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Page last updated at 13:01 GMT, Thursday, 29 July 2010 14:01 UK
Deaf Derby actress Emily Howlett aims for the top
Emily Howlett
Emily's journal entries were later published as a book

Acting is a hard enough profession under normal circumstances but when you're profoundly deaf as well, the obstacles are even higher.

However this hasn't stopped Mickleover's Emily Howlett pursuing this most competitive of careers.

The 26-year-old has been deaf since the age of four but has already forged a successful career as a horse groomer and had a book published.

Now she wants to see how far she can go in the world of acting.

She told BBC Radio Derby's Aleena Naylor: "There are lots of inclusive theatre companies around at the moment, which is brilliant.

"But there's definitely a gap on television for deaf and disabled actors.

"In particular there is a shortage of parts where it's not actually relevant that the character is deaf - it's not what the story is about.

"My life isn't about me being deaf. It's just my life and it just happens that I'm deaf."


After being partially deaf since the age of four, a genetic condition caused Emily to lose her hearing completely by the age of 21.

Emily Howlett

But despite the obstacles, Emily indulged her passion for horses by studying a course in equine management at Broomfield College.

She then worked at a stables at Hunters Farm for five years and worked her way up to be head groom.

And in that time she's also had a book published 'The Grey Matter' which details her frustrations as well as amusing anecdotes about growing up with her disability.

But now it's her passion for acting which has come to the fore.

She explained: "When I did drama at sixth form they told me I was good but that a career would be a real struggle - drama schools wouldn't want me and coaches wouldn't want to coach me as I'd be too much effort.

"Nowadays I'd probably say 'well I'll prove you wrong' but I was only 18 back then so I accepted their advice and instead went after my other passion - horses."

Renowned drama teacher

But Emily's enthusiasm for acting never left her and eventually she made a crunch decision to chase her dream.

Emily Howlett
Emily has enjoyed playing a range of roles from hoodies to high society women

She said: "After a few years at the stables I was having a great time but also thought 'well I'm a getting a bit older now and there's still this other thing I want to do'.

"So I sent out a load of emails and letters, including one which went to the wrong place completely - the Brewhouse in Taunton.

"They emailed me back and were actually able to put me in touch with Dorothy Heathcote, a renowned drama trainer from Spondon.

"So I inflicted myself on Dorothy and she's been a sort-of mentor ever since - helping me with contacts and telling me where to go."

Emily Howlett
Emily was invited to audition for BBC drama The Silence but couldn't attend due to family commitments

Having taken roles in promotional videos and theatre productions, Emily is now working on her own scripts whilst waiting for more offers to come in.

On set, the crew work around her deafness by banging the floor to signal different cues.

Directors and coaches will also place themselves in her eyeline to allow orders to be delivered.

Emily's had a lot of fun already, proved she can find work as a deaf actress and is optimistic about the future.

She said: "They say this is a tough industry but I've met so many people that have wanted to help me.

"If you make it easier for people to help you there's just so much out there. It's incredible."

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