Performance, fashion, wheels & me

Charlotte was diagnosed with peripheral Sensory Motor Axonal Neuropathy at the age of two. She’s now an aspiring actress and model. Read about how she has been pursuing her goals and even managed to be cast as the Duchess of Gloucester in the Richard II Feature Film adaptation…

At the age of two I was diagnosed with a very rare condition Peripheral Sensory Motor Axonal Neuropathy, which in a nutshell means that the nerves haven’t told my muscles to grow. I was able to walk until around the age of nine, after which I relied on a wheelchair more and more.

Charlotte 1I attended mainstream school through to Secondary, where as all pupils had to make the decision on what the next best steps would be to take in my educational life. 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. This was decided because I felt it was something I could do for myself, as I have help and support in daily life. After a successful audition, and support in place I was able to study and have the opportunity to perform in both plays and musicals. After the year long course, I decided I needed more experience, so stayed on at the college to pursue a two year National Diploma in Performing Arts, with again more performance related opportunities in and outside of college.

Nearing the end of the course again it was the time to decide which path to take in this crazy world that is the performance industry. I then auditioned and enrolled on a BA (Hons) in Performance degree at University. This included a fantastic opportunity with the British Youth Film Academy. The Academy were creating a feature film, they came to the campus and the rest of the students including myself auditioned for acting roles, others who wanted to volunteer with hair, make up, operating cameras could do so, this took place over the summer break. I was fortunate enough to be cast as the Duchess of Gloucester in the Richard II Feature Film adaptation.

After graduating and wanting a career in acting I was out in the big wide world. I knew it would be a challenge but it is a hard profession to crack for anyone whether able bodied or disabled, but I was ready for it!

I was so lucky in that 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 is the first professional role I have managed to secure however I attend every suitable audition going and the determination is still going strong.

Charlotte 2I also have been trying to attend as many acting workshops as possible to keep my skills fresh, and to network with like minded people. However this has become more of a challenge then expected. I have found over the past year and half that a lot of the workshop companies hold their sessions at inaccessible venues, whether there be steps and no ramp, or the building is listed and therefore cannot be altered, or there is simply isn’t lift. This has had an affect on my career as I have not been able to ‘get myself out there’ as much as I would have liked to. However I just take each situation as it comes and if that company isn’t accessible I Google somewhere that is.

It does often mean travelling to London which, as I have to have my support worker with me, it costs double the amount to travel by train. I feel there needs to be something put in place whereby the carer either goes for a cut price, or there needs to be money available to assist with these costs. Especially as I and other disabled people cannot travel without assistance, and therefore could not pursue any kind of career whether it be in the Arts or elsewhere.

At the moment I am beginning to volunteer with a drama therapy group to gain another path of experience. I have also had experience in running small workshops myself for young people and adults with learning disabilities which is really rewarding, and something I hope to continue with in the future.

Passion for Fashion

Charlotte RutterAlongside my acting career I also have a passion for Fashion. It has always been a huge interest and I guess hobby, from my teenage years. From going shopping on a Saturday afternoon to buying the latest magazines, always on the look out 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 with sitting fashion does come with its challenges for me. I can’t wear heels due to my disability; instead I try to be on the look out for what I would call ‘going out’ pointy flats with maybe stud detailing or patent bolds. This can be a little frustrating, but I just do it my way! I also find that as I wear a brace for my back I usually have to be on the look out for longer tops, rather than crop tops, .I suppose I just adapt today’s trends to suit me, as we all know not everyone is the same, how boring would that be!

My favourite outfit would have to be my thin leather look jacket, a blouse, and monochrome checked trousers.
I am also into make up and have my own way of applying it, I love my black liquid eyeliner it’s great for a statement look. I am also into vintage wear, and enjoy wearing my bright red lip stick on a night out.
I would like a sideline career in modelling, and would love to see 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.

By Charlotte Rutter

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