A disabled former CBeebies presenter has spoken out against parents that said she was ‘scary’ and discouraged their children from watching her on the show.
Cerrie Burnell appeared on Loose Women to talk about the ‘prejudice’ she experienced from parents who didn’t like the appearance of her disabled arm when she presented the kids TV programme back in 2009.
When Cerrie landed the job, the BBC experienced backlash from parents who felt that Cerrie’s arm was unnerving children and forcing families to speak about subjects they weren’t ready to address.
The 37-year-old described how one father even banned his daughter from watching the show as he worried that it would give his little girl nightmares.
Speaking to the Loose Women panel, the TV presenter explained how she understands it’s a parents role to soothe a child that may be scared, but that the negative reactions felt like prejudice.
‘Almost akin to racism, it was a prejudice,’ she said. ‘Misguided or afraid, some children are scared of my arm – it’s a weird arm, lets just say it how it is.’
‘Some children are scared of the dark, spiders…It’s the parents’ role to reassure the child.’
At the time of the programme airing, the BBC received nine formal complaints and many comments to their noticeboard.
Labelling the comments as ‘hurtful’, Cerrie added: ‘I’m very wary of this word hurtful and I think that makes it personal to me, which it was but in another sense was it was much broader than that…’
Cerrie opened up about how she has been asked to wear a prosthetic arm as a child and even when she got the job at CBBC, but always felt she was more beautiful without one.
‘I’d been a struggling actor for seven years, just become a mum, my daughter was three months old when I got the job, I was breastfeeding my daughter.’
‘Everyone was overjoyed but there was pressure to cover up my arms, my parents really tried to resist that, they were advised to tell me to wear a prosthetic, and I would tell my mum I’m more beautiful without it.’
‘That was at four years old and they said we know but you’ve got to wear it. At nine my parents went to the doctor, “we can’t make her wear it”.’
‘For children with disabilities things have massively improved, fortunately the amount of people who are dying as a consequence of that has lowered’.
Now Cerrie is part of the Loose Women #MyBodyMyStory campaign, and showed an image of herself posing in a bikini, illustrating her body confidence.
‘This is the biggest size I’ve ever been, I’m a size 12. I used to be a life model when I was younger so I’ve always been body confident, because of what I went through when I was younger battling to get that heavy arm off I was like here I am, this is me.’