Pursuit: Public Speaking and Education
Carly has a medically challenging and lifelong skin condition called ichthyosis which is red scaly skin. Not only can it be painful because of skin infection, it is socially challenging with people staring, teasing and asking questions about her appearance every day. Her dream is to make a positive difference in the world. Carly already does this through her blog and community TV work by sharing stories of what it’s like to live with a chronic illness.
Ultimately she wants to start speaking at schools and organisations for young people teaching them the importance of diversity and acceptance, and to promote positive body image. The grant will help Carly establish her company by providing funding for start-up costs and personal development. She is now able to participate in work experience with “Changing Faces” in London and attend the Centre of Appearance Research at the University of Western England.
When did you start?
I have a lifelong skin condition called ichthyosis form erythroderma. It means scaly red skin – I look like I am sunburnt. It is medically challenging – I have spent many weeks in hospital through my life because of the pain caused by skin infections. But above that, it is socially challenging. People stare, taunt and ask questions about my appearance every day. I have used my skin condition to an advantage in the past few years. Being so different helps me to tell my story and make people think about physical appearance and disability. I write a regular blog (it's called Tune into Radio Carly - I've had it since 2009) which covers some of the medical and social challenges. My blog has led to wider freelance writing opportunities including DiVine, ABC’s Ramp Up, Mamamia and The Hoopla. I present on Channel 31’s disability TV show No Limits. I have also given speeches about disability and blogging in my workplace (the Australian Tax Office), at the 2011 Australian Blog Conference and several community groups. I was a mentor for young people with chronic illnesses and disabilities at the Royal Children’s Hospital for almost three years – providing them with guidance about coping with their illness or disability. Many of the young people told me I made a positive difference to their lives and that I am a good role model for them. I have done consultancy work with a UK university’ Centre for Appearance Research, reviewing an online program for people with facial differences. And I am about to begin speaking for Scope, the disability organisation. I will go to schools and present a curriculum on disability. In August 2012 I am going to BlogHer – a supersized blog conference in New York – to network and develop my blogging knowledge and skills, including attending a workshop about turning my blog into a book.
Career highlight or biggest achievement?
I have a few: Receiving a Public Service Australia Day medal for the volunteer work I did mentoring young people with chronic illnesses at the Royal Children's Hospital. Winning a Yooralla Media Award for best online commentary in 2010. Being a finalist in the Sydney Writer's Centre Best Australian Blogs competition in 2011. Becoming a TV presenter on Channel 31's No Limits - and interviewing Young Victorian of the Year Anj Barker on the show. Speaking at the 2011 Australian Blog Conference. Receiving an Aim for the Stars grant (of course!).
What is your dream?
It is my dream to make a positive difference in the world. I am already doing this through my blog and community TV work by sharing personal stories of what it's like to live with my chronic illness - ichthyosis. But my ultimate goal is to share my stories in person so that I can have a more instant impact. I want to break down the prejudices towards people with visibly different appearances. And to give such people the confidence and pride to hold their head up high and smile. Ultimately, I'd love to establish a company similar to the UK's Changing Faces (the leading UK charity that supports and represents people who have disfigurements to the face, hand or body from any cause). To establish this, I want to start speaking at schools and organisations for young people, teaching them about the importance of diversity, disability and acceptance, and promote positive body image. I want to make young people think twice about judging someone on their looks or disability alone. I believe if we start changing young peoples' minds, we can change the world.
Who's your hero?
I really admire my parents. They are so loving and encouraging, and they've never stopped me aiming for the stars. My Mum is from South Africa and Dad is English. They met in South Africa and came to Australia to escape the Apartheid in 1981, before I was born. In South Africa they had to hide their courtship - I say they are the personification of the INXS song Original Sin - and it was Australia that gave them a better opportunity at life together. There are so many people I have met and worked with who are inspirational: I have had managers who have been great role models and mentors. And the friends I've made in the disability and chronic illness community are often so positive and really make the most out of life. I am also a bit of a fan-girl, particularly with Darren Hayes (singer from Savage Garden) , Callan Mulvey (actor from Rush and Underbelly) and Bob Evans (Kevin Mitchell from Jebediah/Bob Evans solo singer).
Any other special talents?
I am quite a good cook (and voracious eater!). And I am good at shopping ;)
I love Australian music the most and I see a lot of live bands! I've been a Darren Hayes fan for 15 years - that's half my life! I've seen him play and met him lots of times. In 2011 I saw him play live in Melbourne and Sydney, and after the Sydney show my friends and I (and lots of other fans) met him outside the venue but by this time he'd lost his voice.
Almost Famous - I love the idea of music journalism and hanging with the band. I adore Love Actually - I reckon I watch this four times a year! And I love Julie and Julia - I've seen it a few times but when I watched it most recently, I thought about my own blogging journey.
I am such a foodie! I enjoy Vietnamese and Mexican the most. And cheese. Cheese is much better than chocolate.
How the grant will help you/how will you use the money?
I hope to use half of the money to travel to the UK to speak at a conference The Centre for Appearance Research (CAR) - run by the University of Western England - is running, and do some work experience at CAR and Changing Faces. I want to see how they work and the services they offer so I can hopefully bring this to Australia. The other half will be used to establish my speaking and writing company.
Last words: Quote or Motto you live by?
I found a picture that I put on my Facebook and blog that contains a lot of positive affirmations. It reminds me of what I'm striving for and the importance of self development. Some of my favourites on the picture are "be your own hero", "make your own path", "build your days around what's important to you", "you have to put something out there to get something back", "help people" and "when you're doing what you're passionate about you're making the world a better place".