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Bromley-born presenter Cerrie Burnell proves disability is no barrier to success

PUBLISHED: 11:43 03 December 2012

Cbeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell is currently working on a children's book and Edinburgh show.

Cbeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell is currently working on a children's book and Edinburgh show.

Archant

Bromley-born disabled presenter Cerrie Burnell was the subject of criticism and complaints directed at the BBC after her first appearances.

CBBC presenter Cerrie Burnell with primary school pupils from Crouch EndCBBC presenter Cerrie Burnell with primary school pupils from Crouch End

Born with her lower right arm missing, the 33-year-old from Farnborough joined children’s programme CBeebies in early 2009.

The BBC was greeted by complaints from shocked parents, with one writing that their child had been ‘freaked out’ by Cerrie’s appearance.

Yet despite the negative reaction, Cerrie says the experience was actually a positive one.

“It was great because these attitudes do exist and have existed for a long time”, says Cerrie.

Cerrie BurnellCerrie Burnell

“What was really strong about the reaction to me was that only nine people complained to the BBC.

“Thousands of people turned round to support me and so it never really felt like a personal attack. I was grateful people rallied round and took a stand.”

After the success of the Paralympics in London this summer, Cerrie believes there has been a large shift in the public perception of disability.

Working poolside during the Games, the presenter says the event was biggest display of diversity she has ever witnessed and at times emotions ran high.

She said: “No matter what your background is, if you have talent it will shine through.

“I had never been to any sport events apart from seeing my dad play cricket - which I’m sure doesn’t count. It was all about records and speed, not your disability.

“I wasn’t prepared for how emotional it would be.”

Cerrie, who was born in Farnborough hospital and attended Crofton Primary School, is also an actress and a writer.

Between acting jobs she worked as a teaching assistant, meaning her time was split between a real classroom and a fictional one during her last role as a teacher in Grange Hill.

Presenting has been a learning curve for Cerrie, but she now claims to be more natural and “not as hyper” as she was when she first started.

Acting was a part of Cerrie’s life from the age of 10, when she was a member of the Unicorn Theatre in London.

She said: “We used to get the train up to London from Farnborough, but then we moved to Eastbourne when I was 12.

“My parents moved back after about 10 years, so I’m there quite often - mainly because they miss my daughter Amelie.”

As well as her acting and presenting achievements, Cerrie is also a keen writer, and her book Snowflakes is set to hit the shelves in September next year.

The mother-of-one is also currently working on a show called Libby and the Midnight Playroom, which she will be taking to Edinburgh in September next year.

She claims children and their world is something she is “very committed” to and dedicates her work to making their “world a better place.”

She added: “I feel comfortable presenting children’s TV and writing for them because it’s something I really do care about.”

With a flourishing career that has overcome early struggles, Cerrie is proof that a disability can in fact make you stand out from the crowd.

Her refusal to wear a prosthetic arm as a young girl was a sign of the defiance and determination of the presenter, who believes the media industry could use more disabled stars.

She said: “There’s always room for more disabled talent on our screens, but it’s a hard industry for anyone.

“Sometimes having a disability can be a benefit because it makes you stand out.”

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