Alex Manners is a young man with autism who has a burning desire to become a professional television presenter. Although this may sound daunting, there are people with autism who have found that despite this they can adopt a role or persona and perform very well, for example Chris Packham, Guy Martin, Alan Gardener and other performing artists like Susan Boyle and Daryll Hannah who Alex has been inspired by. We asked Alex a series of questions about his background, inspiration, challenges and successes in his ongoing quest to fulfil his ambition.
Tell us a little about you life so far, your background, your interests, your achievements and ambitions.
My name is Alex Manners and I have a form of Autism called Asperger’s Syndrome. My ambition is to be a TV Presenter in children’s television or sport. I consider myself fortunate to have Asperger’s because I believe it is the reason why I am so quirky, creative and different and I think it is these qualities that will enable me to break into the TV world. Another huge passion within my life is football. I am obsessed with football and my whole bedroom is covered in football memorabilia. I have a quest to visit all 92 grounds within the English Football League and I am currently on 72, traveling to matches every single week, not to mention filming all of the Solihull Moors home games for BT Sport. I have a huge collection of football shirts, programmes and badges and I can name every single ground within the top 5 tiers of English Football. In 2016 I wrote an article on my quest to do the 92 that was published in the “Late Tackle” magazine. In 2017, I wrote a second article for the magazine on my Scottish football trip.
When & how did you become interested in being a TV presenter and was there any particular thing that started it?
I have always loved wearing bright and colourful clothes and at school this was always an issue. If I am wearing colourful clothes then I feel that I can conquer anything. However, if I have to wear dark coloured clothes then I can become quite depressed to the point where I would rather not carry out the particular activity or attend the particular event. In 6th form a lot of the younger children started calling me “Rainbow Man”. This led me to create my own children’s show called “Rainbow Man” which was reviewed by the Cbeebies commissioning team. I knew that I wanted to do a job where I could express my personality and my dress sense and did not want a typical 9-5 job. I decided that I would like to start a YouTube channel and as soon as I filmed my very first video I knew that I really enjoyed being in front of the camera. It was not however until I attended a TV Presenter training course at the Custard Factory in 2015 that I really knew that being a TV Presenter was the job for me.
Have you had any training or guidance about the art of presenting?
In early 2015 I attended a TV Presenter training course at the Custard Factory in Birmingham and produced my very first showreel there. I have also been a ‘runner’ at Big Centre TV (now called Made in Birmingham), shadowed one of the presenters for a week on BBC WM and had a week down in London at BT Sports. At BT Sports I not only got to watch a live “Rugby Tonight” programme being produced but I also got to go on stage during the rehearsals of the Clare Balding show and act as a stand-in. However, I feel that some of the most valuable experience that I have gained is from the numerous TV and Radio interviews I have had.
When were you diagnosed with autism and what led up to this, how was the process and how did you feel about it?
I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in 2007 when I was 10 years old. I was told by a SEN at school who said “By the way Alex, do you realise you have Asperger’s”. I had no idea what this was at the time or what it meant and just sat there and nodded. I had been going to a centre for testing for about a year prior to this. When I came out of the room my dad told me that I should not be worried about having Asperger’s because many of our family members have Asperger’s traits and it gives us special powers. From then on I have always viewed my Asperger’s as something positive and that I feel lucky to have.
What do you consider to be your greatest challenges in relation to your autism when trying to do a job like presenting?
The most difficult thing is processing the questions or answers that someone is giving you. When I am carrying out interviews I am not always listening to the person’s answers or responses. Instead I am frantically trying to come up with the next question and ensuring that I don’t forget it. The same goes for when I am being interviewed myself. It may look as though I have no trouble with asking or being asked questions but it is much harder than you think, especially as you only have a short time to do it in.
Have you found that being a presenter is a natural talent and do you feel that your autism has a positive effect on this in any way?
When I am in front of a camera I feel very relaxed and never nervous or worried. However, I do believe that my Asperger’s has helped me as my colourful appearance always seems to lighten up any interview or video that I may be in and allows me to start speaking with confidence. I also believe it makes me much more able to engage in conversation.
What advice would you offer to someone on the autism spectrum who is considering an ‘in front of camera’ role?
I would say just be yourself. If it feels natural to be in front of the camera then that is brilliant but don’t do anything that you feel uncomfortable with. If you are interviewing someone or being interviewed yourself then just pretend you are speaking to your best friend, it will allow you to feel that bit more relaxed. At the end of the day have fun and enjoy yourself.
We thank Alex for this inspiring piece and wish him all the best in the future!
You can view Alex’s YouTube channel here:
and his website here:
This article was originally published by Autism West Midlands on their website – http://autismwestmidlands.org.uk/news/realising-ambition-with-hard-work-dedication/