When Life Gives You Lemons: Rosie Jones

A few weeks ago I attended the Women of the World festival in Norwich.  I took part in a panel about how the role of caring often falls to women and  I also shared my story and the lessons it has taught me on the final day.  I got to meet lots of lovely readers and signed copies of my book.

I stayed with my great friend Helen Linehan.  She was also talking at the event as part of a panel about women in the media (Helen co-wrote the BBC comedy, Motherland).  On the first night of the event the team from the incredibly successful and influential Guilty Feminist podcast were recording two live podcasts, the first was a focus on the Repeal the 8th vote .  Helen took part in that session and shared her very moving story about discovering that her first child with her husband Graham, had a fatal foetal abnormality.

The second podcast of the evening featured the comedian Rosie Jones.  I got to spend some time with Rosie in the Green Room back stage and as we chatted it struck me that she was a perfect candidate for the WLGYL series on the blog.

For those of you who don't know her, Rosie is a successful comedian, she also has cerebral palsy, she also recently came out as lesbian.

I loved meeting Rosie, we had a really good chuckle about our mutual hate of so called inspiration porn.  She's incredibly funny and if you are going to the Edinburgh Fringe later this summer make sure you go and see her show Fifteen Minutes.  Rosie explains the significance of fifteen minutes in this interview...

picture of rosie jones in a pink dress with a wide smile, she has her hands on her hips

Tell me how life has given you lemons?

I’ve always had a lemon in my hand because I was born with cerebral palsy (CP), which occurred as a result of not breathing for fifteen minutes during birth (which I really wouldn’t recommend!). My CP affects my speech, my walking and my fine motor skills.

And so how have you made lemonade?

Thankfully I’m an optimist who has always focussed on the things I could do rather than the things I couldn’t do. I think it’s a lot harder for people who are born able bodied, who then become disabled later in life, because they know how it feels to be ‘normal’ (I bloody hate that word!). I don’t know what I’m missing out on. I’m not disabled, I’m just Rosie!

What have you discovered about yourself (that you maybe didn’t know before)?

Growing up with a disability has made me incredibly strong-willed and determined to be successful. When people meet me, they definitely underestimate me and I love proving them wrong. I do use my big personality to distract people from my disability. Most people don’t see my disability after just five minutes in my company.

In hindsight, is there anything you would do differently?

Nah, I’m pretty much nailing life and always have! No, I would like to go back in time and give my teenage self a good talking to. I wasted too much time wishing I were able bodied, and wishing I were just like everybody else. There’s no getting around the fact that my life would’ve been a hell of a lot easier if I wasn’t disabled, but I’m in a place in my life where I wouldn’t change who I am for the world. I just wish that my younger self had had that same belief in herself.

What would you consider to be your biggest strength(s)?

I think my biggest strength is my ability to put people at ease. Even now, when people meet me, there can be a little awkwardness, and it falls down to me to diffuse the situation. I do this by using humour, and making it very clear that I do not see my disability as a disadvantage. It’s part of me, but it isn’t all of me.

What has been the best advice you have been given?

It’s cliché, but ‘just be yourself’. And I am, the good and the bad. There’s no point wasting time on ‘what ifs’, what’s done is done, and we need to make the best of the life we have, lemons or no lemons!

How do you want to be remembered?

As Rosie, the loud, funny weirdo who just happens to have had a disability!

And in terms of the bigger picture, I hope that we change the way that disability is portrayed in the media. One day I hope to turn on the TV and see three dimensional, flawed disabled characters. We’re getting there, slowly, but the dream is to play a small part in the legacy of making disability less of a taboo subject.

What advice would you give other people when life gives them lemons?

Sometimes your lemons allow you to see the beauty in the world. I definitely don’t take anything for granted and I embrace every opportunity in life. It’s a miserable thought to end on, but if the doctors hadn’t managed to get me breathing again when I was born, I wouldn’t be here. So every single day is a bonus. Sure, having a disability isn’t a walk in the park, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my wobbly life!

You can follow Rosie via these links:

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