At 7:23 a.m. on Monday, George Webster made television history when he walked into the CBeebies’ house.
Most young viewers wouldn’t have known they were witnessing a historic TV moment: To them, Webster was just another smiling adult dressed in brightly colored clothes talking to Dodge the CBeebies dog.
Webster is the BBC’s first children’s presenter with Down syndrome, but no mention has been made of his disability. He introduced himself simply as George, a 21 year old from Leeds who enjoys cooking, singing and dancing.
The fact that he received no special treatment made it all the more important for many parents watching at home.
âCBeebies, you made a mom of a baby boy just like George so excited. You’re the best,â Karen Taylor tweeted. A dad posted a photo of him and his daughter, with Down, saying, â Come on George !!! We are so excited to see you.
Another wrote: âMy boy has autism and he turned to me and said, ‘I love George, daddy.’ That’s all you need to know. Thanks CBeebies. You did a wonderful thing today.
Back home in Leeds, Webster was overwhelmed by the reaction. He had pre-recorded his debut with the CBeebies but watched it come out. He insisted he wasn’t nervous: âI felt really positive, excited and happy to start. He hopes to inspire the kids who watch at home “to take advantage of every moment and seize every opportunity that presents itself.”
Her mother, Jane, said her emotions were pervasive: âI was crying one minute and smiling the next. I love his work ethic and positivity. We always say George’s days are all 10 out of 10 because he makes them like that.
Webster’s debut show was a huge hit with viewers. A clip of him doing Saturday Night Fever-style dance moves, making a smoothie and reciting a poem has gone viral on Twitter, garnering over 1.2 million views.
He was initially hired as a guest presenter, but viewers bombed the network to demand that he be hired full time.
âWe initially agreed that George would be a guest presenter just to facilitate it and introduce it to the CBeebies family. But actually, I think quickly, we’re already looking at a Friday every two weeks, right, George? CBeebies producer Claire Taylor said during a three-way video call with her new star and the Guardian. “And then I’m sure it will be a weekly slot, if not more.”
He spent his first paycheck taking his family to dinner in Leeds and will be integrating the recordings alongside his performing arts course with Mind the Gap, a theater company for people with learning disabilities.
Although CBeebies has long been a pioneer in disability representation – in 2009 Cerrie Burnell, who was born with one hand, made her debut as a presenter – there are still not enough people with disabilities. on television, Webster said.
âI think there has to be a lot more representation because we are also people. Even though we are different, we should be treated equally.
He was screened by the BBC through his work as an ambassador for Mencap, the charity for people with intellectual disabilities. Earlier this year, he was asked to record a demystifying video for BBC Bitesize, in which he dispelled some of the common misconceptions about people with Down syndrome. He started off by saying, âMy name is George because that’s what I am. Not George Down.
People with Down’s syndrome aren’t always happy, he said, âPeople with Down’s syndrome have emotions and feelings like everyone else. They do not “suffer” from the disease either, he explained. âI have an incredible life. It has been very positive. I loved going to school. I went to two amazing local schools. I had support in both schools which helped me in my education. I obtained GCSEs and a level A equivalent in BTec sport, level 3. “
He is also a Parkrun Ambassador and recently starred in a short film titled SAT, featuring a young gay man with a crush on the local misfit, which will air on Film4 and available on demand for 12 months starting in October. Plans are also underway for a CBeebies special with her childhood hero, Mr. Tumble.
He hopes to continue his acting career and would love to appear in Doctor Who or in a James Bond film. A big fan of Strictly, he said he would jump at the chance to dance on a future series.
For now, however, he is delighted to be on CBeebies and is ready to be accosted by young fans when he moves to Leeds. âI’m going to love this,â he said. âI am always super positive and always smiling and bubbly. I love life, nothing stops me.