I can't believe I am saying this but I am doing a Ted Talk! It all happened very fast but on Sunday 17th November 2019 I will be taking to the stage at the Bristol Old Vic to do a Ted Talk as one of the fifteen TEDxBristol Speakers 2019!
I don't wan't to give too much away but my talk is about rebooting fashion and its inclusivity; or lack of inclusivity currently!
My profile on the TEDxBristol Website reads:
Why isn’t fashion inclusive of disabled people?
There are almost 14 million disabled people in the UK, but the fashion industry seems to be ignoring them. As a result, businesses are losing a potential two billion pounds per month in ‘purple pound’ revenue, and high street shops are forfeiting £267 million.
Chloe Ball-Hopkins is a wheelchair user on a mission to find out why such a large sector of society is still invisible to retailers.
In July 2018 she pioneered a collaboration with ASOS, the brand that supply kit for Great Britain's Paralympians, to create a jumpsuit which met her need for comfortable, practical and fashionable activewear. The campaign took the fashion and media world by storm… with Vogue, Grazia, Elle and New York Magazine taking up the story.
But a year on nothing more has been done.
Chloe’s TEDxBristol talk will explore why the fashion industry is dragging its heels, and reboot the mission to create accessible, fashionable clothes for all.
Chloe Ball-Hopkins is a freelance journalist, archery champion and wheelchair user from Kingswood in Gloucestershire. She was born with a condition called Arthrogryposis which led to numerous operations on her legs. At four years old she was diagnosed with a form of Muscular Dystrophy which means she has weaker muscles.
This hasn’t stopped her taking on a variety of big challenges - from competing in the Para European Championships and winning the Bronze medal as an archer to most recently taking on the fashion industry! Her mission is to create clothes that help people like her feel comfortable and fashionable whilst being in a wheelchair all day.
Even something as simple as having a handy pocket to put your phone would help. The industry doesn’t seem to have cottoned on to this huge gap in the market - yet.
Chloe has just returned to South Gloucestershire and Stroud College’s WISE Campus to do a degree in Media Production while working within the fashion industry to create inclusive fashion.
I have finished my script and have the next few weeks to learn it off by heart ready to present to the audience of 500 in the theatre on the night and not to forget the hundreds of thousands who can watch the live stream of the event!
There are so many amazing speakers on the day broken down into three sessions. You can see the full line up on the main website: https://tedxbristol.com/speakers
If you would like to get tickets to come and watch me on the big night you can get your tickets here: https://system.spektrix.com/demo1/website/CookieBounce.aspx?redirect_url=https%3A%2F%2Fbristololdvic.org.uk%2Fwhats-on%2Fmini-series%2Ftedxbristol-2019
I am in the reboot session! I hope to see you there!
So since just before I was born in 1996 my mum has been unable to have a job. Which a lot of people couldn't understand, and in fairness how could they.
They don't know what it's like to have your child born with bone deformities which changed everything. I can't imagine what it would have been like for my mum being told when I was just a matter of days old that I would never be able to use my legs or walk!
Well I have news for that doctor - he was wrong. But he could have been right if my mum had given up which luckily she didn't and never has. Oh and of course I was also diagnosed with a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy at the age of 4 just to add to the list.
So between then and now I have had more operations than me and mum could count on our hands and more hospital appointment/stays then you'll probably have in your lifetime.
So yes, technically that is what I have been though. But every time I needed to go to the hospital, whatever it was for, and when I was recovering for months from the long list of operations naturally its been my mum caring for me.
But then she really started going above and beyond. When I started doing sport it was mum who took me to 99% of my training sessions and competitions, on top of the normal taxiing around. I don't just mean like a Sunday morning football matches (well of course it wasn't football I was doing anyway, but you know what I mean). She was driving me every week to training camps, most weekends to competitions and even flew to a number of internationals with me (one as far as half way around the world).
While my mum has been unable to work I have been getting diplomas, medals and world records. Hardly seems fair in my eyes! But I barely hear her complaining about it. The tables have turned now though.
Ever since my not so little brother (teenager - say no more) started at Primary school mum has volunteered down there a number of times a week and all that voluntary work has turned into her first job since I came into the world.
I will always need my mum, as pretty much everyone does, but shes the reasons I have been able to get to where I am today and now it's her time to help another do the same.
2016 threatened to be one of our hardest years to face yet, but every cloud has a silver lining and although mum may not have flown out to Rio with me to see me compete in the Paralympics. I am a BBC Reporter and she is a Teaching Assistant. I think that qualifies at Christmas coming early to the Hopkins Household!
8 months ago I was being told that I was a medal chance for the Paralympics in Rio which starts tomorrow. But as I'm sure you can work out by the word WAS. That isn't what I will be doing now. That door slammed in my face; but the BBC gave me a key to a very different door.
Let me give you a visual. So right now I'm sat at my No.17 desk at BBC Bristol. To my right, the journalist from Points West. To my left is the Radio Studios. But immediately all around my desk are the Sports Reporters who have spent the last 8 weeks helping me become a better journalism. I've been a BBC Kick Off Sports Reporter.
I couldn't have asked for a nicer group of people to spend my summer with and to learn from. Oh and leant I have! Studying sports journalism for two years and presenting a sports show for a year certainly helps, but being in such a prestigious working environment like the BBC has helped me come on leaps and bounds as a journalist; and as a person.
I have had a chance to help do research, preparing thing for the local Paralympic radio coverage, editing clips and writing ques for bulletins bit I have also been able to get out and about talking to local athletes and sports teams.
I have attended my first Cricket game and interviewed some of the biggest names in Women's Cricket Internationally. I've interviews the Bristol City Women's Football Club. I put together a radio package about a local Paralympian Jo Frith ahead of flying to Rio. For me though my ultimate one was Eddie the Eagle. Cuppa with Chloe right there. We sat in Gregg's for 2 hour drinking tea/coffee and eating pastries. He is even going to do some Archery and Skiing wit me. How crazy is that! All of these experience have not only created radio packages for me but also lasting connections, and I would even say friendships, with these amazing athletes.
But now that this placement is coming to an end I'm wondering if this door is going to close or whether it will open even more? Right now your guess is as good as mine. But fingers crossed I will find out my options soon.
All I know right now is that I have had the best summer at BBC Bristol which I don't want to come to an end. I guess this is the definition of as one door closes, another one always opens ...
Well there are many quotes people use when things don't go your way to make you feel better. Primarily "everything happens for a reason". Which, I think, is true. But at that moment in time when your dreams get pulled out from underneath you all you want to know is why?
Which is exactly how I have felt many times. This time it's different though. Missing out on London 2012 because of having glandular fever and a visit to Intensive Care was hard enough and I vowed I wouldn't let anything stop me making the next games once I knew I had a chance of that in archery.
But what a roller coaster that has been to say the least. One with loop the loops and cork screws, big drops and sudden halts. Making the GB squad December 2013 was the perfect christmas present and I spend 2014 representing Great Britain in a number of international tournaments. Even winning a European Championships Bronze and breaking World Records.
But over the course of that summer I got ill, from a parasite I got in Bangkok in the March which hit my digestive system hard and the doctors even threatened feeding tubes at one point, which I refused, but that lead to a long road to recovery. I still can't eat a number of foods now. But I can eat!
Within days of recovering from that I re-broke my thumb ruling out the 2015 season. Many people saying everything happens for a reason of course and I used that to motivate me. A year where I had to rest and crack on with my college work. Before facing the season heading into the Olympics and Paralympics ready to earn my own place in the team this time round. But ... don't be silly Chloe, that isn't happening. A new injury threatened to rule me out of this years games, and that wasn't just a threat. The surgery I had 8 weeks ago secured my ticket out of the games, not on the flight to Rio.
Everyone again throwing the everything happens for a reason quote at me. Telling me how I don't want to go to Rio cause of the Zika virus. Which is true in a way, and I have an opportunity with the BBC which I wouldn't have got if I made the games. So there is the silver lining here for sure.
But everyone seems to forget that not only have I been working the last 4 years to get back into sport and make the Rio Games. I did the same thing before the London Games. 8 years out of a 20 years olds life spent trying to make the biggest sporting event ever. To not make it twice. But thats not just 8 years of my life. Thats 8 years of my family and friends lives too. All of which are backing me 110% to make it third time lucky to secure my place in the 2020 Games in Toyko.
Here is where I am going to be brutally honest though. It sucks, and it hurts. I am proud of every single person who made the ParalympicsGB Team. But every post and picture I see on social media is like salt in a wound. I'm the sort of person to be able to tell you I'm fine about all this, when underneath I want nothing more than to be doing exactly what every other team member are doing.
The kit measurements Paralympics GB asked for. The money saved for my family to join me. The medal the coach told me I would win there. All gone in the blink of an eye. Because that is how short life is, and why everyone should make the most of every second of the day and every opportunity presented to them.
I have spent the last 8 years dedicated to sport, but because I live with Muscular Dystrophy (a muscle wasting condition with no cure) I know what its like for things to change over night. To stay in ICU, to lose a 3rd of your muscle strength in 2 weeks etc etc. Living with a condition that makes me weak has only made me stronger.
So where am I at right now? Well I still ache inside about not making the Paralympic and I am petrified that I may not ever be able to shoot again and yes that is something that I would find hard. But it won't be the end. Because I also have 7 GCSE's A*-B, 6 A Levels of A* Equivalents and work placement at BBC Radio Bristol. For someone who has lost something that meant everything to them, I still have so much, and if I can do that, tell me this. Why can't you? Because there is no such thing as I can't, only I'll try!
I like to say there are no limits to what you can achieve unless you limit yourself. So no matter how many bumps in the road you face, the hardest roads are always the ones worth taking and if any point you don't think you are going in the right direction there are always turnings and roundabouts along the way.
Don't be afraid of change and challenges. It will all make you stronger and one day when someone says everything happens for a reason. You will look back and see exactly what they mean. The past is the past yes but sometimes you need to look back to see just how far you have come!