Melissa Johns is a British actress best known for her roles in Coronation Street, Life and Grantchester. She is also the co-creator of TripleC, an organisation that supports disabled people accessing the performing arts. Melissa was born without her right forearm and hand.
Our writer, Emma Purcell, got to speak to Melissa Johns about living with her disability, her acting career both on stage and screen, her appearance on Celebrity MasterChef and her work as a disability advocate.
My biggest challenge growing up was accepting my body for what it looks like. I think a lot of people go straight in with the practical stuff; “Oh, but don’t you struggle with this and that?” Actually, no.
What I struggled with at 16 or 17 years old, when all of my friends looked like each other, looked sexy and could wear little skimpy tops, was the fact that I look so different from everybody else. I just wanted to wear big jumpers to hide my body. That’s the bit people don’t talk about.
I always say that when you have a body difference, a limb difference, a disability or something that makes your body different from other people, you spend your entire life making sure that everybody else around you is okay with the way you look. Nobody ever stops and asks you if you are okay with the way you look.
As a child, I didn’t care. I’d wave my arm around in the air and it didn’t bother me. Then suddenly, my teenage years hit and I just went to a very, very dark place in terms of how I viewed my body. I really did loathe it. I thought it was hideous. I just couldn’t stand it.
That continued until I was about 26. I would wear clothes that would hide it. I would go on dates early so that I knew exactly where I could sit so that the guy wouldn’t notice my arm.
I taught myself to be really animated in my face and to keep eye contact so that they’d never look below my collarbone, so they’d never need to look at my arm.
I would always walk slightly ahead so that my confidence would make them look at me and not any other part of my body. I became an absolute master of manipulation and that was really draining, hiding an entire part of my body for about 16 years.
Then one day, when I was 26, I thought, “I actually can’t do this anymore.” I wasn’t even living life to the fullest because I was constantly thinking about what I looked like, asking myself, “What are people looking at? Are they staring at me?”.
Click here to read full article https://disabilityhorizons.com/2022/02/melissa-johns-disabled-actress-and-advocate-for-disability-in-the-performing-arts/