“You have to fight for the right to be you. Don’t try to modify who you are to fit in” – inspiring words from Ade Adepitan
For this week’s Thursday Thoughts, we were thrilled to be joined by British television presenter, children’s author and wheelchair basketball player Ade Adepitan and Raj Sandhu, Westminster Correspondent for BBC Scotland.
An international athlete (his team won the bronze and gold medal at the Paralympics), Ade then made his debut on the screen presenting the Games on Channel 4 in 2012. Since then, he has gone on to write several successful children’s books, Ade’s Amazing Ade-ventures, featuring a black, disabled protagonist at the forefront – making a huge impact in the sporting, television and publishing world.
Raj – a former Creative Access intern at HarperCollins – was in publishing for two years before realising that her heart was in journalism. Raj went on to win a place on the prestigious Gareth Butler trainee scheme before joining The Nine, a channel covering stories across the globe from a Scottish perspective.
Raj launched the conversation on the various careers Ade has had so far. Ade responded that, ‘the idea of being a one career person is over … It’s quite exciting because it means you have an opportunity to try so many different things throughout your life.” When reflecting on his work from being a Paralympian to currently working on a climate change documentary, Ade admits, “I don’t often take time to look back and think look what I’ve achieved, I try very much to stay in the moment … yes, it is probably a lot, but I’ve never really thought about it!”
You need enablers who believe in you, and sometimes believe in you more than you believe in yourself.”
When making the transition from sport to television, Ade revealed he was “lucky to meet a few people who got me and understood I had more to offer than just sport”. Raj stressed the importance of having “a cheerleader team behind you, it’s not just about you and being resilient … you also need a team of people behind you, and when you’re in your down days, they can lift you up and tell you, no you need to keep going.” Ade agreed, saying, “You need enablers who believe in you, and sometimes believe in you more than you believe in yourself.”
After initially feeling embarrassed to get an agent because he believed he wouldn’t get into the industry, Ade was approached by an agent when his television show Tiger, Tiger ended. Raj then asked whether Ade had any advice for those aspiring to get into television today: “How do we get more enablers into the industry that can bring in people who aren’t the norm?” Ade’s answer was in the opportunities around today’s technology and platforms: “You no longer have to rely on TV as the only way to get into the media industry … you can make your own stuff” such as livestreams, videos and blogs. He encouraged this as a great way to enhance your own skills for future roles during lockdown.
You have to be yourself. I hope the hard graft and work I’ve done will make it easier for other people like to come in because I’ve shown it can be done.
The conversation then closed with a discussion on the Black Lives Matter movement, tackling systemic and institutional racism, and what the industries can do to change. When Raj asked what Ade’s experience has been as a black man in the media industry, he answered honestly:
Change has to happen. Racism is a scar upon us all.
“Complicated. It’s been difficult because there’s always been preconceptions and misconceptions about who I am, what I should present and whether anybody would watch what I’m on … It’s really important for people coming into TV, and this isn’t just about your cultural background, this is also about your class, you have to fight for the right to be you. Don’t try to modulate who you are to fit into TV and try to be someone else. You have to be yourself. I hope the hard graft and work I’ve done will make it easier for other people like to come in because I’ve shown it can be done.”
With huge thanks to Ade and Raj for their time and wise insight.
You can watch the whole discussion on our YouTube channel here.