I Conquered

No matter who we are, we've all had to conquer things in our lives - whether they're big, small, or even life-changing

We interviewed celebrities and successful business people who have faced serious challenges in their lives. These are their stories about how they’ve overcome the odds to achieve their aspirations. Let them inspire you to conquer your problems this year, in your place of work.

Michelle Visage
Conquered: Sexism

Michelle is a 48-year-old woman who has been working in the entertainment industry since being 19, and has seen sexism every step of the way, especially in radio. Sexism is one of the main issues she’s conquered in her career. When just 26 years old, Michelle was told by her male counter parts and bosses that she would never make it, or be paid as much as them in the world of radio. Starting out as co-host of a new breakfast show in NYC in 1996, she had no idea how successful it would be. Signing a contract that was a really big deal, she signed without hesitation. But as time went on, Michelle learned that every male in the room apart from RuPaul was making more money than she was, despite doing the same amount of work. After a successful 3 years, the opportunity arose for her to host a new morning show; the catch was they were offering Michelle less than the male co-host. Laying down the law, Michelle remained as an equal in radio for 17 years. Sexism is still alive and kicking in the work place, with women earning less or being treated differently. Michelle rightly believes women have every right to stand up for themselves and ask for what they deserve.

Stefanie Reid
Conquered: Her disability

Stef Reid is a British Paralympic long jumper and sprinter. She is the reigning world champion, a triple Paralympic medallist (2008, 2012, 2016) and a five-time world record holder. Stef has an honours degree in biochemistry, and away from the track Stef works as a professional speaker, media broadcaster, actor and fashion model.Stef was born in New Zealand to a Scottish father and English mother, grew up in Toronto, and moved to Dallas, Texas with her Canadian husband all before settling back in the UK in 2010. Stef’s talent and passion for sport were spotted early, and at 12 she was already dreaming of playing rugby on the world stage. But at 15, Stef was involved in a boating accident, suffering severe propeller lacerations. Her life was saved but her right foot was beyond repair and amputated.In addition to her prowess on the track, Stef’s career away from athletics has continued to flourish. In 2015 she became the first ever British amputee to walk the catwalk at London Fashion Week and she has presented fashion segments on various TV shows, including ITV’s Lorraine. She’s a regular presenter and pundit on Channel 4’s Para-sport coverage and will this September be part of the presenting team for the BBC at the 2017 Invictus Games.

Faye Savory
Conquered: Lyme disease

A tiny tick bite had a huge effect on Faye’s life. It left her with Lyme Disease, a bacterial infection which can lead to a chronic debilitating illness. She was one of the unlucky ones, not diagnosed early and became bed-bound for six months and spent many more in a wheelchair. It’s likely Faye contracted Lyme Disease on student travels in Thailand or on the beautiful Scottish island where she landed her dream job as a speech and language therapist and set up home with her partner. At 23 she had to leave that idyllic life and give up on her career. But Faye fought to get a diagnosis and treatment, and was determined to give her life purpose. At a time when Faye was really ill, a friend sent a package of carefully chosen treats, which gave her a business idea. Faye set up Bearhugs over a year ago. It sends ‘a hug in a box’ and a personalised selection of comforting, uplifting, UK-made treats to a loved one. Despite being very ill on occasion, Faye has now sold thousands of Bearhugs hampers and is about to hire her first employee.

Anissa Cantell
Conquered: Bipolar disorder

When Anissa was 20, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and told that she could never work, and would need to be medicated for the rest of her life. It would be a cycle of deep depression, high happiness periods, medications, destructive periods, and then it would start over. After a new doctor suggested psychotherapy – which took a very long year – she is now free from medications and still doing well. Anissa started working part time with adults who had mental health issues or were severely autistic – soon she was working there full time. The therapy helped purge herself of her past but working with real people who had little or no control over their life or illnesses felt like the final step into helping her get better. Alongside her husband, Anissa set up Cantell & Co four years ago, and believes her past helps her to be quite effective with helping people deal with the stress that moving house usually presents. For Anissa, it could take years to confide in a new friend about her illness, but she has now embraced her struggle and the adversity has made her into the woman she is.

Tamanna Miah
Conquered: Anxiety and depression

As a result of Tamanna’s experiences of bullying, racism, and Islamophobia, she developed severe anxiety and depression between the ages of 14 and 16. Consequently, her academic performance deteriorated, and relationships suffered; Tamanna lacked confidence and self-esteem, and had trust issues. From 16 to 19 years old, Tamanna began to receive long-term counselling, however this was unreliable and inconsistent, stopping and starting sporadically. Using her experiences to raise awareness with various organisations and charities, Tamanna has made films, one shown on ITV News and one that was screened as part of World Mental Health Day. She has since been able to be a TEDx Youth Speaker and spoke to millions watching online and thousands in the audience at WE Day UK. Volunteering and campaigning with all the organisations and causes, and having the support of her youth workers at a very young age of 13, saved Tamanna’s life, in her opinion. They helped her to keep going, pushed and encouraged her, and believed in her when no one else did. Despite being only 23 and all the adversities Tamanna has faced while growing up, she has always lived with three mottos: whatever life throws at you, just keep going, don't give up; nothing is impossible and, turn your negative experiences into a positive.

Adèle McLay
Conquered: The grief of multiple miscarriages

Adèle McLay is a chartered accountant by qualification and led her own multi-million dollar consultancy when living in New Zealand. She is now the owner of several successful brands, a life/business growth coach, keynote speaker, mentor, entrepreneur and investor, and the author of two books on business success. In late 2016 Adèle began to share another part of her story to help others recover from trauma and move from a position of vulnerability, shame, failure and sadness to being powerful and brave. Adèle began trying for a family with her husband 18 years ago. She experienced two miscarriages, the second of which was during her honeymoon. She then became pregnant again and gave birth to her daughter, Gemma. Adèle and David dreamed of having four children; David already had a son, so they hoped for two more. Over the next three years, she became pregnant with a further nine babies, all of which she sadly miscarried, including losing triplets. Adèle and her husband still struggle at times with grief and deep sadness over the family they wished for but could not have. However Adèle, has moved to a place where she can focus on being present to the joy of what they have in their lives, as well as focusing on achieving her purpose and vision for her life. She shares her story to help others overcome and move on from challenges, to become successful in business and in life as they define it.

Stephanie Chivers
Conquered: Drug and alcohol abuse

Stephanie Chivers is a habit/addiction specialist. As a result of her emotional state, Stephanie got herself into a bit of trouble with alcohol and drugs. Now she rarely uses anything, and after a long period of abstinence, she strongly believes that’s how to get started on the right track. Very early on after the big change she made, Stephanie noticed a difference in her emotions. She is able to see and feel things clearly, which was and still is amazing for her, getting a little kick out of being straight 99.9% of the time. Stephanie now works with thousands of people battling addiction and found that she was quite good at it and I enjoyed doing it. Becoming successful in her field, she went on to create www.ichange21.com, a 21-day self-help programme which is a cumulation of self-works and things learned along the way. Stephanie has even gone on to release her first book. With her lifestyle being bad for so long, she never thought she’d be able to conquer it, but now she’s done just that.

Jayne Hardy
Conquered: Depression

Having lost a great chunk of her life to depression, Jayne understands what it’s like to be in the midst of something that’s dark, cruel, and at times, life-threatening. Depression meant that Jayne lost her friends, job, financial security, and even a tooth. Depression erodes a person’s sense of self but only after it’s erased anything that can bring you joy. It’s only with hindsight that Jayne says she can look back and see how it wasn’t a specific moment which helped her back on her feet; it was the compound effect of hundreds of tiny steps. Each one was insignificant in isolation and it really was the actions that spoke louder than any words, or thoughts. She started acting as though she cared about herself, treating herself with the same respect she would show others, becoming a self-care ninja and eventually, her sense of self returned. Jayne may not be out of the woods, but what she does have, which she didn’t before, is the hope and belief that she will overcome it.

Keegan Hirst
Conquered: Homophobia in sport

Keegan Hirst is a professional rugby league player with Super League side Wakefield Trinity Wildcats. He started playing the sport at 11 years of age, and secured a scholarship at Huddersfield before joining Bradford Bulls’ Under-18s Academy. Hirst was so determined to make it as a rugby league professional that he left Sixth Form College to pursue his career. Since then, he has gone on to make 199 professional appearances for Batley Bulldogs - a side he captained - as well as Featherstone and Dewsbury. In August 2015, Keegan became the first professional rugby league player to publicly announce he was gay, and he received huge support from teammates, fans, and the wider rugby community. He has since spoken out in support of lesbian, gay, bi, and trans equality, and joined Stonewall at Manchester Pride 2016, wearing the charity’s famous 'Some People Are Gay. Get Over It!' t-shirt. Keegan is also a devoted father-of-two.

Chessie King
Conquered: Body confidence issues

Chessie King is a London based Presenter, Lifestyle Influencer, Creator of ‘The Couple Bible’ and Popcorn Fanatic! In recent years her social media pages have made headline news as she’s conquered body confidence issues which are extremely common in the rise of social media amongst the youth of today. She hit the headlines after sharing comparison photo’s of how posture can dramatically change the way her body looks, as well as the type of bikini she wears. She chose to share these images to show that even social media stars aren’t perfect and in the hope to educate others about their body and help improve their confidence. Chessie uses her social media channels to inspire others and help them overcome their own body issues.

Lee Walton
Conquered: Cancer

Lee conquered his fear of death: the terrifying ordeal of having his face taken off, knowing he may not survive the operation, or survive cancer beyond the operation. Lee conquered his petrifying nervous breakdown and hospitalisation with the fall-out of the recovery from the immense trauma. Months of pain and uncertainty of whether Lee would ever look normal or speak again followed, and also whether he would have teeth and how Lee might be accepted by other people.