For most people, the first time they saw me on their TV screens was during my time as an actress on Grange Hill between 2005-2007. But in actual truth, I’d dipped my toe in the pool of television back in 2000 when I was 14 years old.
I’d won an online quest to appear on BBC 1’s Live and Kicking, answering questions about my favourite band the A*Teens in an attempt to meet them and avoid the gunge tank!
To cut a long story short, I won it. I met the A*Teens as well as boyband Blue (who were unheard of at the time) and returned to Walsall from the Glasgow studio that day with tons of amazing goodies. I should have been thrilled right?!
Well… As much as I loved the day, I remember feeling incredibly disappointed when it was all over and even more disheartened when I dwelled on how I’d never be a singing dancing popstar like the ones I had met.
You see, I was in that awkward teenage stage of not quite knowing who I was or how I fitted into the world. I still went by the name of Beckie (as you can see on my name tag) and despite my formal, confident appearance, inside I was a bundle of nerves. Mostly due to my deafness.
This was live TV after all. So there were no rehearsals, no repeats and no way of me being able to guess what anyone was going to say. Cue lots of intense lipreading and serious stares.
The cameras were directed in such a way that the audience didn’t notice the presenter Sarah Cawood holding my hearing aid each time I stepped into the gunge tank but you do see her show me the question card when the other presenter speaks with his back to me.
I noticed how back then I appeared overly formal, strong, confident and mature for my age. Standoffish almost. This was most probably due to the front I felt I had to put on to get by in a hearing world. I didn’t want any sympathy and I most definitely didn’t want to appear weak.
Even the singers in the band were fascinated by the fact I was deaf because I didn’t “look it.” They probably wondered how I enjoyed their music and so it was pretty ironic to them that out of all the thousands that applied, a deaf girl won it. Go me.
Watching the video back, aside from asking the presenter to repeat one question, I did a pretty good job of “looking hearing.” I spoke, I responded, I lipread. And I guessed and bluffed my way through the conversation backstage with the Swedish stars too.
Apparently I was asked by one of them if I was from Glasgow – but her Swedish accent meant I couldn’t understand her and back then I was too embarrassed to ask again. So I just said yes. Cringe.
So on the 4 hour train journey home I promised myself that this would just be the beginning. That despite being deaf and feeling SO different I would most definitely have a career in performance, no matter what.
And now over ten years on, I can say I’ve achieved that. But this time, I’m not pretending, I’m not acting “hearing” or covering anything up. I speak and I sign and if I dont understand Ill always make it clear.
I’m being me. And that is good enough indeed.