Read on for the latest instalment of PRWeek's countdown of the UK's best communicators of 2021, compiled by the editorial team. PR professionals are excluded – our focus is individuals from other walks of life, whether that's politics, entertainment, business or something else.
The list is, of course, entirely subjective, but we hope it contains a few surprises and plenty to think about. The remainder will be published in the days ahead, so stay tuned…
4. Rose Ayling-Ellis, actor and Strictly Come Dancing contestant
Throughout her career as an actor, and particularly during her appearances in this run of Strictly Come Dancing, Rose Ayling-Ellis, who is deaf, has communicated and connected brilliantly with the nation, becoming a clear favourite.
The 27-year-old actor – who plays Frankie Lewis in EastEnders – has used her fame, and specifically her dancing, to campaign powerfully for more understanding of deafness and to challenge long-held misconceptions.
Ayling Ellis is the first deaf contestant on Strictly. Part of her impact is that she has managed to master complex dance routines, arguably better than some contestants with full hearing. From the beginning she has said she wants to show how deaf people can enjoy music and dancing too.
Another of her achievements is to establish British Sign Language as an integral part of the show, including the presenters, other dancers and the judges adopting BSL live.
Moreover, Ayling-Ellis has charmed Strictly’s millions of viewers, and the media that covers the show, simply by being herself. She comes across as humble, down to earth, natural and authentic.
Indeed, it is likely that Ayling-Ellis has tangibly changed perceptions of deaf people in a way that hasn’t been attempted before; simply because this talented young performer has done so on one of the nation’s most popular and influential shows, which she could easily go on to win.