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Housing

‘I can be a role model’: How dance helped a young woman out of homelessness

Now 26-year-old Jamie has her own business and is the face of new ad highlighting the impact homelessness has on young women

The inspirational story of how a young woman escaped homelessness is the focus of a new national television advert as she admits: “I feel like a superstar”.

Dancer Jamie, 26, is the face of The Body Shop’s new ‘Unseen Kingdoms’ campaign, giving her a platform to show off her moves to spoken word artist Rasheeda Page-Muir’s performance.

The festive ad campaign is a part of The Body Shop’s partnership with End Youth Homelessness which is aiming to explore the impact homelessness has on young women.

Jamie was homeless at the age of 16 and caring for her little sister due to her mother’s addiction issues. Now, a decade later, Jamie has completed a master’s degree in dance and runs her own dance therapy initiative Moving Upwards.

Jamie, who has been supported by youth homelessness charity Centrepoint throughout the last decade, told The Big Issue: “It’s amazing. It feels so surreal. I mean, the recording and everything itself was brilliant – I just felt like a bit of a superstar. It was kind of crazy.

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“I couldn’t have ever imagined how my life would have evolved really, at the time of staying with Centrepoint.

“Things were so difficult for me for so long and I guess I felt like I was never really going to be able to get out of my situation. In a way I always thought that I was going to struggle with housing.

“And for my whole life, that was a genuine fear I had. I basically just kept fighting to get out of the situation.”

Dance has proved to be a liberation from a life of poverty and homelessness for Jamie.

She sought the support of Centrepoint following her GCSEs at the age of 16 and left the services to adopt her younger sister alongside her older brother two years later.

The siblings managed to get by for two years before Jamie’s brother lost his job at a pub, leading to the trio being evicted from their flat.

Jamie returned to Centrepoint in Soho and the charity supported her with a university application that allowed her to take her first steps into pursuing her dancing dream.

But university was tough. On some occasions she had nowhere to stay. Three times Jamie slept rough, taking shelter in a tent in a park while she just about managed to keep up with her studies.

She said: “I think that it is easy for society to forget that so many people are going through so many really challenging situations and from such a young age at 14, 15, 16 years of age. They’re having to go through things like what I went through, and it shouldn’t be ignored. I really did feel all alone.

“But I remembered that there is a better life out there for me. I really was so passionate about becoming a dancer and I knew how competitive the industry was. I just wanted to pursue it and I just didn’t really let those things hold me back. I just went for it.”

Jamie graduated from university and managed to secure a master’s degree in contemporary performance practises.

During the difficult times, dancing proved to be not only a distraction from her personal life but also a vehicle to move out of homelessness.

Now Jamie runs a weekly dance therapy session called Moving Upwards that aims to give people a lift through work on the dancefloor, even continuing during lockdown via Zoom.

And she hopes experience can be a model that other youngsters can follow.

“I think that dancing gave me this feeling of excitement when I was performing,” added Jamie. “I used to love the thrill that it gave me. And there’s really something about training your body to this point of expertise which is quite addictive. And I just love the way that it made me feel.

“I feel like I can be a role model for lots of people, including young women in my life and that’s just really, really priceless to me. Like it’s just very heartwarming. I’m very proud to be able to share that as who I am.”

Read more about Unseen Kingdoms in this week’s Big Issue magazine, featuring a Body Shop gift guide that is attempting to raise £150,000  for End Youth Homelessness this year.

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