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

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 they had a deaf child, or if their child became deaf.

Rose Ayling-Ellis being lifted off her feet by Giovanni Pernice during the final of Strictly Come Dancing 2021.
With Giovanni Pernice during the final of Strictly Come Dancing. Photograph: Guy Levy/BBC/PA

Your TV comfort watch
I just finished Des with David Tennant. I love crime dramas. They’re horrible but I find them fascinating.

Who would play you in the TV show of your life?
I don’t know. I’m hoping that in this next generation there are more deaf actors, and that there will be someone that can play me later on. I can’t have a hearing person playing me.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an actor?
I would definitely be an artist – I love painting and collaging. I have a degree in fashion, so I’d probably also be making clothes and embellishments.

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Who do you watch TV with?
I watch with my boyfriend a lot. We have similar taste in shows, but I also like watching alone so there are no disruptions.

What makes you reach for the remote (to turn the TV off)?
Shows with subtitles that are either wrong, or a bit late, or a bit early. And so many programmes don’t have any at all, so I can’t watch them.

What do you eat in front of the TV?
I love posh crisps, either cheese and onion or sweet chilli.

Who is the most famous person in your phone contacts?
Danny Dyer. He’s such a wonderful person.

Strictly Come Dancing returns later this year; EastEnders airs Monday to Thursday at 7.30pm on BBC One. For more information about the Virgin Media Bafta TV Awards, visit


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