Rose Ayling-Ellis celebrated by drinking prosecco and dancing after making history as the first deaf winner of Strictly Come Dancing.
The actress triumphed in the BBC One show alongside partner Giovanni Pernice, defeating Great British Bake Off winner John Whaite and his partner Johannes Radebe, the first all-male pairing on the show.
An average of 11 million people watched the final, giving BBC One a 57.8% share in the overnight ratings.
In an interview with The Guardian, Ayling-Ellis said she had an out of body experience when she found out that she had won.
“I was so shocked”, she said. “It was really weird – it felt like I was out of my body for a moment.
“We celebrated last night. There was a bit of prosecco, and dancing.”
"You are so amazing, to push me to believe in myself more than I believe in myself."— BBC Strictly ✨ (@bbcstrictly) December 18, 2021
They've made #Strictly history and had such an incredible journey. This win couldn't mean more to Rose and Giovanni 💖@RoseAylingEllis @pernicegiovann1 pic.twitter.com/5mNnsaKO6R
As a deaf dancer, Ayling-Ellis felt that she had something to prove when she entered the show.
“On the first week, I was really shy, but now I can be myself, and I definitely feel more comfortable in my own skin”, she said.
“The first week, I was like, ‘Everyone’s going to be expecting a deaf person to dance really badly’.
“But I definitely proved a lot of people wrong.”
Equality charity Scope has described Ayling-Ellis’s participation in the show as a “massive step forward” for disability representation.
During the live final – which went ahead without contestant AJ Odudu, who pulled out on Friday due to an ankle injury – both couples performed three dances.
Ayling-Ellis, who is the show’s first deaf contestant, and Pernice dazzled by performing a quickstep, their couple’s choice routine and a showdance.
After their Romeo and Juliet-inspired showdance to The Rose by Bette Middler, Ayling-Ellis said: “I’ve become more me than I’ve ever been because of Strictly.”
Both pairs had matching scores during the final, with both receiving a perfect 40 for their revisited favourite dances and their showdances. However, the judges’ marks did not count towards the final result, which was solely down to the public vote.
The final peaked with 12.3 million watching.
Ratings have increased over the series and the numbers for the final mark a significant increase on the launch show in September, which was watched by an average of seven million viewers.
Strictly Come Dancing will return on Christmas Day for a festive special on BBC One.