“I know you!”
What it’s like NOT being ‘the Maltesers girl on’t telly… 

Gem

Being disabled (especially if you have a physical impairment) means you get a lot of attention. This can range from people wanting to have a quick natter, to people being ignorant and thinking it’s ok to stare, smirk and ‘subtly’ take pictures. So when I am out I am very much used to attention. I think that’s why I take pride in my clothes and make up. I like to
think ‘well let’s give them something to look at’.

Recently however I noticed the staring got a little more frequent and found people whispering to each other. It started to really bother me. The tipping point was when three young men were all taking pictures of me when I was casually eating in a cafe. After a long day of travelling the last thing you want is your face on strangers’ social media eating a bag of walkers. I let it go to the back of my mind as I always try and do with these things until the next week people started to approach me.

“Excuse me love, are you that girl off telly?” I laughed this off and said no. I’ve never been on TV apart from my local channel when I was at University so I dismissed the idea.

In the next hour a very jolly drunk man shouts “you’re that Maltesers girl off the telly aren’t you!?”

It suddenly clicked – I was baffled! He was referring to the advert for Maltesers that first launched on Channel 4 in between the Paralympics 2016 adverts. There is a woman (Sam Renke) who features in an advert who has the same condition as me (Brittle Bones). It all started to make sense.

The Maltesers advertImage from: http://creativity-online.com/work/maltesers-dance-floor/48908

As I travelled with work with Enhance the UK it started to become more regular and I would laugh at the different ways people would ask. From mothers and daughters whispering “it’s definitely her” in cafes to a mother shouting in a train station “go and say hello to the lady from the telly!”. A waiter even made it into a chat up line when I was paying the bill and said ‘You can pay me in Maltesers later …**wink**’ Which I thought was hilarious and of course didn’t have the heart correct him!

It’s been really fun and shown me that no matter who you are, if you’re from the telly people want to say hello. However being “the Maltesers girl”, when you’re not, can get a little tiring sometimes. Some people do not accept it if I explain I am not who they think I am. One taxi driver was adamant that I was her because “he has good hearing and watches a lot of TV” and proceeded to tell me all 30 minute drive back home …

As a disabled person being ‘recognised’ can be a regular scenario. We are often boxed into disabilities and impairments so much that others don’t see our individual features and personality.  If you put two pictures of myself and Sam together you can see we are completely different people! Our face shape, body shape and height! Yes, we are both blonde, small and use wheelchairs. That’s it. When I go to new places in the UK I will often get ‘ah it’s good to see you again’ knowing full well that I haven’t visited and they are mixing me up as another small wheelchair user they have spoken to in the past.

I can’t complain, in general people are wonderful and just want to say hello. So for now, I don’t mind being ‘the Maltesers girl’, and to answer two common questions no I don’t get free chocolate and I never did get the best man’s number..!

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