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Strictly Come Dancing 2021: Rose Ayling-Ellis first deaf winner

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EastEnders star Rose Ayling-Ellis has become the first deaf contestant to win Strictly Come Dancing.

The 27-year-old and professional partner Giovanni Pernice were presented with the glitterball trophy on Saturday’s live final.

They defeated Great British Bake Off star John Whaite and Johannes Radebe, the first all-male pairing in the show’s history.

Ayling-Ellis paid tribute to Pernice after being crowned winner, saying he “always had a piece of her heart”.

Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice celebrate (PA)
Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice celebrate (PA)

The couple’s victory also marks the first win for Pernice, who has been a pro dancer on the show since 2015.

He previously made it to the final in 2018, 2017 and 2015 with Faye Tozer, Debbie McGee and Georgia May Foote respectively.

Reacting to their win, 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.”

Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice during the final of Strictly Come Dancing (PA)
Rose Ayling-Ellis and Giovanni Pernice during the final of Strictly Come Dancing (PA)

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.”

The third finalist, TV presenter AJ Odudu, had to pull out of the competition on Friday after tearing a ligament in her ankle.

Ayling-Ellis held off competition from Whaite and Radebe with both couples performing three dances.

The show’s first ever deaf contestant and Pernice 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, Ayling-Ellis said: “I’ve become more me than I’ve ever been because of Strictly.”

Johannes Radebe and John Whaite perform (PA)
Johannes Radebe and John Whaite perform (PA)

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 Ayling-Ellis 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.”

Disability equality charity Scope has described Ayling-Ellis’s participation in the show as a “massive step forward” for disability representation.

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