One-armed CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnel has drawn similarities between racism and the prejudice she received over her refusal to wear a prosthetic arm.
The 37-year-old TV star appeared on Loose Women on Thursday to discuss the backlash she suffered when she scooped the role on the BBC children’s channel yet decided not to wear an artificial limb as she felt ‘beautiful’ without one.
As she sat on the panel, Cerrie, who was born with an irregularity in her arm, which ends slightly below the elbow, also shared an image as she posed in a bikini while admitting she feels body confident after years of dancing.
Cerrie first appeared on CBeebies in 2009, having previously starred on Holby City, Grange Hill, EastEnders and The Bill, although she departed the post last month.
When she got the job on the show, there was outrage when some parents complained that Cerrie was ‘scaring’ children and that they were being forced to discuss difficult issues with their young children before they were ready.
A father said he wanted to ban his daughter from watching the channel amid fears it would give her nightmares, while others complained that the BBC had only given Cerrie the job because of her disability, in a politically correct quest.
One noticeboard comment read: ‘What is scary is the BBC’s determination to show “minorities” on CBeebies at every available opportunity! This presenter is c**p – face facts – but because she has a disability then she was given a job.’
The BBC received nine formal complaints, but the CBeebies website was buzzing with comments, some so vicious they had to be taken down. One suggested Cerrie could pull down her cardigan sleeve so viewers wouldn’t have to see her stump.
Looking back on the vitriol she experienced, Cerrie lashed out at her critics as she said: ‘I’m very wary of this word hurtful and I think that makes it personal to me, which it was but in another sense was it was much broader than that…
‘Almost akin to racism, it was a prejudice… Misguided or afraid, some children are scared of my arm, it’s a weird arm, lets just say it how it is, some children are scared of the dark, spiders. It’s the parents role to reassure the child’.
It was Cerrie’s decision not to wear a prosthetic arm, as aged nine she decided she was far more comfortable without – as she believed she was more beautiful.
She said: ‘I never had a TV as a child so I’ve done it all to spite my mum. I’d been a struggling actor for seven years, just become a mum, my daughter was three months old when I got the job, I was breastfeeding my daughter.
‘Everyone was overjoyed but there was pressure to cover up my arms, my parents really tried to resist that, they were advised to tell me to wear a prosthetic, and I would tell my mum I’m more beautiful without it.
‘That was at four years old and they said we know but you’ve got to wear it. At nine my parents went to the doctor we can’t make her wear it.
‘For children with disabilities things have massively improved, fortunately the amount of people who are dying as a consequence of that has lowered’.
Appearing as part of the Loose Women Body Stories campaign, she showed an image while posing in a bikini – proving her body confidence.
She said: ‘Because I’ve grown up doing a lot of dance you get used to being in a leotard so you have a different relationship with being scantily clad
‘This is the biggest size I’ve ever been, I’m a size 12. I used to be a life model when I was younger so I’ve always been body confident, because of what I went through when I was younger battling to get that heavy arm off I was like here I am, this is me’.