Anna Cannings was born blind, with a rare eye condition called Bilateral Microphthalmia;
bilateral meaning both eyes and Microphthalmia meaning abnormally small eyes. Despite
this – or possibly even because of it – her life so far has been an eclectic and
exciting mix of unusual events. She was the first totally blind child in Sussex to
attend mainstream schools; set up and ran her own audio production company when she
was just 18; has featured in numerous publications as a photographic model, as well
as working as a sculptor’s model; and has worked as an actor on prime time TV dramas,
for the past ten years, providing moving and authentic portrayals of blindness.
Anna and other visually impaired people talk about the importance of smiles, to promote
a new Listerine app.
Anna says: “When I was young, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I knew
that I was good with people and that I was a strong communicator, but I couldn’t
decide how to use these skills. There was talk of me being a secretary or perhaps
even a lawyer, but I didn’t really fancy either of those career paths. Instead, I
stumbled across the media, and it has been stuck with me ever since! I expect I would
have been much richer if I had decided to be a lawyer, but I don’t think I would
have been anywhere near as happy – I love my work.”
Anna has always been a campaigner for change and believes in leading by example.
She thinks it is critical that people with disabilities are empowered to live full
and inclusive lives, where barriers to participation are minimised. She extends these
beliefs into her work on a daily basis, applying for the widest range of acting,
voice-over and modelling jobs possible.
Anna was born in Sussex and lived there until she was 26, when she moved to London.
“I was sick of the commuting,” she says. “Oh, and I wanted my own place too and a
bit more life than sleepy Sussex could give me!” Now in her mid 30s, Anna lives on
her own in a flat in West London, enjoys a good social life and is a keen fitness
fanatic. She believes that a healthy body helps to create a healthy, peaceful and
focussed state of mind – things that Anna values greatly in her unpredictable and
sometimes stressful career.
“Most people think I’m crazy for working in such a visually oriented industry when
I have a visible disability which makes me
look different from the norm,” Anna says. “But I really love it and hey, some of
us have got to give it a go! If those of us who are a bit different from the classic
look don’t apply for work, then the actors on our stages and screens, and the models
in our magazines and catalogues, will look the same forever. I’m different and many
people won’t even consider booking me. But that’s all part of the fun and part of
the challenge. And I love a challenge – always have done and always will! It’s what
makes me tick.”