The 26-year-old is used to smashing records, having become the first deaf actor on EastEnders when she joined the soap in May 2020, playing Frankie Lewis – the daughter of Danny Dyer’s Mick Carter.
She first became interested in acting as a child, starring in the award-winning short film The End in 2011 from deaf director Ted Evans.
She later joined the Deafinitely Youth Theatre, before performing in a number of stage productions at the National Theatre and Manchester’s Royal Exchange.
On TV, she’s appeared in Casualty and Summer of Rockets, as well as starring in a music video for boy band The Vamps.
Upon the news of her casting in this year’s series of Strictly, some fans wondered if she would be at a disadvantage due to the dancers’ need to follow the live band and dance in time to the beat.
However, in a recent interview, Ayling-Ellis said that she hopes to challenge assumptions about deaf people and music.
“A lot of people think that deaf people can’t hear the music, enjoy the music, and enjoy dancing, so I thought it would be a good platform for me to break that stereotype,” she said.
— BBC Strictly ✨ (@bbcstrictly) August 12, 2021
“It’s a common misconception that deaf people can’t enjoy music. I have a hearing aid, so I pick up some of the music and I can hear the beat. I can hear someone singing, but I can’t identify exact words. I can also feel the vibrations.”
Strictly producers have also been working with Ayling-Ellis to ensure her needs are met on the show, with many learning British Sign Language.
Ayling-Ellis admitted that being the first deaf contestant was “exciting” and “a little bit scary”.
— BBC Strictly ✨ (@bbcstrictly) September 15, 2021
“It is the hardest secret I have ever had to keep so it feels amazing to finally have this out in the open,” she said.
“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!”
Strictly Come Dancing returns Saturday 18 September at 7.45pm on BBC One.