Performance, fashion, wheels and me… – #100days100stories

Charlotte was diagnosed with peripheral Sensory Motor Axonal Neuropathy at the age of two. She’s now an aspiring actress and model. She talks about the challenges she faces in such a competitive industry.

We’re sharing her story as part of our 100 days, 100 stories campaign.

At the age of two I was diagnosed with the very rare condition peripheral Sensory Motor Axonal Neuropathy. In a nutshell this means that the nerves haven’t told my muscles to grow. I was able to walk until around the age of nine, after that I relied on a wheelchair more and more. It also affects the use of my hands although I manage to find my own way of doing things!

Charlotte in her wheelchair and a glamorous dress
Charlotte in her wheelchair and a glamorous dress

I attended a mainstream school through to Secondary, when, like all pupils, I had to make the decision on what my next big step would be.

I decided to take my love of drama and music and apply for a place on a Foundation Diploma in Performing Arts at a local college. After a successful audition, and making sure that the support I’d need was in place, I was able to study and have the opportunity to perform in both plays and musicals.

After I finished the one year course, I decided I needed more experience, so stayed on at the college to pursue a two year National Diploma in Performing Arts. The course offered even more performance opportunities in and outside of college. It was a fantastic way to get experience.

When the course finished I had to decide what path I wanted to take in the crazy world that is the performance industry. That’s when I auditioned and enrolled on a BA (Hons) Performance degree.

This included an incredible opportunity with the British Youth Film Academy who came to campus to hold auditions for a feature film they were producing. I, like many others, auditioned for roles, others offered their skills to help with hair, make up, operating cameras or anything else they could do.

I was lucky enough to be case cast as the Duchess of Gloucester in the Richard II Feature Film adaptation.

After wanting a career in acting for so long it was fantastic to be out getting experience in the big wide world. I always knew it would be a challenge as acting is a hard profession to crack for anyone – whether able bodied or disabled – but I was ready for it!

I was so lucky that just a couple of months after completing my degree I saw an ad wanting disabled extras and I gained a role in BBC1’s highly acclaimed television drama Call the Midwife. It’s the first professional role I‘ve managed to secure which is great. I’m continuing to attend every suitable audition going and the determination is as strong as ever!

When I’m not auditioning I’m attending rying to attend as many acting workshops as possible to keep my skills fresh, and to network with likeminded people.

This isn’t without its challenges. Over the past year and half I’ve found that a lot of the workshop are held in inaccessible venues. This has had a real effect on my career as it means I can’t always get out and about and meet the people who matter.

Passion for fashion

Alongside my acting career I also have a passion for fashion. From going shopping on a Saturday afternoon to buying the latest magazines, I’m always on the lookout for the next ‘must have’ item.

I found that fashion was a way in which I could be like all the other girls my age, although fashion can come with some challenges for me. I can’t wear heels due to my disability; instead I try to find what I call ‘going out’ pointy flats! This can be a little frustrating, but I just do it my way. I just adapt today’s trends to suit me, as we all know not everyone is the same. It would be boring if we were!

I’m really in to makeup and have my own way of applying it. I love my black liquid eyeliner – it’s great for a statement look

I’d love a side career in modelling. I think we need more models with disabilities in catalogues, magazine shoots and in our shops. Surely it is a way of reflecting the society in which we live?

I hope to one day achieve my goals and keep helping to move the barriers in the arts and hopefully inspire others in a similar situation to do the same.

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