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'I was expecting trolls' - Jay Howard opens up about her limb difference, raising awareness, and making a difference

Words by Abi Scaife

You probably saw her first on Married at First Sight UK, but Jay Howard is becoming better known for her activism. 

Born with an upper limb difference, Jay has become an incredible advocate for those with disabilities and limb differences, and is working hard to raise awareness for others just like her.

“You're talking 30-odd years ago now - it was unheard of. I was born and they basically said to my mum ‘she's lost her arm along the way, get on with it’,” explains Jay, in an interview with Smiley News. “She didn't have much support. At the time she felt guilt because she thought that it was something that she had done wrong; obviously, that wasn't the case. It's just one of those things.”

It was while Jay was growing up that her mum came across Reach, an incredible charity that supports children born with upper limb differences, as well as their families. Reach helps to connect families, and assists them as they navigate everything from the school years, to learning to drive, and any benefits they may be eligible for.

“My mum found Reach when I was younger. I wasn't being bullied, but she thought it'd be good for me to meet other children that were like me,” explains Jay. “It opened my eyes; I'm not by myself. There are plenty of people out there [who] are exactly the same as me and I was quite grateful.”

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Reach didn’t just provide a place where Jay could see others like her - it was also a place where her family could find out more about how they could help her to thrive, and get the support they needed.

In a touching full circle moment, Jay is now an ambassador for Reach.

“I'm very proud to say that I'm an ambassador for such a brilliant charity,” adds Jay. “Reach became more apparent as I was growing up … it was just nice to know that there was a charity out there that helped the kids as well as parents.”

During her time on Married at First Sight UK, Jay found a huge amount of support and confidence. Going in expecting trolls, she was instead bowled over by people’s reactions, both on and off set.

“It was completely different to what I was expecting; I was expecting a lot of trolling for the way that I looked,” admits Jay. “When you put yourself in the public eye, it's very nerve-wracking, but I had so much good feedback … you don't understand how many people you'll be helping.”

Jay has received a huge response from the public about how she is contributing to raised awareness for limb differences. Recently, Jay met up with Smiley News to talk about and read out some of those incredible messages, and how they have impacted her since MAFS UK aired.


“I'm just really overwhelmed by everybody's beautiful messages, and so grateful that I have had the reception that I've had,” says Jay. “People can be kind and I was expecting the negatives. I'm humbled and very grateful and just in awe of everybody's kind words. That's all I can say, really.”

Since her time on Married at First Sight, Jay has gone on to become an incredible advocate across her social media, and further afield. Even more than that, her experience on MAFS and becoming helping to raise awareness for limb differences has visibly boosted her confidence from when she first came on the silver screen.

When asked if seeing someone with a limb difference on TV when she was younger would have made a difference to her experience growing up, the answer from Jay is an emphatic yes.

“Massively. The only person that I remember growing up as a child is Jeremy Beadle - that was a big thing for me and my mum when we were growing up,” admits Jay. “It was comforting to see that when I was growing up. If there was more representation back then there wouldn't be this stigma.”

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Jay hopes that her continued presence in television and media will go on to influence perceptions even further, helping to raise awareness of not only limb differences, but disabilities as a whole. It is her goal that one day, kids with disabilities will have someone to relate to, and that that will give them even more confidence in themselves.

“I want to make a difference and I want to make a change and I want people to be more open-minded,” says Jay. “Just because people have disabilities doesn't mean that they can't do the same [things] as someone that doesn’t.”

To learn more about Reach and how to support them, you can visit their website here.

Charity check-in 

At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.   

Scope. Scope is the disability equality charity in England and Wales, providing practical information and emotional support when it's most needed, campaigning to create a fairer society. Support them here.

Disability Rights UK. Disability Rights UK is the UK’s leading organisation led by, run by, and working for disabled people. Find out more.

Reach. Reach is a charity supporting children with upper limb differences and their families to live life without limiations. Learn more here.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities and Partnerships for the Goals.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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