Harrogate-born Charlotte Armitage is one of those people who you meet and instantly admire. The business entrepreneur, actress, television presenter and trainee psychologist has let nothing stop in her way. She’s gone from struggling at school and a failed business to being one of Yorkshire’s most successful business women and is currently undertaking her doctorate in order to become a fully qualified psychologist. She now runs The Yorkshire Academy of Film and Television Acting (YAFTA) whose alumni include Emmerdale’s James Moore (Ryan) and Corrie’s Liam Bairstow (Alex).
Now, you might be wondering how on earth Charlotte manages to fit everything in – as on top of all that she’s also a mum.
“It’s difficult, some things go on the back burner while you do other things and it’s about structuring your time properly. I have a rigid structure in my head, otherwise I end up overwhelmed!”
She’s got a lot going on but Charlotte’s always been an entrepreneurial go-getter.
“When I was 12 I remember starting a little business at school!” She laughs, “I was selling straw sweets with sherbet in them – I made a fortune! But I went to a school that didn’t recognise entrepreneurship back then so they just shut it down straight away! “I wasn’t really academic – I know I’m doing a doctorate now but I was so stressed doing my GCSEs I had to go to college a year later and do them and I didn’t finish my A-Levels.”
Charlotte eventually ended up working for a company who supported her to do a degree in Psychology. After completion she had the option to do a PhD but instead set up a chain of businesses together with her partner.
“We made a lot of my mistakes in that business. It went under and I had personally guaranteed a lot of money, so I had to go bankrupt. I lost everything. I was heavily pregnant when it happened and I was on my own. I’d always modelled but I ended up doing acting as something to enjoy and take me away from the stress.”
Charlotte ended up in London and after completing an acting course she has had roles on Happy Valley, Emmerdale and Coronation Street – however she saw a gap in the market for good acting classes at an affordable price and so YAFTA was born with classes designed to benefit actors living in the north. Charlotte also incorporated an agency into YAFTA and two of her actors are James Moore and Liam Bairstow. Liam was the first actor with Downs Syndrome to appear on Coronation Street while James, is the first disabled actor to ever win a National Television Award.
“I’m really passionate about diversity and levelling the playing field.” Charlotte explains, “My brother had quite severe learning disabilities and the world was a cruel place when we were kids, people didn’t understand and there was a lot of prejudice and discrimination, so I want to champion diversity on screen. It’s important that we normalise differences and change perceptions on a large scale which should reduce prejudice and increase acceptance.
“It was a really pivotal moment when Liam got his role on Corrie as he is now a role model for people with disabilities to say it doesn’t have to be a hindrance to have a disability, it can be something beautiful as well. You just have to be proud of it and he’s showing what can be achieved.”
“James winning an NTA made history. The two of them (Liam and James) are paving the way for other people with disabilities to aspire to careers in whatever they want to do. They are role models proving anything can be achieved, you just have to put your mind to it and go for it.”
“Liam was the first actor with Downs Syndrome to appear on Coronation Street while James, is the first disabled actor to ever win a National Television Award”
Charlotte has overcome a lot of adversity in her life and so I wondered what tips she had for others who may be facing difficulties?
“I think you have to take the positive from the negative. For me, when I went bankrupt I remember thinking there is no way on this earth I want to run another business but then I just thought to myself ‘I’ve literally been to hell and back with this business so why not use that experience to set something else up and make it work?’ and that is exactly what happened.
“I don’t think you should regret anything. Every cloud has a silver lining, you just have to learn from your mistakes, really reflect on them and change, don’t do the same thing again.”
“I don’t tend to focus on whatever anyone else is doing. It’s distracting. Just focus on what you’re doing and crack on – that’s my attitude!”
Charlotte also sits on numerous boards including boards that promote mental health – something she is passionate about.
“I think being open and honest about mental health is really important. There are a lot of labels around mental health at the moment and disorders and the label is important in a medical context to communicate what you are dealing with, but actually, you have to just look at each person you are dealing with as an individual based on their own life experiences.
“If everyone was healthy in their mind and secure in their mindset it would remove so much pain in the world. We’d have people being kinder to each other. We could have a much healthier functioning society if people were looking after their mental health.”
Charlotte believes teaching children and parents to be mindful of their own mental health is key and she understands how easy it is to ‘lose the plot.’
“It’s easy to start losing the plot and it’s usually a slow gradual process. There needs to be more awareness and less stigma.
“We are all human. It’s just normal. Mental health can affect people’s lives so normalising it so it becomes ok to have a mental health problem or say you need extra support – it’s really important.”
If you want to know more about what Charlotte is up to visit yafta.co.uk