Words: Izzy Bassett
Following this year’s fifth Neurodiversity Celebration Week, LDN writer Izzy Bassett shines a light on some of the key artists in the neurodivergent clan. Perhaps, some you might not have even realised…
The rain feels like it’s never-ending. The wind is burning our cheeks and it’s been an age since any of us have seen an inch of sunlight; the month of March is seemingly the culprit. Despite the period being a rather uneventful and, frankly depressing, moment in the calendar, the month celebrates one of the most diversified markers of the year. 2023 marks the fifth year of Neurodiversity Celebration Week, with a seven-day stint to commend and celebrate all of us with brains that don’t quite functionally conform to the way society deems appropriate.
For many people, neurodivergent disorders are often perceived as physical actions that may seem a bit strange or even described as annoying – not being able to sit still, being unable to spell correctly or not smiling at appropriate times. But being neurodiverse is so much more complex.
15% of the UK is neurodivergent. Personally, I like to think of being neurodivergent as having a piece of your brain inside loads of different boxes that society has constructed for us. In recent years, we’ve seen the tides change with attitudes toward mental health. Many artists are pushing to put their mental health first and be more transparent about their struggles. The industry has never been the most accommodating place for mental health disorders but with more and more artists fluctuating towards mental health advocacy and positivity, we are slowly starting to see some changes. Most of us don’t even realise that some of our favourite musicians are part of the neuro-divergent clan. Perhaps, some you might not have even realised…
Lewis Capaldi. CREDIT: Frank Hoensch/Redferns
One of the UK’s most risible social media trendsetters and popular male singers has Tourette Syndrome. The Someone You Loved singer opened up last October on The Jonathan Ross Show to explain how eight months ago he was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, a diagnosis that explained his tics. Capaldi said “I thought I had a degenerative disease, so to be told it was Tourette’s, as you can imagine, was quite a relief.” Recently a touching video has surfaced of Lewis performing when his tics started to take over during his concert. His fans rally and rescue showing their support as they finish the song for him. Lewis is a clear example of how you can be a neuro divergent person but not realise it, or be diagnosed, until later in life.. It’s not that the symptoms haven’t been there through your younger years but it can be a relief to finally appreciate the parts of you that you previously didn’t quite understand.
Doja Cat CREDIT: EMMA MCINTYRE/GETTY
Linking neurodiversity and rap, Doja Cat is one of the many hip-hop stars to be affected by ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The eight-time Grammy nominations artist dropped out of school at sixteen, ADHD being a factor in her “period of artistic awakening.” Sitting down with Rolling Stone, speaking out for the many of ADHD-ers who feel the same way, she said: “It felt like I was stuck in one spot and everybody else was progressing constantly.” Before the 1980s, ADHD was originally called ‘Hyper Kinetic Reaction Of Childhood’ and wasn’t recognised as a mental disorder until the 1960’s. One of the biggest misconceptions is people with ADHD are just being lazy. Although the procrastination may stop the bigger more important tasks from being completed, people with ADHD may be able to write five songs at once or read a whole book in a day which is far from lazy simply different.
Carrie Underwood Credit: Jason LaVeris/ Getty Images
Most known for one of the best break-up songs, ‘Before He Cheats’, the country star (much like Doja Cat) was diagnosed with ADHD earlier on in life. At five years old, the seven-time Grammy award winner was diagnosed with hyperactive ADHD, different from inattentive ADHD which is often described as feeling like you are “driven by a motor.” There isn’t one standard version of ADHD. You may show symptoms of one or the other or both, much like there isn’t just one any neurodivergent disorder. There are often many branches of each syndrome or disorder. Both sides of ADHD however can be treated with medications and therapies like Carrie Underwood does.
Cher Credit – Cher / Instagram
No introduction needed; Cher was diagnosed with dyslexia in her thirties. Back when she was in school, learning disabilities were seen as ‘mental retardation’ and they were a big reason the newest addition to the Mamma Mia cast dropped out. Being bullied and embarrassed Cher even had to have her Husband read through her contracts. Upon having her son Chaz Bono, she realised he too was struggling with reading much like her and decided to take him to a test centre much to her avail discovering her own diagnosis. It’s still unfortunately seen that schools in England especially are leaving up to 80% of children who have dyslexia undiagnosed.
Example CREDIT Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images
Eliot John Gleve, better known as Example, is another branch of our neurodivergent tree. The ‘Changed The Way You Kiss Me’ star, who takes most people back to the early 2010s with his recognisable beats, was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was young. Asperger’s syndrome is a form of autism and is known to present problems with social behaviours and repetitive thinking patterns. Amazing with numbers, photographic memory and not being particularly fond of fiction, for Example all signs pointed to mild autism. It’s been shown that men and boys are more frequently diagnosed with autism disorders but it is widely argued that more women and girls go undiagnosed with 80% of females remaining undiagnosed at 18 years old.
Neurodiversity Celebration Week takes place annually in March aiming to bring about worldwide neurodiversity acceptance, equality and inclusion in schools and workplaces.