JAY HOWARD: Making a Difference

Jay Howard was the first disabled contestant to appear on Married at First Sight (MAFS). The 2023 TV show changed her life, and she’s helping improve awareness of people with limb differences. We caught up with Jay to chat about life after MAFS 

What’s been the best thing to come out of appearing on Married at First Sight? 

I’ve never seen myself as being an inspiration, but people from all over the world have been watching it and have said ‘You don’t understand how many people you’re helping, because of you being yourself, and sharing how you’ve managed your struggles’. I’ve had people asking me for advice and how to deal with certain situations – it’s been really fulfilling. 

You came across so well on the show; there was no ‘act’. 

Rather than disabled people being put in a box, having this stigma of ‘oh they’re disabled, they can’t really do much’, I think I’ve helped change people’s perspective on that. I want people to ask me those awkward questions that nobody dares ask. Because I’m not offended – I want people to understand what it’s like to live as a limb difference individual.

How has being on the show changed you? 

It took me a long time to accept who I am. The experts on the programme hold a mirror up to you, and you start seeing what others see. I did put myself down, and I still have my insecure days. But I’ve learned to love myself now. Before, I couldn’t say that. 

Were you worried about online abuse due to being on the programme? 

I was prepared for trolling, but I haven’t had one negative comment. At school I dealt with bullying – I used to laugh with them. I used to think if I took the mick out of myself, they’d laugh with me, not at me. I got bullied, I got chucked in bins, tied to a fence… I went through a lot, but I’ve never let it get to me.

You’ve become something of a disability advocate…   

I’ve been working with Reach, the upper limb difference charity, and have just been named as one of their ambassadors. They’re really good with families – it’s not just the kids that need help, it’s parents as well, coming to terms with having a child with limb difference. The majority don’t know about it until the child is born. It was a shock for my mum, 32 years ago. She didn’t really have any support. So I want to properly get stuck in with supporting Reach and making a difference, especially creating that support network for families, showing children what they can achieve, and making sure the children feel welcome into society.    

And you recently attended the Power of Women Awards?  

Yes! I won their Woman of Advocacy Award. I did my little speech which I was very nervous about, but I met so many amazing women there. It’s organised by Dress for Success, which is a charity that provides styling advice, clothing and interview preparation to support women into the workplace. It’s all about becoming empowered and economically independent. The award really means a lot. I didn’t think I would ever be seen as an inspirational person; I never thought that people would be looking up to me. So it’s very overwhelming, in a good way. I feel very proud of myself – 12 months ago I could never have imagined this. 

Tell us more about your recent trip to the House of Lords.

 That was another amazing day, filled with amazing women. Women who’ve started from scratch, built businesses up from nothing to create something massive. We listened to different people’s life stories and what they’ve been through. There were so many incredible women who’ve achieved so much with their lives – business leaders, CEOs, celebrities, influencers. It was emotional; people came together to support and celebrate each other. And for me to be invited… I thought to myself at the time, should I even be here? And it’s great to be able to represent the limb difference community. I’m so grateful! 

What are your plans for the future? 

I’m launching a podcast which will feature guests with different disabilities. I’ve recorded the first one, with Mollie from Traitors, who also has a limb difference. It went really well – we had a lighthearted chat about living with a stoma, and we talked about things the general public wants to know but are too scared to ask when it comes to disabilities. I’d say the aim is to be educational, but we’re having a laugh with it. We’ve got a really high calibre of guests on our wish list, so we might share funny dating stories or maybe talk about sex, because people think that disabled people don’t have sex. People think when you’ve got a disability, your life’s ended. But that’s not the case. We still live normal lives. We still have the same experiences as everybody else.    

FOR MORE INFORMATION 

Follow Jay on Instagram at @jay_howard or TikTok at @jayy_howard 

Keep an eye on Jay’s socials for news about her podcast launch date. 

For support around upper limb difference, contact Reach at 0300 365 0078  

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