Strictly Come Dancing's reigning champion Rose Ayling Ellis has responded to a recent article which compared her to this year's contestant Ellie Simmonds.
Rose, who is deaf, won Strictly last year alongside Giovanni Pernice with many praising how the EastEnders actress overcame her disability to perform and wow the judges. As the winner in 2021 she was the first disabled dancer to lift the Glitterball trophy.
However, the actress has now addressed criticisms that the BBC programme is 'woke' for including disabled contestants and same-sex couples in its line up. The article addressed recent changes made by the BBC to make their Strictly line up more inclusive.
Speaking on Instagram stories, Rose addressed the article as she said: "Please have a watch at John's story… Thank you for speaking up about this @john_whaite.
"Remember if you think TV is too "woke", you have been living your life being privileged enough not to notice this. It is a huge deal for those from the minority.
"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 Simmons has achondroplasia, the most common cause of dwarfism, and has previously spoken out about how important it is to see others with disabilities on the primetime TV programme. In an interview she said: "Disability representation is so important on a show like this [ Strictly Come Dancing ], and I'm honoured to do it for the dwarfism community."
Another Strictly celebrity who has criticised the 'woke' claims is 2021 runner up John Waite, who had an angrier response. The TV foodie star shared several videos addressing his worries over the article, stating it had given him a "sleepless night".
The 33-year-old said: ""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.
"In using those comparisons she is saying how woke Strictly is this year."
The star also addressed some key statements in the article that really 'angered' him. He said: "Please don't use my partnership with Johannes as a way to undermine or erode the beauty of Richie and Giovanni's partnership."
Same-sex couples were first introduced on the Strictly dancefloor in 2020 with boxer Nicola Adams who was paired with Katya Jones. This year includes two with TV presenter Richie Anderson and Giovanni Pernice and also Karen Hauer and Jayde Adams. Last year saw John partnered with Johannes Radebe as the series first male same sex couple. The pair performed well but came second to Rose and Giovanni in the final.
John addressed some of the comments within the article, as he suggested that the author might have a problem with the new same-sex dancing couple as Richie is seen as more "flamboyant" than he was on last year's show. He explained that last year his partnership with Johannes was more "muted, neutral and masculine," in comparison to this year's celebration of "queerness".
He then addressed a comparison drawn between Rose Ayling Ellis, who is deaf, and Paralympian athlete Ellie Simmonds who has dwarfism. He commented: "In using the comparison between Rose and Ellie, what I am reading is, if a disability or an impairment isn't visible and it's not awkward and it doesn't break the mould of what's been before, then it's digestible."
He concluded: "But as soon as it becomes a little bit different to watch, then she doesn't want to see it, basically. Which I say is Bigotry, it's disgusting, it isn't necessary to say those things."