Signature speaks to Jazzy Whipps:
Signature recently reached out to Jazzy Whipps, an influencer and National Youth Theatre member who shares her experiences of growing up deaf and learning BSL on Instagram and Youtube. Indeed, it is important for deaf young people to have deaf role models which they can directly relate to and resonate with.
Here is what Jazzy told us about her upbringing and own personal experiences of deafness:
- How did it feel growing up as a deaf child and you feel like you were treated differently to your hearing peers?
I was born profoundly deaf, and I’ve grown up with a hearing family. I also attended mainstream schools which consisted of a deaf unit. I have a good relationship with my parents and my sister, as they learnt British Sign Language once they found out I was deaf at 10 months old, and they were really supportive about it.
Of course, there are many barriers and struggles that I have faced, for example, communication. I used to feel anxious to communicate with hearing people that didn’t know sign language at my secondary school and in public when I was younger. Deaf people face struggles due to company inaccessibility in relation to limited subtitles and no BSL interpreters. I often felt left out during Christmas time when surrounded by a big group of people at events or at the dinner table surrounded by people who had no knowledge of BSL. It was such a lonely feeling. My parents were a brilliant support to me, they were always there for me when I felt down about the barriers that I faced. I believe it’s so important for a deaf child’s parents to learn sign language so that they can communicate with their own child and have more of an insight into their world.
Going to deaf events and meeting other deaf people gives me a lot of confidence in my deaf identity. It makes me feel like I am not alone. It’s nice to feel like a part of the world. I love being deaf, as it is who I am, and I wouldn’t change it.
- What advice would you give to your younger self?
- Stop worrying about what other people think. Do what makes you happy as you cannot please everyone.
- Be true to yourself.
- Go grab as many opportunities as possible, never ever feel like you’re not good enough.
- Finally, don’t compare yourself to others.
- As a member of the National Youth Theatre, did you always have a passion for acting?
Yes, I remember auditioning for a little girl deaf role when I was about six years old, and I didn’t succeed so I lost my confidence. Until when I was 16 years old, I decided to post my very first video to my YouTube Channel and from there, I realised that I’ve always had a passion for acting and presenting, so I decided to apply for the National Youth Theatre Summer Course in 2022, and I got through! I was the only deaf person on my course out of hundreds and I enjoyed the course very much. Taking part in the Vagina Monologues was also an amazing experience for me. To have a deaf and hearing audience, to be part of a deaf cast, I loved the whole experience. It’s never too late to do what you want in life.
- Why do you think learning BSL is so important?
- It allows deaf people to feel more included.
- It would reduce communication barriers.
- There would be more opportunities for deaf people, more education or job roles as more people would know BSL.
- New relationships could develop between hearing and deaf people.
- Finally, BSL is a beautiful language!
- You recently starred in the “Vagina Monologues”, why did it feel so important to be a part of this performance?
I felt it was important to be part of the Vagina Monologues performance to raise money for the charity Deaf-initely Women, which provides essential services to make sure all deaf and deafblind women are able to live free from abuse. I was proud to be part of this play, sharing the monologues that empower women. Additionally, it was so amazing to share this experience with an incredible deaf cast. I want to share my gratitude and say a big thank you to Deafinitely Theatre for making this happen to support deaf and deafblind women out there.
- What do you think are the main barriers facing deaf people?
- Communication daily- With family, friends, at school, college, and uni.
- For opportunities in the future- Job prospects.
- Awareness- Not enough inclusivity and awareness.
- Representation- Giving deaf people more opportunities to be represented on TV, film, and by brands as it is so important to have deaf role models out there.
- To challenge Ableism- Discrimination against deaf and hard of hearing people.
- Not having interpreters for important meeting, for example, health appointments.
- Daily accessibility, for example, no subtitles on the majority of online content, few subtitles showing at the cinema.
7) Why is so important that organisations and businesses become more deaf aware?
Becoming more deaf aware can make a big difference. To give deaf people more opportunities, to be more inclusive and make them feel more included.
8)Finally, do you have any future goals or aspirations?
I would love to do more presenting and acting work. More promoting deaf awareness by sharing daily deaf content and working with brands to promote inclusivity. I hope to see mainstream TV using more deaf representations by using BSL and employing more deaf performers.
Thank you to Jazzy for sharing her story. We wish her good luck with all future endeavours.