AWARD-winning actor Adam Pearson was given a top honour for his campaigning achievements to destigmatise prejudice against people with disability and disfigurement – and then quickly handed back a few pearls of wisdom to graduates at the University of Brighton.
“Decide what you want to be and go and be it,” said the 31-year-old, who starred in the 2013 film Under the Skin.
“Don’t get hung up in the formalities of life that you let it slip you by. Say yes to everything, volunteer when you can. Don’t be afraid to take chance.”
Adam, 31, who has the genetic disorder neurofibromatosis type 1 (or NF1), which causes cells to grow unchecked, received the university’s Alumnus Award 2016.
Sam Davies, the university’s Director of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement, said: “It’s perfectly normal and perfectly OK to not be perfectly normal and perfectly OK.”
She said: “This quote comes from an article written by Adam for Changing Faces, the UK-based charity supporting people and families who are living with conditions, marks or scars that affect their appearance.
“As a Face Equality champion for Changing Faces, this quote highlights Adam’s commitment to challenge perceptions and combat prejudice for those living with disfigurement and disability.”
Adam graduated from the University of Brighton in 2007 with a degree in business management.
He is now an award-winning campaigner, actor, researcher and presenter, developing, appearing in and hosting programmes on both the BBC and Channel 4 that have confronted public discomfort about disfigurement.
He is also an accomplished public speaker, having delivered TEDx talks, university lectures and sessions at conferences and schools as part of his efforts to raise awareness of disfigurement and difference, and prevent the still often-associated bullying and prejudice.
Ms Davies added: “Adam’s school years were tough – he was insulted and bullied on a regular basis and often the school didn’t seem to know what to do about it.
“According to Adam, ‘No matter what mind-set you’re in, if you’re bullied at school, nothing makes it easy. You’ve got a lot going on anyway, your hormones are going wild and you’re trying to get your education sorted, whilst trying to find where you fit in in this crazy, crazy world. For me having a disfigurement just compounded that.’
“Things got better when he joined the University of Brighton – three years that Adam remembers very fondly, particularly in terms of the support he received from the university.
“Adam says university was a life-changing experience and was so much more than just a degree. He believes the person you become at university is who you will be for the rest of your life and if like Adam, you can look at yourself in the mirror and be proud of what you see, then he thinks you are onto a winner.”
After graduating, Adam had jobs in production for the BBC and Channel 4, was involved in casting and research for The Undateables series and helped in developing the concept for Beauty and the Beast: The Ugly Face of Prejudice.
Adam’s most recent TV outing was for the BBC Three programme Adam Pearson: Freak Show, a documentary which saw him explore the world of freak shows, meeting people who use their medical conditions to educate, entertain and make money.