GIFTED: Ashlee Paris has been recognised for overcoming adversity
LIFE DEALT Ashlee Paris a big blow as a 12-year-old when she was involved in a car accident that she walked away from, but with her right eye partially blinded. Her injury, which was tended to by expert eye surgeons in Baltimore, America, meant she had to miss a lot of school while she underwent treatment.
However, eight years on the 20-year-old Paris, who suffers from the eye condition Glaucoma, is proving adversity is no barrier and has won the Young Gifted and Black award for overcoming her challenges. The award, now in its 10th year and given by the Kreative Culture Klub, really did surprise Paris who studies musical theatre and will start university next September at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
“When I got the notice through the post box, I thought it was an actual hoax; I didn’t think it was real. I didn’t think anyone knew what I’d been going through or cared,” Paris told The Voice.
Born in Leeds, Yorkshire, and raised on the Caribbean island of Nevis, Paris moved to England in 2009 and currently lives in Leyton, east London. It was a challenge for her to complete her sixth form exams, and she was advised to take time out because of her visual health. “Because I had such an academic background I wanted to do things to the best of my ability,” she said. “However, with my A-levels that couldn’t work, it was too much pressure and I ended up making myself ill more, and I became clinically depressed.
“It was a counsellor at college who told me to express myself and write how I feel, and that’s how I got into writing.”
Concerning her daily life, Paris said the challenges are more mental than physical. “It’s more of a mind game, putting my mind forward to do different things,” the aspiring drama therapist said.
“My music sheets have to be in red and in bigger writing, because red is easier on the eye when you’re visually impaired.”
Paris will receive her award on February 22, which happens to be her 21st birthday. Her advice to anyone trying to beat misfortune is “to find a positive outlet.
“You can’t let anyone tell you what your outlet should be, you have to find it yourself. It’s all about finding yourself and what makes you comfortable,” said the keen songwriter, whose creative process has been crucial in helping her achieve.
“Because I write my own music, I am able to express myself through the lyrics. Music has been my outlet,” she added.