TV show about extraordinary people accused of being “latter-day freak show”
These nine unusual people will be living together for a new TV series which one critic has already accused of being a “bit of a latter-day freak show”.
Channel 5 will house the nine, including a bearded lady and a giant, in a cottage in Yorkshire for 10 days to “confront prejudice”.
Danielle Wootton, Head of Marketing at disability equality charity Scope, said: “Disabled people are massively underrepresented across our screens.
“We hope that this programme is inclusive and gives disabled people a positive platform where the public can hear their voices, and gain a greater understanding of their lives.
“But there is a fine line to tread between insight and understanding, and voyeurism and exploitation.
“We’d like everyone in the media to actively challenge negative perceptions and attitudes towards disabled people in everything they do.”
Here are their stories…
Bashir Aziz, 24, a sales assistant and model, from London
Bashir was born with a form of vitiligo that means his black skin pigmentation is slowly coming back.
As a child his mother used to put make-up on his white patches to try to hide his condition.
At school children would call him “cow” or “zebra”. But Bashir is now proud of his condition and flaunts his body on social media, spreading his message of body confidence.
He says: “I started off with all the white patches and then as I get older my black spots flourish.
“I’m like the Benjamin Button of vitiligo. When I was younger I just wanted to fit in but now I’m happy to stand out.”
Harnaam Kaur, 27, a motivational speaker from Slough
Harnaam’s thick facial hair is caused by polycystic ovary syndrome. The bullying at school got so bad she self-harmed and contemplated suicide.
At 16, she decided to keep the beard and work on her self-confidence.
She has a Guinness World Record for being the youngest woman to grow a full beard.
Now a body confidence advocate, model and Instagram star, she says: “I’m a fabulous bearded lady. I forget that I have a beard sometimes.”
Aly Stosz, 29, an artist from New York City, USA
At 6ft 9in, Aly is in the 99.9 percentile for height in the world. She documents her “humongous life” through her social media and artwork,
letting people know up front that she’s an “actual giant”.
Aly is also passionate about health and mindfulness, and is keen to promote diversity. She says that she doesn’t want other women who feel like they don’t fit the traditional beauty mould to feel less worthy.
She says: “I’m 6ft 9in and I own it.
“People do look at me all the time – and sometimes I wear sunglasses and headphones just to block it out.”
Kristin Riley, 36, an activities co-ordinator in an elderly care home, from Michigan, USA
Kristin is one of the oldest people in the world with primordial dwarfism, the eldest being just 40 years old. She is 3ft 5.5in tall and has to shop for clothes to fit toddlers.
Her brother, also a primordial dwarf, died aged 24 from a brain aneurysm, a common complication of the condition, and she has had brain surgery to remove her own aneurysm.
Her height has proved an advantage on screen – Kristin has had an acting role in Oz The Great And Powerful. She says: “I’m 3ft 5.5in. People do point at me but I try not to notice what’s going on around me.”
Lucas Hayward, 22, a roofer, from Leicester
Lucas was born with a facial deformity called oculo-auriculo-fronto-nasal syndrome and has undergone multiple plastic surgeries to make his appearance more “normal”.
The condition gave him a wider nose and tags on the left side of his face – he describes it as being similar to that of a cleft palate but with his nose.
He experienced a lot of bullying as a child and is now a vocal anti-bullying campaigner for Changing Faces.
His work with the charity led to him being one of the Olympic torchbearers in 2012, aged 15.
He says: “I was born with a facial deformity where my face over-developed. I’ve had a lot of surgery. I’ve been through a lot so I just want people to know that personality is a lot bigger than the way you look.”
Rachael Reynolds, 43, from Huddersfield
Married with three children and a step-daughter, Rachael has neurofibromatosis type 1, a rare genetic disorder that causes benign tumours to grow all over her body, inside and out.
Her condition became noticeable in her teens but got worse with each pregnancy.
Rachael has had a lot of plastic surgery and laser treatment to remove her lumps but they continue to grow back. She is also hard of hearing and relies on lip reading.
She says: “I’ve got thousands of lumps all over my body.
“I’m very self-conscious and I’m scared of public places and the way people react.”
Rowdy Burton, 31, from Alabama, USA
Rowdy was born with the genetic condition sacral agenesis, which meant that he had both of his legs amputated when he was a toddler so that they would not become a dead weight as he grew older.
He is known for walking on his hands and using a motorised skateboard to get around.
Rowdy, who has recently moved in with his girlfriend, uses his YouTube channel to discuss living with no legs.
He says: “I had my legs amputated when I was three because they were going to grow funny and be in the way. I’d like to change the constant assumption that I can’t do things.”
Ted Parrotman, 60, from Bristol
Ted has undergone various body modifications to look more like his beloved parrots, of which he owns seven.
He changed his name by deed poll to Ted Parrotman and has numerous multi-coloured tattoos and piercings.
He is one of only two people in the world to have had his ears cut off for cosmetic purposes. He also has transdermal implants in his head and tattooed eyes. Ted would like to have his septum removed so his nose can be shaped more like a beak and to have multi-coloured teeth.
He used to work in a shoe factory but has struggled to find a job since his body modifications. He says: “I want to look like a parrot because I love their colours and their characters.
“Society judges people by their appearance. People think I’m a freak.”
Dan Cooper, 74, from Wyoming, USA
For as long as he could remember, Dan felt as if his lower left leg and foot didn’t belong to him.
It took him many years to discover that this rare condition has a name – body integrity identity disorder.
Sufferers have an intense desire to have a healthy limb amputated.
In 2009, aged 64, Dan finally found a surgeon in Thailand to remove his lower leg – and he has no regrets. He says: “All my life I wanted to be one-legged. It is extreme but I wanted to be happy in my skin.”
*The House Of Extraordinary People starts on Monday at 10pm on, C5.
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