down more barriers. But I am also very excited to learn an incredible new skill and even better I get to learn whilst wearing beautiful dresses made especially for me!”

Reactions by deaf organisations

Leading deaf charities said her appearance on Strictly will mark an important moment for on-screen representation, and called for more deaf characters and performers on television to help “inspire the next generation”.

Speaking to The Guardian, Rosie Eggleston, the participation manager at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “We’re really excited to see Rose joining Strictly and the show’s deaf young fans will be absolutely thrilled too.

Almost all deaf children and young people are born to hearing parents, and many are the only deaf person in their school or college, so they often struggle to meet others going through the same experiences.

Seeing deaf people on major TV shows reminds them that they’re not alone because there are other people out there just like them.”

Annie Roberts, an advocacy officer at the RNID charity, said it will also help make deaf people’s lives “more visible and understood” and challenge “outdated stereotypes”.

“We hope that Rose’s appearance will challenge the notion that deaf people can’t engage with the rhythm of different dances or adapt themselves to the musicality of the performances,” she said.

The multi-award-winning entertainment show, produced by BBC Studios, will return to BBC One for its 19th series this autumn, once again bringing glitter, glamour and glorious dancing to Saturday and Sunday nights.

Follow Rose Ayling-Ellis on Twitter and Instagram.

By Emma Purcell 

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Emma Purcell

Editor & Writer at Disability Horizons. Blogger at Rock For Disability. Loves live music, comedy, acting, chocolate and is a Harry Potter fanatic.
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