Strictly star Rose Ayling-Ellis made MBE for services to deaf community

Rose Ayling-Ellis first found fame on EastEnders but it was a showstopping routine on Strictly Come Dancing that won her a Bafta and made her a household name.

The first deaf contestant to ever take part in the show, she won the 2022 series and legions of new fans after a routine in which the music paused and she and partner Giovanni Pernice danced in silence as a tribute to the deaf community.

The emotional and touching dance got the nation talking abut the experience of deafness, helped the duo bag the glitterball trophy and won the must-see moment award at the Baftas.

Born deaf, Ayling-Ellis, 29, is made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the King’s Birthday Honours for voluntary services to the deaf community.

She portrayed Frankie Lewis in the BBC soap opera EastEnders from 2020 to 2022 after starting her career in short film and on stage.

In May 2022, she became the first celebrity reader to perform a CBeebies bedtime story in sign language, telling the tale of Raymond Antrobus’s children’s picture book Can Bears Ski?

CBeebies Bedtime Story
Ayling-Ellis as the first celebrity to sign a CBeebies bedtime story in British Sign Language (James Stack/BBC)

She was also the first deaf person to deliver the Alternative MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival, where she urged TV channels to “fix their problem” and subtitle 100% of shows to improve access and representation for deaf individuals.

In addition, she worked with Mattel on the production of the first deaf Barbie doll equipped with behind-the-ear hearing aids, released as part of the Barbie Fashionistas line of diverse dolls, and featured in the promotional campaign.

Barbie dolls
Rose Ayling-Ellis with the Barbie with behind-the-ear hearing aids (Simon Webb/Mattel)

She also helped to mentor Unify, an all-deaf sign performance group who use British Sign Language (BSL), for a special concert for the King’s coronation.

In 2023, she made her West End debut in the Shakespearean romantic comedy As You Like It at Soho Place and was nominated for an Olivier Award for her performance.