Strictly Come Dancing: TV star Rose Ayling-Ellis triumphs as show's first-ever deaf winner
EastEnders star Rose Ayling-Ellis has made history as the first deaf winner of Strictly Come Dancing.
The actress triumphed in the BBC One show alongside partner Giovanni Pernice, defeating Great British Bake Off star and TV chef John Whaite and his partner Johannes Radebe, the first all-male pairing in the show's history.
Rose was the bookies’ favourite to win for weeks and she won the admiration of Sheffield BBC star and quarter-finalist Dan Walker, who said several times on social media that he had voted for Rose.
He was on the show and his famous MC Hammer moment and lobster claws dance were referenced in the final group dance performed by all the series competitors.
Disability equality charity Scope has described Rose Ayling-Ellis's participation in the show as a "massive step forward" for disability representation.
The duo reprised their iconic couple’s choice dance where the music stopped during the routine, in order to show hearing people what Rose’s world is like.
Reacting to their win, Rose told Giovanni: “I just want to say you're so amazing, you pushed me to believe in myself more than I believed in myself.
“You're an incredible teacher and a wonderful friend and we have gone through a lot, and I just want you to know you've always got a piece of my heart.”
Giovanni expressed his joy, saying: “Incredible. I have to say thank you to this beautiful young lady who made all my dreams come true.
“It took me seven years to get that thing and you became the best dancer, the best teammate I could have asked for, you are a dream so thank you for everything.”
During the live final, which went ahead without contestant AJ Odudu, who pulled out on Friday due to an ankle injury, both couples performed three dances.
Rose, who is the show's first ever deaf contestant, and Giovanni dazzled by performing a quickstep, their couple's choice routine and a showdance.
After performing the Romeo and Juliet-inspired showdance to The Rose by Bette Middler, Rose said: "I've become more me than I've ever been because of Strictly.”
When does the Strictly live tour come to Sheffield?
Both pairs had matching scores during the final, with both duos receiving a perfect 40 for their favourite dances and their showdances.
After their couple's choice dance, Craig Revel Horwood told Rose her performance was "stunning, absolutely stunning".
Motsi Mabuse added: “Your ability to connect to yourself and to Giovanni and to connect us all together is sensational. I'm so proud to have you in this final.”
Shirley Ballas continued: “I know in your heart you did it for the deaf community but for me you did this for every person watching this show. You are an inspirational young lady.”
Judge Anton Du Beke was so moved by Rose’s performances that he said he had to give his verdict without looking at her, in case he broke down in tears.
The Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour 2022 comes to Sheffield Utilita Arena on February 1 and 2.
The line-up of celebrities and their professional partners includes Rose and Giovanni, John Whaite and Johannes Radebe, Sara Davies and Aljaž Skorjanec, AJ Odudu and Kai Widdrington, Tilly Ramsay and Nikita Kuzmin, Rhys Stephenson and Nancy Xu. They will be joined by last series’ competitor Max George, partnering Katya Jones.