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ella willis

For those that don’t know tell us about yourself

I'm Ella, I'm a Newcastle based content creator and illustrator. I'm 22 and I live alone with my cat! I'm also autistic and Queer which are both huge parts of my identity and have shaped the work that I do online.

For those who don’t really understand what is a content creator?

For me, it's creating content for an online audience to engage with on an educational and entertaining level. I suppose it's one degree away from the term "influencer", but I feel like that term has become stigmatised and misunderstood for many reasons. Content creation is what it says on the tin.

What does this look like day to day for you?

I focus my content around Queerness and being autistic, so I talk about my life experiences, challenge what I see wrong with the world and also try and make funny entertaining content. I always find that educational content disguised as something funny helps people engage with it more. I make a lot of sketch style videos as well as infographics and sharable messages for Instagram. This all comes with the added bonus of being able to monetise your content through working with brands and companies!

Did this evolve naturally or was this a goal you always wanted to achieve?

When I posted my first video, it wasn't with the intention of "I'm going to make this my job", it was to bring attention to a very harmful film being released by a rather famous singer that really impacted the autistic community. My videos about this really resonated with people, so I kept on talking. It's funny because, I kinda always felt like this job was meant for me. Watching YouTube growing up, I always felt like "I could do that!" and suddenly, I fell into it!.

What are the challenges of being a content creator?

Being Disabled and Queer means that I can either feel excluded from spaces or only included for the boxes I tick. I know I don't get paid the way my non disabled cishet counterparts do and the abuse I receive is always directed at those parts of my identity that already put me at a disadvantage in society. There's also very few spaces to find help and advice so it's very very easy to be manipulated and targeted by money makers in the industry.

You’re a strong advocate for autism awareness and inclusion. Talk to us more about this.

I realised I was autistic when I was an adult and this had a dramatic impact on my mental health. It was people online talking about their experiences that really helped me, so I know what content like mine means to people. Autism is so stigmatised, misunderstood and mainly talked about by non autistic people in medical settings which is so dangerous. I've always been a very outspoken person and I guess content creation is my way of channelling my voice into something productive.

Talking of inclusion, as a society what can we do to be more accepting and open?

Listen to voices like mine. Listen to actual autistic people, especially the voices that are already silenced like queer autistic folk and BIPOC autistic folk. It's so important. We have lived experience in what you are trying to understand. The life expectancy and mental heath rates for autistic people are terrifying but an understanding world would make this a little better. What we really need is for our voices to be amplified by the people always given the microphone, not talked over or talked for.

You run the cannyqueercollective in Newcastle. How did this come about?

At the beginning of 2022, I felt very lonely. I really couldn't find any Queer safe spaces in Newcastle that didn't centre around drinking or nights out which isn't where I turn to to make friends. I reached out to some people I knew to ask if they wanted to help me start a collective focusing on casual events and it has gone from there. we have had overwhelming support from local venues, businesses and other collectives. Our events have been some of the best days I've had in Newcastle. It really is so special and I feel very grateful to have been involved.

You’re also a freelance illustrator. Enjoying it?

Illustrating was an outlet for me during lockdown and it eventually turned into a business. It's one of those things where I might not even think about it for months and then suddenly I make 5 new designs in a night. It's definitely taken a bit of a back seat since my content creation took off but I still work on some larger commissions rather than my own little shop.

Is this something you’ve always been interested in?

I've always been very creative and arty. The art room at school was where I hid during breaks at school with my friends. I was never the best at it, but that didn't matter to me because it wasn't about recognition but more about how it made me feel.

Am I correct in thinking you were the illustrator for a book by Allie Mason?

Allie reached out to me in 2021 saying she was looking for an autistic illustrator and it wasn't even a question, I just said yes. I used to sit on my bedroom floor folding paper into little booklets, draw little characters and imagine that one day, I'd have a book on shelves...and thanks to Allie, that dream has come true! In the best way possible as well because it's a book all about autism and how to be adventurous.

Is this something you want to do more of?

Yes! Eventually, I'd love to write and illustrate my own book and also some younger children's fiction books. I'm actually not that great with illustration technology, so I definitely need some lessons in more advanced methods but I absolutely want to keep creating.

Who are your standout creatives?

Artistnamednobody is an incredible illustrator and creative, I urge everyone to follow their content. @iinsidemyhead_ are also great and make really cool products for ND folk whether it's positivity products or helpful things like nonverbal hoodies.

For my final question, whats next?

Well...I am trying to move into acting! I have signed with an agent that mainly focuses in acting so I am going to develop my skills and see where it takes me whist still working on my content! I seriously have no idea where I will be in a year or 5 years but that's the beauty of this work, it allows you to be very flexible.


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