EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis will make television history as the first deaf contestant for Strictly Come Dancing.
The 26-year-old, who is the 12th celebrity to be confirmed for the new series, also broke new ground last year by becoming the first deaf actress to play a deaf character on the soap opera, as Frankie Lewis.
Following Thursday night’s announcement, Ayling-Ellis said she was excited to be on the BBC One show, but admitted it was also “a little scary”.
“It’s the hardest secret I’ve ever had to keep, so it’s amazing to finally have this out in the open,” she said.
“I hope that I will be the pride of the deaf community and that I will break more obstacles. But I’m also very excited to learn an amazing new skill and best of all, I’m learning while wearing beautiful dresses made especially for me.
Ayling-Ellis’ previous television work includes the BBC’s Cold War drama Two Summer of Rockets, starring Keeley Hawes and Toby Stephens, and Casualty.
Earlier this year, she explained how, when she was grow she always loved the arts but she never saw deaf people on tv, “so i never thought it would be possible to have a job, for me to do that”.
She decided to do theater as a hobby, and her television career “happened by accident” when she met a deaf director who wanted to make a short film.
Leading deaf charities said his appearance in Strictly would mark an important moment for on-screen portrayal, and called for more Deaf characters and performers on television to help “inspire the next generation.”
Rosie Eggleston, Head of Attendance at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “We are really excited to see Rose join Strictly and the young deaf fans of the show will be delighted too.
“Almost all Deaf children and youth are born to hearing parents, and many are the only Deaf people in their school or college, so they often struggle to meet others who are going through the same experiences. Seeing deaf people on major TV shows reminds them that they are not alone because there are other people like them.
Annie Roberts, advocacy manager at the RNID charity, said it would also help make the lives of deaf people “more visible and understood” and challenge “outdated stereotypes”.
“We hope that Rose’s appearance challenges the idea that deaf people cannot engage in the rhythm of different dances or adapt to the musicality of the performances,” she said.
In another premiere for Strictly this fall, which will mark its 19th series, The Great British Bake Off winner, John Whaite, will participate in the series’ first all-male partnership.
The 33-year-old boss will be the second gay couple after boxer Nicola Adams faced professional dancer Katya Jones last year. Whaite said it was “a big step forward in representation and inclusion”.
In addition to Whaite, Ayling-Ellis will also face competition from competitors including actress Nina Wadia, Tilly Ramsay, chef Gordon Ramsay’s daughter, actor Greg Wise, who played Lord Mountbatten in The Crown, the presenter AJ Odudu and The Peep Show star, Robert Webb. Three candidates have yet to be appointed.