So, some of you may remember that in my last blog post I said that my summer 'ended on an extreme high', but I 'couldn't spill the beans'?! Well, I can now officially spill the beans ... and for once, I'm not physically spilling Heinz baked beans down my top, haha!
If you follow CP Teens UK on Facebook and/or Twitter, you probably know what I am about to say. I can't even believe I'm typing this, but, I won the Jack Wills Young Brit Award for CP Teens UK! I am literally still in shock, I never thought CP Teens UK was worthy of any kind of prize. It is just 'something' I try and run and coordinate around University & Athletics.
I remember looking around on the semi-finalist day and literally my first thought was "Oh my gosh, they're all able-bodied, I've got no chance!". Some people would totally disagree with this 'negative' point of view and slate me for it, asking "why should that even matter?". Whilst I totally like to look at everything from a positive point of view, one of the main reasons why I set up CP Teens UK was because in the able-bodied world of teenagers, we are often left on the side-lines and I am all too aware of this. So, looking at the 39 people aged 16-25 sat around me looking spotless dressed head-to-toe in Jack Wills, I literally thought, "Yeah, I so haven't got a chance!".
I was really honoured to get through to the semi-finals. At this stage, you were put in an interview situation in front of the judges, who in my case was Rob Shaw - Founder of Jack Wills (I couldn't quite believe it, I have been obsessed with Jack Wills as a brand from about the age of 10!), Karen Diamond - Head of Women's at Models1, and Jenny Dyson - Head of Teen Vogue, Director of Pencil Agency and Founder of the London Fashion Week Daily Newspaper. I am absolutely rubbish in interview situations, but as interviews go, I really did surprise myself - I think it was because I was talking about CP Teens UK. It's really weird but whenever I talk about CP Teens UK, I get a sudden boost of confidence to speak. Anyone who knows me will know that I will avoid speaking to people who don't know me wherever possible - wimp! But, since starting at University, I have become loads better. Like today, I was at University and I was in a brand new group of people, and I really didn't get what we were doing, so I turned to James next to me - I knew his name, and I knew him by sight, but I had never spoken to him - and I went "Urgh, James what are we meant to be doing?!" ... that wouldn't have happened a year ago!
A week after I got a phone call from Jack Wills saying that they 'had an update for me'. I thought it would be one of those generic "Thank you very much for coming, you were all amazing, but, it wasn't you etc.", so when the lady said, "Ellie ... you're one of our Jack Wills Young Brits!", gobsmaked was not the word! At this point, it was like the second week of September, and I was sworn to secrecy until the official press release on the 2nd October, which just about nearly killed me!
I think what meant most to me was the fact that Rob, Karen & Jenny absolutely saw through the disability, and that doesn't happen very much. I am so used to people seeing the disability first, and me as the person second. I am just so pleased and over the moon that CP Teens UK and Cerebral Palsy as a whole is now associated with a 'cool kids' brand. Aside from obviously loving the clothing, I buy Jack Wills as for me it's a way of fitting in, so the fact that Jack Wills has now basically come to me and endorsed me/CP Teens UK and therefore Cerebral Palsy, means the world!
Last week, I went down to London for the Awards Dinner, which was so cool! It was in The Zetter Town House Hotel - if Jack Wills owned a hotel it would be The Zetter Town House, it was literally like walking into the Jack Wills Handbook! If you were to go past The Zetter Town House, you probably wouldn't even notice it - but it is renowned for it's famous cocktails and a lot of celebrities go there to escape the paparazzi. Unfortunately I didn't see any celebrities though!
The Jack Wills Dinner Table!
I was sat next to Rob for dinner - founder of Jack Wills and one of the judges. He is such a lovely, lovely guy, and after years and years of clearing the shelves of Jack Wills and wondering, "who is 'Mr Jack Wills'?!", it was a bit surreal! I was so, so touched when he started to explain why he had chosen me alongside Karen & Jenny - he said that he was tearing up following my interview?! That's my claim to fame then - I made the founder of Jack Wills cry, haha! That's the one thing I've never got about CP Teens UK - whenever I tell people about it and why I do it, they're all literally like, "That is the best, most inspirational thing I've ever heard" ... er, what?
To me, it's simple. It was either sit at home and get frustrated and cry about how 'unfair' things can be with Cerebral Palsy, or get up and do something about it. You could take the view it was my ugly, impatient side coming out when I decided to set up CP Teens UK - nothing was really happening for me, no one knew what to do, I was left out by the majority of able-bodied teenagers, so I literally thought 'oh sod it!'. I don't find it at all 'inspiring' - I only 'found a way through' and decided to share this with other teenagers and young people with Cerebral Palsy, and this then created CP Teens UK.
Rob, Mim (one of the other Jack Wills Young Brits) & I - I have no idea why the camera has given me a weird wrinkle/vein thing down the side of my chin and my nose?!
To win the Jack Wills Young Brit Award was an absolute honour, but it is really something that belongs to all of you! Without you, CP Teens UK would not be what it is. I absolutely love talking and working with you all, and you make CP Teens UK tick.
Aside from Jack Wills Young Brits, it has been a very busy time in the CP Teens UK 'office'. I cannot quite believe that the CP Teens UK Ball is next weekend ... and don't I know about it! When I booked the Ball back in January, I was like "I've got 9 months to plan, eaaaaasssyyy!", and here I am with 1 week to go running around like an absolute idiot! It's even got to the point next week where I'm weighing up lectures & seminars against ball preparation, which is really bad! My Mum is currently working on the Ball every hour God sends, and it is still a struggle. Tiredness is also really kicking in now - Uni + Training + CP Teens UK + CP Teens UK Ball next week + Cerebral Palsy = a zombie, haha! All I really want is sleep, but that's not going to really happen anytime soon.
I've put tomorrow aside for University work - deep joy. I have a literature review to do on gambling, and I'd actually rather stick pins in my eyes ... not that I have the hand control to do this! And then after tomorrow, I'm just going to have to pray I get no more work for the next week (unfortunately I think a herd of pigs are more likely to fly over Sheffield!) as I can literally not fit it in. I will literally be on the lecture room floors begging them not to set work! It'll all be worth it on the night though!
I am literally falling asleep at my desk, so I am going to have to wrap it up here. I am hoping to have some guest bloggers going forward - this blog is for you to get your voices heard as well as me rambling on about my experiences and putting a funny twist to things. So, if you're interested in guest blogging, please do email firstname.lastname@example.org