Updated: Nov 23, 2018
'I always tell my students ‘You can just be you. Your you is enough’. Charlene Clarke
I have known Charlene since she was 3 years old. Over the years, I have watched her become the inspiration she is today. There have been ups and downs, of course. She has had to learn a lot through error but she has taken those lessons on and fought to improve every single time.
Since the interview, Charlene has been dealt even more lessons that, at times, tire her resolve, but she never gives up. She’s always determined to reach her goals.
If I had to choose a word to describe her, it would be tenacious.
I met up with Charlene Ashleey Louise Clarke in February of 2016 for the photoshoot. She was the first person to be interviewed for this project. As per usual, she turned up flustered and bubbly. Her presence completely filled the studio and it was clear that we were going to have a good day.
Q: What’s your best memory?
Charlene: I guess my 21st. Getting my car. I actually knew I was getting a car because I’m an only child, so I’m spoilt. I remember waking up in the morning. My Mum gave me a George Foreman grill and said that’s all I was getting. I tried not to seem disappointed, but I was a little bit annoyed because the deal was, if I passed my test before my 21st, I would get a car. I’d literally just passed my test so obviously I woke up in the morning and looked outside, but there was no car. I just got this George Foreman and I was a little bit miffed, to say the least. I couldn’t look disappointed though because then I’d look ungrateful, so I went upstairs. My Mum was like, ‘Ok well, we’re gonna go out for breakfast!’, so I said ‘Ok, fine’.
We went out for breakfast and when we came out of the hotel, there was a car in the car park. There were balloons all over it and there was a big bow. It was very exciting. I was petrified to drive it home. I think I drove it around with the bow on it for about 3 weeks. So yeah, that’s my best moment.
Q. Which person has had the biggest influence in your life so far?
Charlene: My godmother. Her and my Mum became friends, I think, when my Mum was pregnant with me. They are very close. My godmother has always been there. I think we’ve fallen out once. I did something that I really shouldn’t have and she was very, very, very disappointed in me and didn’t know how to voice her disappointment, so instead of saying, ‘I’m disappointed’, we just didn’t speak for a while.
She’s been there through pretty much everything. When me and my Mum fall out, she always has my back, even if I’m in the wrong. She will always defend me to the point where her and my Mum have fallen out over me, over choice of boyfriends. She’s very much like ‘Well, you known Charlene has to make her own decisions’.
She drove from Wales to see me go to my prom. Pretty much every milestone in my life, she’s been there. For me, she’s been the biggest influence because she’s always been my biggest cheerleader. She tells me, ‘Do it if that’s what you wanna do, just do it, just go for it’. She makes me kinda believe that I can do anything.
Q. What would you say to your godmother if she was here with you now?
Charlene: Aunty Lillie, I wish I could see you a lot more than I do. I love you more than words can even explain. Sometimes I wish that I could do more for you to show you what you mean to me. I love you.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Charlene: The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given was by my singing teacher. I remember being really nervous one day and she was like ‘Ok, just sing whatever you wanna sing’. I was feeling really self-conscious but she said, ‘Whatever your fears are, whatever you’re worried about, just let them go because they’re stopping you from being the best or doing what it is you need to do.’.
It doesn’t always work, sometimes it’s a bit hard to let your fears go, but I realise that actually, your fears are what stop you from being the best you can be. Or, stop you from doing whatever it is that you actually want to do, so I try to use that approach in everything I do now. My guard goes up before I’ve even sat down to figure out what I need to do, I panic and I’m like, ‘I can’t, I can’t do it’. But now I say, ‘Ok well, what is it that you can’t do?’, rather than ‘I just can’t do it’.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you’ve given?