Rising Actor, Mechanic & Beauty Enthusiast: Meet The Multi-Talented Libby Hunsdale
As we acknowledge Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we talk to one of our rising stars in film who is also passionate about cars and lipstick
We all know lockdowns can impact our mental wellbeing, and for those living with Down Syndrome, it’s especially challenging.
As we recognise the global Down Syndrome Awareness Month this month, it’s an opportunity to meet local creatives advocating for fairness and compassion within our communities, including budding actor Libby Hunsdale, whose standout performance in this year’s film Poppy directed by Linda Niccol, has earned the Whanganui teen plenty of praise.
In it, Libby plays someone whose ambition it is to be a mechanic and who refuses to be defined by disability, taking control of her own destiny.
“I would say to people who live with Down Syndrome — don’t be afraid to live your truth. I would tell people without Down Syndrome that sometimes it’s hard to fit in, because of what people misunderstand about our lives, so please listen to us and help us to succeed in the community."
"Nothing about us, without us.”
Congratulations on the success you have had with Poppy. Since the film’s release earlier this year, what has the response been like?
The response has been absolutely amazing. The Whanganui premiere had 200 people show up and 18 of those people were from my old school, so it was awesome for them to see my success. Poppy was also part of a workshop with the industry called 'No Stories About Us, Without Us.' We talked about championing authentic storytelling, which was awesome.
You’ve also been working as a trainee mechanic and beautician. What do you love about each of these fields?
I love the creativity that is used in makeup and hair. In terms of being a mechanic, I really like the masculine energy in that field, because it’s different. I like the difference between them.
As someone with a creative perspective on life, what are some of your favourite creative pursuits or hobbies and how do these activities give you joy?
First, hair and makeup. It gives me joy because it is a good way to express myself and how I am feeling. I also really love to make coffee — it gives me joy because of the craft.
I learned to make coffee when I was at Achievement New Zealand. It’s hard to choose my favourite coffee to make, but at the moment it’s a flat white. With Halloween coming up, I want to try and make a pumpkin spice latte.
You have a great relationship with your grandmother. What is the best advice she has ever given to you?
To just go for it. No matter how hard and challenging that activity is going to be.
What is your relationship like with fashion? How would you describe your personal style?
I think it’s really unique because my relationship with fashion is fluid. I like to change it up depending on what I am doing, feeling or want to say.
What is your relationship like with beauty and makeup? Do you enjoy exploring self-expression through make-up?
Really fun! One of my first experiences with make-up was for my school’s productions, now I am really passionate about eyeshadow. I like bright colours, but will go natural depending on what I am doing.
Through your work and especially so with Poppy, you’ve been able to speak publicly and advocate for people who have Down Syndrome. During Down Syndrome Awareness Month, what key message would you want to offer to people now and beyond when it comes to respecting people with Down Syndrome and creating safer communities?
I would say to people who live with Down Syndrome — don’t be afraid to live your truth. I would tell people without Down Syndrome, that sometimes it’s hard to fit in, because of what people misunderstand about our lives, so please listen to us and help us to succeed in the community. Nothing about us, without us.
Last year you won an Attitude Award for courage and dedicated it to your mum. When you receive recognition like this for living your truth, what does this mean to you on a personal level?
It really means a lot, because I want to connect with people, to say it’s okay to be authentic and who you are. The recognition allows me to help and reach more people.
How has life been like for you in lockdown and what are some of the challenges faced by those with Down Syndrome during lockdown in particular? What can people do to be more patient and supportive in lockdown for the Down Syndrome community from your perspective?
I can only speak for my own experience, but I have found it challenging to stay productive. Sometimes it’s been tricky to access some Covid-19 information, so it would be good for this to be made easier for the disabled community and those of us with Down Syndrome. In terms of what other people can do, I think it’s about accessibility. Just do what you can to make space for people.
What we can look forward to seeing from you in the future?
Oh my God, a lot! You can look forward to me starting a YouTube channel, one day soon.
What was the last song you downloaded?
Summer of Love by Shawn Mendes.
A book you love to read?
The Fault in our Stars by John Green.
Where is your ideal holiday destination?
What is your favourite dish?
Dominos Pizza, specifically Cheesy Pepperoni.
What is a movie you never get tired of watching?
To learn more about how you can get involved with and to show your support for our Down Syndrome community, visit The New Zealand Down Syndrome Association.
Photography / Hannah Davey for Attitude Pictures. Makeup / Alison Brewer. Libby wears garments by Ruby.