This is the first time I have written an article about something that I'm not personally effected by. But it's important, which is why I'm writing it.
Running a radio station, I often get tracks suggested to me - either by record labels, radio pluggers or, occasionally, listeners. One day, two years ago, a listener sent in a request for us to play a track called "Big In LA". I had never heard of the track before, it only had a couple of hundred plays on YouTube at the time, but I gave it a listen and immediately fell for the catchy, melodic tune of the song. So, I played it on-air.
What I didn't realise was the story behind this song.
Let me introduce you to Joelle.
Joelle is a teenager who dreams of being a singer and she knows that being a worldwide superstar singer isn't easy by anybodies standards, but she is trying hard. Oh, also, as a side note: Joelle suffers from alopecia.
Alopecia is the general medical term for hair loss - and there are many types of alopecia, some with worse effects than others. Joelle suffers from alopecia universalis, which is characterized by the complete loss of hair on the scalp and body.
Whilst it may be difficult to tell that Joelle has alopecia when you meet her, that's just a signal as to the amazing support she has around her who work with her to get her desired look. So, every morning, whilst school kids are waking up around the country getting ready for the day ahead, Joelle is up hours before them applying whatever is necessary to make her feel comfortable.
In 2014, following the major success of "Big In LA", Joelle made headlines again after she covered her head in chocolate for Easter to raise awareness for alopecia universalis, which affects 100,000 people in the UK.
When I started speaking to Joelle about writing an article about her, she suggested that I write about something slightly more light-hearted than what I had in mind. In late October 2015, her younger sister dared her to wear her Stormtrooper belt (Joelle is a huge Star Wars fan) whilst doing everything up until New Years Eve. From driving lessons to shopping, going to the loo, everything. From the most extraordinary to the most mundane.
From the typical selfie-taking teen...
...To doing the shopping...
...Even brushing her cat!
Anyway, I'm not going to write an article about dressing up like a stormtrooper. I'm going to write an article about an extraordinary girl who, despite all of the suffering she has gone through, she stays strong and remains a true hero.
When I think about some of the things that I find difficult in life, there are many things. Firstly, getting out of bed in the morning - I hate it, but I do it. What Joelle's story teaches us is that there is no excuse, because if anybody has an excuse to hide and be scared and complain, it's Joelle. But she doesn't, she's bold.
As we start 2016, it's important to attach your goals to somebody who can motivate you. Whilst GMTV's "Mr Motivator" back in the day may have caused more success for some than others, this New Year perhaps you should use Joelle for your motivation.
Joelle is a Young Person's Ambassador for Alopecia UK, with a mission to normalise hair loss in society. For more information and to donate, visit: www.alopeciaonline.org.uk