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Niamh Spence & Catherine Addison-Swan

Strictly champion Rose Ayling-Ellis hits back at claims BBC show has become ‘too woke’

Former EastEnders star Rose Ayling-Ellis has hit back at an article criticising the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing .

The star, who was the first deaf contestant to take part in the BBC competition and lifted the Glitterball trophy last year with partner Giovanni Pernice, posted a message on social media in response to an article published in The Telegraph. The article accused Strictly of becoming “the BBC’s latest woke box-ticking exercise”, referring to the inclusion of same-sex couples on this year’s series as well as Paralympic champion Ellie Simmonds.

Rose took to her Instagram stories to issue a defiant message after her fellow Strictly star, 2021 runner-up John Whaite, also criticised the article, The Mirror reports . In a series of videos, the Great British Bake Off winner admitted that reading the article had given him a “sleepless night”.

READ MORE: Strictly Come Dancing's Helen Skleton left 'bloodied and bruised' in rehearsals

“It's an article that directly compares, on BBC's Strictly, my partnership with Johannes with that of Richie [Anderson] and Giovanni. And it also compares Ellie Simmonds on the show to Rose Ayling-Ellis last year,” John explained.

Admitting that certain statements in the article had “angered” him, he implored: “Please don't use my partnership with Johannes as a way to undermine or erode the beauty of Richie and Giovanni's partnership.” And Rose added to John’s sentiments with her own powerful statement.

Ellie and Nikita earned seventh place on the leaderboard for their first Strictly dance (BBC/Ray Burmiston)

“Remember if you think TV is too ‘woke’, you have been living your life being privileged enough not to notice this,” she wrote. “It is a huge deal for those from the minority.”

The 27-year-old star added: “And please don't compare me to Ellie [Simmonds], we both have completely different life experiences that are just not comparable. Just be open to listen and learn. No disabled people are the same. I myself am learning a lot from Ellie, who is amazing btw!”

Ellie Simmonds, who was born with achondroplasia, the most common cause of dwarfism, has previously shared how she and dance partner Nikita Kuzmin have been “figuring it all out” when it comes to adapting Strictly routines to account for their height difference. The swimming gold medallist added that it was a “huge honour” to be part of the show’s drive towards better representation.

Same-sex couples were first introduced on the Strictly dancefloor in 2020, with boxer Nicola Adams pairing up with pro dancer Katya Jones, while last year saw John partnered with Johannes Radebe as the series’ first male same sex couple. This year includes two, with TV presenter Richie Anderson dancing with Giovanni Pernice and comedian Jayde Adams partnering with Karen Hauer.


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