Dayna Ellen Halliwell is an actress, content creator and marketing strategist. In 2021, Dayna began to write and upload sketches to the online video platform, Tiktok, theatrically depicting her unique disabled and neurodivergent experience through the use of farce, comedy and multi-roles (@dyslexicdayna). Following her success on the platform, she has partnered with brands working on disability-focused and or disabled/ neurodivergent representation campaigns such as; Head and Shoulders, Channel 4, Amazon Audible, CamScanner, Text Help, Skin and me, Halara, Wild deodorant, Orcam technology, Meningitis Now, Stuff that works and Amazon music. She now works at the Purple Goat agency - a disability focused marketing company supporting brands in making authentic disabled content, with their slogan being ‘nothing about us without us’. Dayna is also a sunflower friend with the hidden disability store and has partnered with them to include neurodivergent educational content. Dayna has a first class Masters degree in disability research.
Please tell us a bit about your career
My journey began back in 2019 - I had just finished my undergraduate degree in acting and stepped into the real world. Audition after audition went by, and time after time I was excluded due to my disabilities and neurodivergencies. During the covid-19 pandemic, I had to re-evaluate and so decided to go back to university to do research in disability/ neurodiversity, hoping to make a difference. My research focused on lived -in experiences of the community across a wide range of conditions. I very quickly realised the barriers we face from the outside world and wanted to advocate for change, and so on a whim I began making video skits telling my story of being Autistic, Dyspraxic and Dyslexic and it took off! To date I have created a community of over 100,000 people! I’ve never looked back - I have truly found my passion in the disability and neurodivergent sector and hope to continue to make changes through creative engagement.
I gave up a career in acting due to access - at the time I felt abandoned and unsure of my future. My disabled identity has led me here and those inequalities have played a massive role in shaping my future. In terms of positive moments in my career, partnering with Channel 4 to make disability focused content was a highlight, alongside interviewing for several well - known podcasts! I do think my industry is good for neurodivergent women, because here we are the majority not the minority, there's strength in numbers and our passion, commitment and creativity is valued and much needed! I feel excited for what the future will bring and hopeful of change in society!
How has being Neurodivergent shaped the direction of your career?
I was diagnosed with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia and Autism in my late teens. Learning this about myself made every experience to date make sense. I never truly fitted anywhere until I began making videos and creating a large community online who not only supports me but each other. Being Neurodivergent has led me to a full- time career on TikTok- it’s also taught me I’m my best when I work for myself and I have my neurodivergencies to thank for that!
What advice would you give to another Neurodivergent woman navigating their way through life?
It would be that you are the expert in your own experience and that being neurodivergent is like the ocean - there are many contributing factors that affect our flow and needs, the key is to be kind to yourself in the moments when your currents are a bit harsher and remember you deserve access!