Not many people are able to win the heart of a nation by downing a pint of liquidised fish eyes in 12 seconds, but I’m A Celeb star Anne Hegerty pulled off just that on Monday night.
However, despite her bravery in that Bushtucker Trial, the British public soon voted to send The Chase’s Governess to the Hellish Hospital for her third critter-crammed challenge of the series. And, for many viewers, this didn’t sit right.
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Some argued that Hegerty – AKA The Governess – had been singled out by the public after opening up about her Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. As many said on Twitter, people had only voted for Anne as her condition guaranteed an entertaining reaction.
However, according to the National Autistic Society (NAS) – a charity that Hegerty has worked closely with in the past – this isn’t the case.
“We don’t think it’s something people should worry about,” Tom Purser, head of NAS campaigns told RadioTimes.com.
“Yes, there’s probably a fascination and a lack of understanding that’s driving people to see more of her. But we think she’s got a lot of grit and determination and that she can take on the challenge. She wouldn’t be there if she didn’t want to be.
“And what’s great about that is, she’s being an inspiration for a lot of autistic people. She’s there being a great role model.”
In fact, Purser revealed that after Anne first spoke about her condition on the show, the charity’s website broke under the amount of traffic they received.
“There was a spike in calls to our helpline as well from people looking to get more information – people wondering if they might be autistic and looking for how they could get diagnosed,” he said. “Anne’s definitely having an impact on the public […] It does feel like a landmark moment.”
NAS also say that, however gruelling her Bushtucker Trials are to watch, Hegerty is doing a lot more for autism awareness than you’d think.
“Unfortunately, [the trials are] what you have to show to get people to understand how autism impacts people,” said Purser. “What you want is for viewers to form an association with that reaction [and autism] so when they see people out in public having a difficult time they don’t think ‘oh, they’re just being difficult’.
“Anne has some really big challenges that have impacted her life. And in lots of ways, people are only going to understand that if they see examples of it themselves. Anne doing the challenges shows that.
“But she’s giving a rounded view of autism as well – her explanations of it were brilliant.” he concluded. “What we want is for Anne to keep doing what she’s doing – we think she’s doing a great job!”
I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! continues tonight at 9pm on ITV