Claudia Winkleman has emphasised the importance of representation on this year's series of Strictly Come Dancing, which sees two milestone couples in the star-studded line-up.


The television presenter became Tess Daly's hosting partner back in 2014, following the retirement of the late Bruce Forsyth, while prior to that she had fronted the nerve-wracking results show.

This has been the most inclusive year in her tenure to date as Strictly has welcomed its first ever deaf contestant (EastEnders star Rose Ayling-Ellis) as well as its first male same-sex couple (Bake Off's John Whaite and Johannes Radebe).

In an interview with The Big Issue magazine, which will be released in full on Monday, Winkleman explained that the entire Strictly team took measures to ensure that Ayling-Ellis would feel comfortable on the show.

"We have all done awareness courses," she explained. "I’m trying to learn as much sign language as possible – not necessarily to do on screen, but for when I’m communicating with her off air. The first thing I wanted to learn – although I haven’t needed to use it yet – was how to say 'The judges are horrid.'"

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Indeed, Ayling-Ellis has taken to dance extraordinarily well, scoring a perfect 40 points in week six of the competition, and regularly finding herself towards the top of the Strictly Come Dancing leaderboard.

While efforts to increase inclusion have provoked some in the past – with a same-sex dance in 2019 infamously generating nearly 200 complaints to Ofcom – Winkleman believes there is support (or at least, indifference) from the vast majority of viewers.

Strictly star John Whaite

“I’d like to think that it wasn’t controversial,” she added. “I think it’s important, but I would also say – and maybe I just have a positive outlook – that I think most of the UK just go [shrugs].

“Strictly decided a while ago to try and widen who was doing it because representation is everything.”

The remaining contestants in the Strictly Come Dancing line-up take to the dancefloor tonight, hoping to earn praise from a judging panel that includes a guest appearance from Academy Award nominee Cynthia Erivo.


Strictly Come Dancing continues tonight at 6:35pm on BBC One. Check out more of our Entertainment coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.