A leading deaf charity hailed Strictly star Rose Ayling-Ellis as an inspiration as she won the final of the BBC dance spectacular last night.
Along with pro partner Giovanni Pernice, she waltzed off with the famous glitterball trophy after a stunning final routine, a Romeo And Juliet-inspired showdance to The Rose by Bette Midler.
Head judge Shirley Ballas said: “She’s melted my heart, the love you have for dance and for each other will last a lifetime. It will leave a mark on my heart forever. Thank you for doing this competition.”
Fellow judge Anton Du Beke held back tears as he said: “I can’t speak, it’s so beautiful. Forgive me for not looking at you or I will cry.”
Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive at the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) said her influence on disability representation, especially that of deaf people, cannot be overstated.
He said: “Deaf representation on TV is so important, especially on a major show like Strictly. Rose has already achieved so much, and RNID and our charity’s supporters have been thrilled to see her performing.”
Ayling-Ellis was one of three celebrities dancing for the Glitterball Trophy last night, and she has used British Sign Language (BSL) during the series and once danced in silence to illuminate the experience of deafness.
Atkinson said: “Rose has shown us two things: firstly, that she’s an outstanding dancer. And secondly, that deaf people can do anything, whether that’s dancing, acting or performing, but society must adapt and make sure it meets their communication needs. Rose has been an inspiration to deaf children and adults, and she’s encouraged the public to become more deaf aware. It’s fantastic to see people inspired to start learning BSL, even knowing a little bit can make a difference.”
Stacey Worboys, a social media executive at RNID, said: “I have loved watching Rose and Giovanni on Strictly every week. It is great to have more representation on TV and I hope this is just the start. Rose has inspired so many people, adults and children alike, and her dancing has improved so much over the last 13 weeks!”
Last night might have been the 18th final of Strictly but it was still was a show of many firsts.
Fans were shocked on Friday afternoon when it was announced that TV presenter AJ Odudu would have to pull out of the final due to a torn spring ligament. In an emotional Instagram post, Odudu said: “I’ve had ultrasounds, MRI scans and X-rays. I’ve had two incisions to drain the inflammation around my ankle. I’ve injected local anaesthetic directly into my foot, and I’ve been strapped up to an ice compression machine for days.
“I’ve done all I can. I even asked the docs if I could perform in a medical moonboot! But the fact is, I can’t stand on my feet let alone dance.”
The final was already running short as only three couples were performing this year instead of the usual four, due to comedian’s Robert Webb’s sudden departure earlier in the season due to ill health.
The show must go on however, and last night’s show saw EastEnders star Rose Ayling-Ellis and Great British Bake Off winner John Whaite go head-to-head for the Strictly crown.
Both couples represent landmark firsts for the show, with Ayling-Ellis being the first deaf contestant to appear on the series, wowing viewers with her show-stopping performances with partner Giovanni Pernice.
Whaite is part of the first male same sex couple on the show, dancing with professional Johannes Radebe to Strictly classics such as the Argentine tango and the Viennese waltz.
Bake Off star Whaite admitted that he had been riddled with self doubt throughout the series and said he “felt the weight” of what their on-screen partnership signified.
Judge Motsi Mabuse was in tears as she told them: “I am thinking, what a great time it is to be part of Strictly. We are changing so many lives with this dance show.”
Reacting to their win, Giovanni Pernice said: “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.”
Ayling-Ellis told him: “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.”
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