Life is too short to spend your
precious time trying to convince a person who wants to live in gloom and doom
otherwise. Give lifting that person your best shot, but don't hang around long
enough for his or her bad attitude to pull you down. Instead, surround yourself
with I have dreamt a lifetime to get on this flight to New York. I don't care if
it's summer. Leather, high heels, and a bad attitude. Here I comeTurning 16 can
be tough for any teenager – it’s a journey fraught with excitement, issues and
But Stockport-raised Jasmine Burkitt decided to mark her coming of age by
embarking on a search around Greater Manchester for the father she has never
The emotional quest forms the main storyline of a touching BBC3 documentary to
be screened tonight, which reveals Jasmine – or Jazz as she likes to be known –
to be a young woman mature beyond her years.
Jazz has been a registered carer since the age of 13 for her mum,
Beverley, who suffers from breathing difficulties. But this typical teenager,
who loves shopping and hanging out with her best friend, Naomi, has also seen
the ugly side of human nature at a tender age.
At 3ft 8ins, Jazz is the height of an average eight-year-old, and just one inch
taller than her 47-year-old mother, sharing with her a rare and unidentified
form of dwarfism.
The documentary shows the issues Jazz and Beverley face on a daily basis, such
as standing on stools to access kitchen counters.
But emotionally, Jazz is a big girl, all right, and was ready for the potential
wringer of reuniting with her dad.
"Mum wanted to make sure I was over 16 so I would be able to cope and be ready,"
says Jazz who was promised as a child that one day she could try to contact him.
As she made the decision, it wasn’t a rejection she feared.
"My main concern was that something bad would happen to me or him before I met
him or even speak to him," she admits. "That was my biggest worry because I
would be devastated."
Stockport-born Beverley met Jazz’s dad, who is of average height, at the
Cornerhouse in Manchester. The relationship, which lasted three-and-a-half
years, was beset with problems. After Jazz was born at St Mary’s hospital by
caesarean at 32 weeks, weighing 3lbs 4oz, Beverley decided she would raise her
daughter on her own.
Then, when Jazz was seven, Beverley moved with her parents, Margaret and Norman,
from Marple to Colwyn Bay.
Growing up as the only person in her family with the condition, along with a
brother and sister, the mother says her childhood and teen years were easier
than her daughter’s.
"I think Jasmine’s having a harder time,"says Beverley, who went to Alexandra
Park Junior School in Edgeley, the Hollies Convent Grammar School for Girls in
West Didsbury and, later, Harrytown High School near Bredbury.
"Today image is so ... you’ve got to have the right everything, from the right
trainers to the right mobile phone. If you look different in any way you are
excluded or made a target. In many ways it’s harder to fit in."
With the cameras following their every move, the mother and daughter experience
many ups and downs as they move away from their family and home in Wales to
Hemel Hempstead to gain their independence; Jazz’s first music festival and a
journey to New York for the Little People of America convention.
The programme also starkly reveals the public’s ignorance of Jazz and Beverley’s
"It’s mostly they take pictures, like right in my face as well, and not even
trying to hide the fact they’re doing it. They’ll just openly walk up to you and
take a picture" says Jazz.
"And I will be like, ‘Hello, excuse me?’ And they just think you don’t have a
brain. They just think because you’re disabled that you can’t hear, or see, or
think, or they just want to be plain rude.
"This film was about opening people’s eyes and for them to think ‘Actually, they
do have a normal life, they do think and eat and sleep and be normal’.
"My only disability, I say, is other people’s attitude. Nothing else holds me
It certainly doesn’t for the animal-mad teenager who hopes, one day, to open a
dog rescue centre, after being inspired by working at a kennels and rescue
"I worked at a horse riding centre, I’ve worked in the RSPCA, and I work here
(at Appledown kennels and rescue centre in Dunstable). I’ve done abseiling,
scuba diving, I’ve been to 18 countries, I’ve done really amazing things for my
age and it’s purely because I am the way I am. If I was normal, as people say, I
would not have done all of it."
Jazz’s resilience and strength is an inspiration, and her future is bright. In
September, she starts at Llysfasi College in North Wales studying animal care.
And later, she has hopes for a family of her own.
"I do, definitely," she says. "But from the age of nine or 10 I said that I
always wanted to adopt. I would love to adopt a child with my condition because
a lot of them are given for adoption. I used to be quite annoyed by that and
think ‘How can people do that?’ but now I’ve met a lot of people who have done
that and it’s actually because they think they won’t be good enough."
And speaking of family, does Jazz make contact with her father? For that, you
will have to watch to find out.