British charity campaigner and television presenter Nikki Lilly has used her platform on YouTube to challenge preconceptions around people who look different. She’s gone on to present programmes for CBBC and was the winner of Junior British Bake Off in 2016. Ahead of the release of her first book, she took The Big Issue on a journey through her life.
Up until the age of six, I lived a pretty standard life. I had so many passions and hobbies – everything from dancing to football.
But then, when I was six, I was told something that changed my life. I was diagnosed with an AVM (arteriovenous malformation). An AVM is when the blood vessels in a certain part of the body are incorrectly formed, which causes an enlargement of the veins, leading to swelling, pain and lots of bleeds. My AVM has caused the right side of my face to change, which has been really hard for me to come to terms with and accept.
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But one thing that I’ve learned is that even when life is incredibly tough, it doesn’t mean you should give up on hope. In fact, I’m living proof that the very hardest of times can lead to the most magical experiences.
After I was first diagnosed with my AVM, I felt quite lonely and isolated. I was spending all of my time at home as I had become very unwell. I felt really disconnected from the outside world and from other kids my age. I started watching videos on YouTube as a form of escapism, imagining myself as part of the vloggers’ lives, like a friend.
That’s also when I started developing my passion for makeup, and one day I had the idea to film a video of my own. I put the family iPad on my dressing table and filmed myself rambling on about anything and everything I could think of. Little did I know that this would end up changing everything. During my first year on YouTube, I posted generic videos like makeup tutorials and hauls because I thought that’s what people wanted to watch. It took me over a year to get even 100 subscribers and I never got that many views, but it never mattered to me because I loved what I was doing.