THE BLOG

The Darkest Backdrops Reveal the Brightest Stars

09/03/2015 17:28 GMT | Updated 30/12/2015 09:59 GMT

I grew up in Leicester where youth unemployment was rife. I witnessed many of my peers struggle to find work so know how this can affect a young life.

Although the economic climate is picking up, young people are bearing the brunt of the recession and are battling the repercussions every single day.

There are hundreds of thousands of young people out there who are still struggling to find their place in life. They have a wealth of talent and potential but simply don't know which way to turn. This can breed low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness and sometimes even depression.

Many of these young people feel alone and scared. I know what this can feel like.

There was a time, during my early twenties, when I didn't think I could go on anymore. My memories of this period are quite hazy because my brain has blocked most of them out.

The bullying that I experienced at school is well-documented but the impact it had on me, less so. I grew up on a council estate in Leicester and was targeted for a number of 'reasons'. When you are a larger than life character who happens to be very overweight, gay and mixed race, you are something of a sitting duck for bullies; well, that was my experience anyway.

I remember walking down the corridors, my stomach twisting like a Rubik's cube as my classmates fired insults at me. Any semblance of self-esteem I had evaporated each and every time one of these verbal grenades exploded around me. My self-confidence was in tatters.

Luckily, thanks to the support of my family I was able to pull through. The most important lesson I learnt is how important it is to be kind to yourself and I have built a career around trying to boost other people's self-esteem; you could say that it has become something of an obsession.

This is because I know just how precious a gift self-confidence is. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is one of the most important things in life and the best thing is, that with the right support and enough positive reinforcement, anyone can acquire it. When you go from not having had confidence to having it in abundance your whole perspective shifts.

This is precisely why I think youth charity The Prince's Trust is so fabulous. It works tirelessly to instil the UK's most vulnerable young people with the confidence they need to think positively about themselves and their futures. By doing so, it has helped hundreds of thousands of young people to turn their lives around and, in many cases young people credit the charity with quite literally saving their lives.

Over the years, I have had the honour and privilege of meeting just some of those helped by the Trust and, hand on heart, the transformation is truly remarkable. These vulnerable, hurting young individuals who have been battered and bruised by life are helped to become confident young people, unafraid to stand tall.

This is why I am so excited to be attending The Prince's Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success Awards later this month to recognise young people who have been able to get their lives on track with The Trust's help.

These are young people like Kerry, whose traumatic years in the care system left her feeling very vulnerable and alone. When she found herself unemployed, her hopes for her future were fading fast - until The Prince's Trust helped her into her dream job of providing services for adults and children with learning disabilities. She's one of four finalists for the Samsung Young Achiever Award.

Although I, like many of the young people supported by The Trust, have been through tough times, I have no regrets. My formative experiences have made me who I am today and fostered in me a thirst for life that I have never managed to quench since. The Prince's Trust is there for the young people who need support the most. It stops them from being defined by the bad things that have happened to them and teaches them instead to learn from these experiences, harness them and move forward with resilience, determination and a sense of self-purpose; it is invaluable. Plus, as The Trust knows only too well, often the darkest backdrops reveal the brightest stars.

The Huffington Post has teamed up with youth charity The Prince's Trust to back the Novae Educational Achiever of the Year Award at The Prince's Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success Awards. Taking place on Thursday 12 March in London, the ceremony will recognise young people who have overcome issues such as unemployment, drug addiction, homelessness and depression to achieve success.

The Prince's Trust & Samsung Celebrate Success Awards recognise young people who have overcome homelessness, mental health problems and unemployment. In addition to partnering the Celebrate Success Awards, Samsung is working with the Prince's Trust to tackle the digital skills gap in the UK by creating digital classrooms at its centres. To find out more on how Samsung supports young people, please visit samsung.com/uk/citizenship or search #StandTall