After being bullied for his love of musical theatre, Charlie Kristensen’s singing teacher Jacqueline Hughes reached out to her fellow actors through social media, and with their help and messages, #CheerUpCharlie was created. Since the hashtag began, Charlie has attended many theatre shows as a guest, appeared on the radio with Michael Ball and performed at The Crazy Coqs as well as The Theatre Cafe. Charlie is now helping other bullied children and has become an ambassador for The Diana Award (www.antibullyingpro.com) ahead of this week’s Anti-Bullying Week. Chatting with us, Charlie tells us about #CheerUpCharlie, working with Jacqueline Hughes and performing at both The Crazy Coqs and The Theatre Cafe.
How did it feel doing the video with Jacqueline Hughes to say thank you for #CheerUpCharlie and when did she become your singing teacher?
Jacqueline has been my singing teacher for over two years now. I met her through my mummy and her husband Mark, who used to train together at the gym. The thank you video was just a bit of fun in the garden shed with mummy recording. Jacqueline even had baby sick on her. We did it as I did not expect to get all the messages and people were asking to see who I was.
What do you think you’ve learnt since the hashtag started?
I have learnt that there are lots of kind people in this world, especially in the West End and musical theatre world. But I have also learnt that so many people who work in the industry have also been badly bullied, especially the boys, and this makes me sad and it should not happen.
You’ve attended a few theatre shows recently including press nights, what shows have you seen and what are red carpet events like to attend?
I do not think there are many shows left that I have not seen, and those that I haven’t, I will be watching soon. I love, love, love the press nights, they are such good fun. It is very strange when people now ask me for photos as I am just Charlie.
Do you remember the very first theatre show you saw?
My very first show was The Lion King and that is what made me really want to be on the stage.
You’ve met Michael Ball and Alfie Boe at the Les Misérables Concert, can you tell us about meeting them?
He is just the best. I have met Michael a few times now and have some amazing photos with him. He also had me on his radio show. Alfie was great, and they dressed me in his stage costume. They also took me up onto the Barricade after the show.
What was it like singing at The Crazy Coqs?
Amazing!!! Mark Petty was one of the very first people to send me a message, and I will always be grateful for that. To stand up in front of all those people and sing a hard song with a piano was scary but I loved it. The other people singing were so good and then I got to go up too. Everyone was so kind and I got a standing ovation. I also wrote my own speech about #CheerUpCharlie.
Over the summer you performed at The Theatre Cafe, how did this go?
We had such a fun day. I went with Jacqueline, who sang too, and mummy. I also signed my first autograph which was very strange. The people at The Theatre Cafe were so nice, and I love the cafe. One of my favourite places to go to now! In fact, I wonder if they may let me have a summer job there!
You’re now involved with The Diana Award, can you tell us about it?
I am going to become one of their Ambassadors and promote the charity as much as I can. I feel really special that they want to do some things with me, but I want to make a difference and the only way I can is by talking and making people aware.
How long have you been attending MX Masterclass and GSA, and what do you enjoy most about your training?
I am only in my first term at MXM and it is so good. Most of the kids are a lot older than me, but it just means I have to work hard to keep with them. Michael Xavier is who I want to be able to sing like when I am older.
I am in my second term at GSA and really enjoy it. I train there all day on a Saturday and do a mixture of dance, plus a one-on-one acting class.
When did you start loving dance, singing and acting?
I went to my first class when I was five, as my older brother at the time was doing Stagecoach. I was too young to go but they let me stay. I absolutely loved it but my brother did not. He left and I stayed.
#CheerUpCharlie will hopefully help others in a similar situation as you found yourself in, how is it knowing that you’re part of helping others?
I feel very proud that I am now in a position to make myself be heard and I have the chance to speak and help so many other children. I hope to keep building on this platform and make children feel safe to speak out about what they love. #CheerUpCharlie is now becoming something people associate with anti-bullying, and I hope that we can do so much more. I have so many plans and ideas.
Do you have messages for people that are being bullied and the performers that have helped with the campaign?
At first, I did not understand why so many people were getting involved in the campaign, but now I do. I say this to everyone now, I may be one voice and only nine, but I have a huge tribe behind me and my voice will stand and will be heard. I will make a difference. Why should people be bullied for doing what they love? Everybody should be accepted as they are. I wish bullies could watch a musical and see just how amazing they are.
I am so thankful for the kindness that has been shown to me, and I want everyone to be proud of who they are and what they choose to do.
What are your upcoming career and Anti-Bullying Campaign plans?
I want to keep on learning and eventually work on Broadway and in the West End. I would also love to do some more songs in the recording studio. I hope that #CheerUpCharlie becomes something that people associate with anti-bullying. When they think of it, I want them to think that it is okay to do what they love and to realise that there is so much support around this industry. I do not want people to feel that other people have the right to tell them what to do. People need to be confident in doing what they love. When I am an adult, I hope that I do not have to help a bullied child like me. I want to be the voice for the thousands of people who dare to be different. Bullies should never win, but at the moment they do, and in the theatre world I want to be the boy that changes that. I want to put a concert on and raise so much awareness.
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