Rose Ayling-Ellis was the hot favourite going into the final – and even more so when competitor AJ Odudu was forced to pull out with an injury, though John Whaite fought her all the way. But the EastEnders actress is the rightful and thoroughly deserving winner of a fantastic season. She blazed a trail as the first ever deaf contestant but impressed just as much with her expressive musicality, exceptional acting skills, humorous interviews, and remarkable connection with partner Giovanni Pernice.
It’s Pernice’s fourth final and his first, belated, time lifting the glitterball. He deserves this triumph too: he adapted his teaching creatively for Ayling-Ellis, choreographed wonderful routines that brought the best out of her, and seemed to become a kinder, more sensitive person through the experience of partnering her.
This is a hugely satisfying result following a turbulent season full of medical drama – but also high-standard, exciting dancing that gave the nation a lift when we needed it most. As Pernice would say: thank you, thank you, thank you.
It’s a dream come true for the winning pair
Ayling-Ellis and Pernice seemed stunned by their win, with the former uncharacteristically lost for words after the result was announced, so her partner jumped in. “Incredible! Thank you to this beautiful young lady who made all my dreams come true,” gasped Pernice. Gazing at the fabled glitterball trophy, he added: “It took me seven years to get this thing.”
Ayling-Ellis returned his compliments. “You are so amazing. You pushed me to believe in myself. You’re an incredible teacher and a wonderful friend. We got through a lot. I want you to know that no matter what happens, you’ve always got a piece of my heart.” A emotional end to an emotional night.
Ed Sheeran performs Bad Habits
The singer treated us to the lead single off his fifth studio album =, while real-life couple Aljaž Skorjanec and Janette Manrara provided some (energetic but, typical of this season, non-ballroom) dancing. Manrara actually left the pro troupe this season to become a co-presenter on Strictly’s sister show It Takes Two, and it was a pleasure to have her back for this guest appeareance – something of a family reunion.
Sheeran is on a good run after tying with Adele, Little Simz and Dave for the most nominations in the 2022 Brit Awards. He’s up for gongs in the Artist of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Pop and R&B Artist categories. Sheeran is also a Christmas No 1 contender with his Elton John collaboration Merry Christmas