With 14 million views of her videos, 86,000 YouTube followers and TV appearances on BBC and CNN, pint-sized popstar Kelsey Ellison, 24, has taken the internet by storm.
Some of you might remember Kelsey from a past edition of InFocus, when she won a scholarship to a performing arts college aged 16. So we were absolutely delighted to catch up with her eight years later and find out how well she’s doing.
Kelsey was two years old when she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma and she had her right eye removed just before her third birthday. She says: “Growing up, having an artificial eye didn’t affect me that much. Kids at school would ask me what was wrong with my eye and I’d explain that it wasn’t real. They thought it was really cool.
“As I got older I got more self conscious, and at secondary school I was bullied a bit but I had supportive family and friends, so I never let it get to me too much.”
Growing up with parents who adored music – Kelsey’s mum loves musicals and her dad plays guitar – Kelsey knew she wanted a career in the industry, so she was delighted when she got a place at SLP College in Leeds.
She says: “It was three years of boot camp but it prepared me for life in the industry and, once I graduated, I moved to London to audition for work.”
Kelsey, who is from Barnsley, set up her current YouTube channel in 2010 uploading dance covers and later making her own music. Her songs are inspired by Japanese and Korean pop culture, which she got into after watching the Japanese cartoon Cardcaptor Sakura when she was younger.
Her videos quickly began to gain views across the world and, as well as having a huge online following, she now performs at comic conventions across Europe. She has a music manager and is signed up to a dance agency.
Despite the notoriously ruthless and competitive nature of the entertainment industry, Kelsey says that having an artificial eye has never been an issue.
She adds: “At first my own insecurities made me worry that people would think I looked strange but I soon realised that no one cared about my eye. My advice to any young person reading this is to just do what you want to do. I’m trying to get into an industry that’s completely image based and it hasn’t held me back, so if I can do it anyone can. Your artificial eye is part of you, but it’s not what defines you.