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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Maanya Sachdeva

Strictly’s Ellie Simmonds says show has helped with name-calling and ‘stares’ on the street

BBC/Ray Burmiston

Strictly Come Dancing contestant Ellie Simmonds recently explained how the BBC show has “made things better” in some aspects of her life.

Simmonds, who is coupled up with professional dancer Nikita Kuzmin on the series, is a five-time Paralympic swimming champion.

When she agreed to sign up for the show, Simmonds also became the first Strictly contestant with achondroplasia – a form of dwarfism.

In a new interview with Mirror, the 27-year-old said she hopes her ongoing run on the dance reality competition will raise awareness about the condition.

Admitting she has experienced name-calling and “stares” prior to signing up for Strictly, Simmonds told the publication: “It has happened and I know so many people in the dwarfism community that get that on a daily basis, it happens even now but it is changing.”

She added that when people see “someone [who] looks different, you do get the stares” but appearing on the dance show has “made things better”.

“Now when I go out in the streets, the support has been amazing and the response phenomenal,” Simmonds said.

She also referenced Rose Ayling-Ellis, who won the dance competition last year after becoming the first deaf contestant to appear on Strictly.

She said: “TV is so powerful and that’s why representation is so important, you saw that with Rose [Ayling-Ellis] last year.”

Earlier this year, Mattel unveiled its first Barbie with behind-the-ear hearing aids – inspired by Ayling-Ellis.

Sir Lenny Henry also recently said he has been “inspired” to learn sign language by the former EastEnders actor.

Simmonds told Metro: “I’m not just representing myself but the dwarfism community and the disability community and, if I can create change, people like myself in the streets don’t get the stares, the name calling, the abuse.”

“If I could just change one person’s life that is so powerful,” she added.

You can read more about Simmonds here.

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