• Annie Bocock

In Digital Discussion With: Sophie Lavender

Shalom! Shalom! It’s Sophie Lavender! Dynamic photographer, proudly neurodiverse, fluent in poetry and pretty damn funny for a ginger.

Sophie Lavender joined the TEDxBrayfordPool stage in November 2019, at our Youth event, talking about her experience as an autistic woman and how it has saved her. Professionally she’s a renowned creative freelancer with skills in photography, graphic design, filmmaking, writing, public speaking and autism education. She owns a business: Sophie Lavender Photography and Design where you can support her by purchasing high-quality services and you can learn more about autism and ADHD through her channel here.

We sit sort of opposite each other in this digital independent pub, Diet Coke in her hand and a gin in my own, not real of course but we wish it were. We’re having a group TEDxBrayfordPool catch-up and we find ourselves stepping aside to conduct this virtual interview.

“Hello Sophie, it’s good to have you! Who are you?”

“My name is Sophie Lavender. I’m a comedian, photographer and filmmaker, and I’m also autistic. I believe being autistic is an overwhelmingly positive experience, in fact, I genuinely believed it saved my life. Growing up I lived under the roof of a very toxic person. Everything had to be done their way and even if I did or didn’t follow the rules I was hit, punched, and beaten. This person was also a massive bigot. Being autistic, and all the positives that come with being autistic, I was able to think for myself without their influence. I couldn’t see anything wrong with the people they were being horrible about, so why would I believe it?

My story in a nutshell, is that I survived years of child abuse, got diagnosed autistic in therapy after my abuser was arrested, and then looked back to find it was my autism all along that allowed me to think and find my own answers - AND it was with being autistic that I had the strength to survive.”

“I’m sorry you had to experience that but I’m pleased that it were those traits within yourself that helped you to survive in that situation. What inspired you to give a TEDx Talk?”

“My introduction to TED was when I saw an event for one of the Salons on Facebook. I’ve always loved watching TED talks on YouTube so I was really interested in going to a Salon event and seeing what it was about. The Salons were fantastic and engaging and I met some awesome people there who I now feel lucky to be able to call my friends. Then, I heard that we could apply for TEDxYouth so I signed up straight away. I’ve always wanted to be involved with TED and do a talk.”

“How has the TEDx experience changed you?”

“The experience of being involved with TEDxBrayfordPool has given me the confidence to continue sharing the positives of autism and the drive to help others learn that their autism is incredible. I’ve spoken with several people about mental health and autism who after watching my TED Talk have now realised they could also be on the spectrum. To continue helping in the COVID-19 lockdown, I have started making videos on autism for YouTube where I talk about all things autism and mental health using my personal experiences, my autistic friends experiences, and NHS advice. Since then I’ve been flooded with messages across all social media on how my videos have helped others. It’s a great feeling to know that you’ve helped someone and I hope to continue this now even after the pandemic is over. My YouTube channel is www.youtube.com/shalomlavender.”

“You own your own photography business, what advice would you give to other creatives who want to do the same?”

“My advice for other creatives is to stay positive. It can get tough like any business or type of work, but staying positive will help keep you going.”

“Thank you for that! What are your favourite traits or superpowers as an autistic person?”

“An autism trait that has been more of an advantage than a disadvantage is passion and drive. When I really love something, such as photography, I go all in. My passion becomes dedication and the dedication births drive - and the next thing you know - there’s notebooks full of plans and a hard drive full of photoshoots. When lockdown is over I can’t wait to be able to photograph again.”

“Okay quick fire! Three words to sum up the TEDx experience?”

“Achievement. Pride. Bucket-list-item-ticked.”

“Favourite TEDx Talk?”

“The most memorable talk I’ve seen... there’s so many and they’re all so good! If I had to pick one it would be Failing at Normal: An ADHD Success Story | Jessica McCabe | TEDxBratislava who spoke about her ADHD and how she always struggled and didn’t know why until her diagnosis and now she’s building a community all over the world where people with ADHD support each other. As someone who also has ADHD I cried at how relatable her struggle was. It was a very passionate talk.”

“Favourite book?”

“My favourite book is Sophie’s World. It was given to me because my name’s Sophie. It’s a book on the history of philosophy and it taught me as a child that there are different ways of looking at things and from about the age of 12 I got into philosophy because of that book. If you’re looking for a book that will teach you but challenge how you think I highly recommend this.”

"Which local business are you most looking forward to supporting when you feel comfortable in public spaces again?"

"During lockdown I’ve found that I don’t really need anything other than the clothes I’ve already got, my home, my family and friends, and food that helps me get healthier. So I’m really not sure when I’ll next treat myself to something extra as I’ve gotten into the routine of only buying when it becomes a need rather than a want. When I feel safe to have an adventure into town I’d probably hang out with friends rather than shop and do things like have a coffee, or a meal, or even a trip to the cinema. The day I can spend a day hanging out with friends is a day I cannot wait to live in."

“Thank you Sophie!”

You can watch Sophie’s talk here.



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