Danny's social media success
Kelly and Charles knew their son Danny was outgoing and confident, but they couldn’t have predicted that his lively personality would lead to social media and TV success at the young age of 13.
On holiday in Turkey, mum Kelly watched her toddler Danny run on to the entertainment stage and join in with other holidaymakers. “He would always ignore me, watching everybody else and wanting to join in,” she remembers fondly.
“He was always mixing with other children – deaf, hearing, he didn’t mind. He was very confident.”
Danny, who is severely deaf and wears two hearing aids, has a strong Deaf identity and his first language is British Sign Language (BSL). Both of his parents are deaf, as are many of his other family members, although his brother Ryan (16) and sister Megan (10) are hearing.
He now attends a deaf school, Mary Hare, which he loves. “My first school was mainstream,” Danny explains. “I quite liked it as they used some sign language, but the middle school I went to was really confusing. They didn’t use much sign at all and I didn’t really like it, but now I go to a deaf boarding school and it’s much better.
At my first and middle schools if I was outside in the playground everyone was just talking and there was nothing for me to do. But at my school now everyone signs and it’s easy to communicate.” Kelly explains, “The pace of lessons is also better for him. Mainstream went a bit too fast sometimes, because everybody else was hearing. But school now is much better.”
Two years ago, Danny decided to start making skit (comedy sketch) videos about Deaf culture. “I was watching things on Facebook,” says Danny. “And I wondered if I could do that for myself, so I asked Mum and Dad if I could have a go at creating something.”
Kelly adds, “At first we didn’t allow him to put them online because of his own safety and awareness.” But last August Kelly and Charles felt that he was aware enough to start uploading his videos.
“The second video I put up got lots of views, so I started to put more up,” remembers Danny. Charles and Kelly were a little worried about privacy settings and the fact that he was starting to get messages and comments about the videos.
However, although they checked settings and told him to be careful, they also trusted that he knew what he was doing. “When he was in mainstream school, they were always saying that he was top of his class for using computers,” says Kelly.
"The second video I put up got lots of views."
Danny makes his videos primarily for deaf children to show the differences between the deaf and hearing worlds in a comedic way, but he also wants to inspire deaf children to make videos. He may not have set out to be a role model, but that’s certainly what he’s become.
He was even recognised by a boy when the family were on the plane going on holiday. “It was a hearing boy,” remembers Kelly, “He was signing, saying ‘I recognise you from your videos’.”
Not only has Danny had success on social media but he has also been involved in TV work, first for a Christmas special of See Hear, a magazine programme for deaf people, and more recently, as a presenter on a CITV programme called Mission Employable about the jobs children want to do when they grow up.
The show sees Danny and another presenter of the Mission Employable Agency take on missions to become a train driver, farmer, zookeeper, footballer and firefighter. Danny then discusses his experiences of doing the jobs in BSL.
“After the views went up on my Facebook videos CITV contacted me and asked me to go for an audition,” says Danny. “I didn’t even have to apply; that was really surprising and good.” Danny has had lots of fun working on Mission Employable and even got to travel to Europe for filming.
"I’m proud of him every day."
Danny recognises that a lot of confidence is needed to do what he has done, but he says that if deaf children want to do filming, they should apply. He also thinks that having a strong Deaf identity is important for confidence.
“If I met someone who wasn’t very confident about being deaf,” says Danny, thoughtfully, “I’d find out if they have much deaf knowledge, have met many deaf people and what their sign language is like.”
Despite being deaf themselves, Kelly and Charles found the process of finding out Danny was deaf quite stressful. “We had to wait for ages,” remembers Kelly. “And the doctor’s attitude when he was diagnosed was quite negative. We’re deaf as well – that’s fine; it doesn’t mean there’s a problem. I think if we’d been hearing it might have been different but I felt they weren’t deaf aware; they really need to change how they do these things.”
Charles agrees, saying “I’m proud to be deaf. I’m fourth generation, Danny’s fifth generation deaf, so it doesn’t matter to me. Really it was very emotional.”
But seeing Danny grow up and start making a name for himself with his videos and TV work has been wonderful for his parents. “He has really worked hard at it. I’m proud of him every day,” says Charles.
“I think he really can be successful in the future,” says Kelly, proudly. “The TV work will hopefully carry on and it will be good for his future.”