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Kiruna Stamell: ‘My body’s an organic, natural thing. Get over it’

Some people find wisdom in faith. Where do you get yours from? My parents, particularly my mother. She’s got a background in psychoanalytics, psychology and teaching, so she was always good at helping me break down emotional responses to things, and understand the unfairness in the world, and that it’s sometimes just other people’s problem.

What about a sense of wonder? Nature. Space. Observing the world around me. Weirdly, I feel like religion quashes wonder in a lot of people. Whereas I’m quite easily pleased. “Oh, a rainbow cake! How amazing!”

Which of the seven deadly sins are you most susceptible to? Pride. I sometimes think, “Do people think I’m being a bit up myself by sharing this on social media?” Then I think, “F… it! If no one else is going to recognise your talent, you gotta just love you.”


Are you happy with your body? Yes. I mean, there are things I wish were a little bit different, but they’re not what people would expect. Like, I’ve got some bowing in my forearm. I’d love it if my forearm was straight.

What’s the benefit of having a straighter forearm? Just aesthetically. It would also maybe give me a little bit more reach.


When you say there are things you’d change about your body, I imagine some typically sized people would expect you to be not happy with your height. Yeah, but I’ve always been really, “This is me!” I could not have got here if I didn’t have a stubborn streak of, “Nope, you’re wrong: my body’s an organic, natural thing. Get over it.”

You’ve said previously that it’s very rare when somebody is able to find a unique way to offend you. With that in mind, is there a best practice in responding to abuse or harassment about physical appearance? I have found that going into “schoolteacher mode” really helps. Take a deep breath and provide an opportunity for education, but also be prepared to walk away and spare yourself. It’s getting that balance right. But maintaining that takes energy. It’s not easy. So my advice is to find things you love doing. Build your own resilience and strength. Realise what you can control and change, and what you can’t.

What’s your party trick no one would suspect of you? I’m a great dancer. I can be at a party where people are all awkward and too cool for school, and I can get the dance floor happening. Even now when I have a boogie in my house, a coil of happiness just fills me. To me, dancing was also a really big political thing, having been a little girl wanting to learn to dance and told by several dance schools, “Well, there’s no point training you; you’re a dwarf.” So even now, it still feels like a really deviant, “F… you.” [Laughs]


You’re an actor. How’s the money? Acting is a terrible career choice financially, unless you’re in that top 1 per cent earning millions. Acting and being disabled is a double whammy, because I can’t just say, “Oh, I’m just going to be a waitress in between acting jobs.”

Are you in a position to say no to work? I’ll say no to anything that feels derogatory or dehumanising. But financially it’s incredibly difficult.

Australia has one of the lowest employment participation rates for people with disabilities. Now that you’re based in the UK, what do you think accounts for Australia doing so poorly? In the UK, they’ve got something called Access to Work, a government fund that takes the financial burden of employing a disabled person: the cost of modifying the workplace, for example. In Australia, there’s still a sense of seeing the cost, rather than the value, people with disabilities add.

From when you moved to London aged 23, you had continuous acting work in the UK before COVID-19 – which was not the case in Australia. What does that say about the Australian industry? There’s a bit of a financial push and incentive for organisations like the BBC to employ disabled performers. I’m seeing a little bit of a change in Australia, like me being on Play School, but it’s such a pity that that is still radical.


What has been your best job? Financially, probably when I was on the London West End for nine months, acting in Richard Bean’s play Great Britain. Emotionally, Play School. You genuinely feel you’re making a difference and representing a version of the world we should have.

What are you most looking forward to spending money on in a post-COVID world? I’d love a fancy meal out. Something really high in fat content. Exotic cheeses. And I am desperate to come back to Australia for a couple of months. Just be with my family and husband to enjoy the good weather and the physical space. The expanse.


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