Aug. 23, 2021

From Retail Worker to Disability Online Influencer with Gem Hubbard

From Retail Worker to Disability Online Influencer with Gem Hubbard

Today Mai Ling and Martyn take a few minutes to celebrate 100 episodes of the show before introducing our guest. Martyn brings us a great conversation with YouTuber and Instagrammer, Gem Hubbard. Gem talks about her journey of being disabled as a...

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Today Mai Ling and Martyn take a few minutes to celebrate 100 episodes of the show before introducing our guest. Martyn brings us a great conversation with YouTuber and Instagrammer, Gem Hubbard. Gem talks about her journey of being disabled as a child, the dark times after becoming disabled, and how she was able to persevere. She also recounts how she went from working a retail job to launching into the world of social media and becoming an online content creator and disability influencer through her Instagram and YouTube outlets.

Contact Mai Ling: MLC at

Contact James: James at



Introduction 0:00 

Having a disability is not a threat but an inspiration,being able to be an example for disability awareness and loving what you do is what makes you feel exceptional.


Martyn 0:27

Welcome to Xceptional leaders were Mai ling and Martyn And it's our 100th episode on our mission is to give you some real access to intimate conversations that are shaping the way the world is supporting disabled people. If it's happening, it's being said here, I'm Martyn. And you can reach me at


Mai Ling 0:48

And I’m Mai Ling Chan  and you can reach me at Today, we're going to be chatting about Gem Hubbard and her success with social media. But before we get to that we have a little bit to catch up with. And the first thing is this celebration, Martyn, for those people who have scrolled back and they've listened to earlier episodes, you've suffered just me. And I say suffered Martyn, because it really was like me with like, you know, big eyes reading my script. Just so uncomfortable in those early days, you know, of what do I say? What's my name even as soon as the microphone came on, right. But it's just been amazing to partner with you. And in September will be our two year anniversary of doing shows together. And it has just been just so seamless, and easy and wonderful. So I want to thank you for joining me and getting us to 100 because I would never have been able to do this myself.





Martyn 1:43

Honestly, it doesn't get tracked and charted on the Xceptional leaders podcast in the same way. But as you know, that you're doing, I was doing my own thing before when we met. So I had those similar days of solo presenting and the lack of someone as awesome as yourself to bounce things off. Kind of in a learning as you guys say, yeah, it was it was really cool that our paths have crossed as they have and that we've been able to, to collaborate for two whole years nearly and, and 100 episodes on Xceptional leaders say, yeah, it's been it's been a great journey with you.


Mai Ling 2:17

Well, it's excellent. And I really am like one of your biggest fans, and I want you to share with us about your new role as a change maker on LinkedIn.


Martyn 2:26


Absolutely, yeah, it's been one of those things that I've known for a while and you kind of don't want to say something publicly, too soon and get in trouble with the organizers. But now ultimately, LinkedIn and the UK have done a campaign, I believe it was last year with around six or so changemakers with different social issues as the kind of narrative in the background. One of those people had a disability. And I know really well Shani dondo, ,she's become a good friend as well. And then through all sorts of amazing connections and occurrences. I've been asked to be the disability change maker for round two, I believe it's going to go even bigger and even better. We're talking. So the TV staff, billboards, and obviously, a lot of activity on LinkedIn, the platform itself, I'm really my main focus is going to be around getting more economic opportunities for disabled people. It is amazing to get involved.


Mai Ling 3:22

Isn't it wonderful when everything aligns, you know, with who you are/ your passion, your talents, and that's why we do this podcast for you. Because we want you always to be digging into who you really are and not trying to be somebody that you're not, you know, not trying to do things that are uncomfortable. A great example of that is TikTok. That is just not me, Martyn. I'm not feeling it.


Martyn 3:45

With it that Harvey Camino, I can see with a guy these content, he reckons that everyone should be on Tiktok  and it doesn't have to be lip syncing and dancing that you can still be you and bring your messes, but I know what you mean, it does feel like you're going on a holiday to a totally new country that you've never been to and not quite sure what the language and the culture is.


Mai Ling 4:10

I know you just gotta jump in. I do want to share that I did launch my first business. Yep, Guru years ago through Twitter, the hashtag SL peeps, that was very robust. And it probably still is now. But I kind of jumped into these communities of people that were really just starting out on that platform at the time. And it was amazing. And then we got to meet in person international conventions with speech language pathologists, just just just incredible. So I'd love to, you know, wrap my arms around something and embrace something new. But right now I'm loving LinkedIn, and Facebook. What are your two main jams?


Martyn  4:44

I mean, I've actually been on LinkedIn quite a while and I think I was there as like the generic professional place to be and I don't know how much in those early days, there was a big value in terms of my businesses, but certainly that sense Purple Goat, I found LinkedIn, hugely useful. I'm also realizing, as I'm saying this now, that the genuine advocacy of LinkedIn is also doubled up now with being the change maker, and that I'm gonna have to keep giving that full transparency. But yeah, in terms of the business development, it's been a huge way of connecting, we're very big global brands. So I really believe in the content and the organic reach to build a brand. And then also, the way of connecting with like minded professionals has been very powerful. And then I suppose probably Instagram would be the other one that I'm a little bit more focused on. Obviously, with our chat today with gem, we're gonna hear about how she sort of took her dream of wanting to be a TV star. But applying that around YouTube and Instagram, I know, she does some stuff on Tiktok, as well. So we can definitely get really stuck in to explore a bit more of these platforms and, and creative pursuits. But I'm a bit of news, you've got Mai Ling around a conference, you wanted to update it as well,


Mai Ling  6:08


Yes, we just finished the IEPs need to know conference at Xceptional Ed. And for those of you listening who are involved in school age services, if you're a speech pathologist, psychologist, OT, special education administrator or service provider, we really want you to check these courses out, what we did is we came together. And we have experts who are really involved in the trenches of how we get our students these services that were missed last year, because of all of these creative distance learning mechanisms that we were using for them. So there's legal issues that we need to consider. There are so many creative ways that we can get other additional support that don't necessarily have to be pulling them out of class. And this is really also good for parents. So you know, when it's time for you to go to your IEP meeting, you'll be armed with all of these other creative ideas. And the motto that we're using Martyn is we are one team. And that is so important, because we always feel like there's two sides of the table. And you know, there's one side that's advocating for more services, and the other side is trying to reduce the amount of billable services. But that's not true. You know, we all are here together for that one student and trying to make, you know, the best environment for them. And we need to help them to recapture, recoup and progress. So thanks for asking. I'm so excited. Please find this unxceptional ed.


Martyn 7:29

Until we can have shout out and

I think that we are one team that is so true to the podcast, listeners as well. So as always, we want to get that connection and that two way dialogue going Mai Ling do you want to give them the usual rundown about how to connect with us?


Mai LIng  7:45

actually goes really well with our episode today with Gem ,is, you know, we want to connect with you. And we invite you to reach out to us on all of these great social media platforms. There's Facebook, Instagram, we have the Xceptional page where you can sign up for the Mai Ling list. And definitely email us. We get lots of great emails and really good recommendations for future guests. And that's definitely what we need. So connect with us, be a part of the show and just help us keep going past 100 way we get to 200.


Martyn 8:15

I know,I right? I'm sorry It’s such a 100. It's such a cool landmark to be hit for us by a friend, as you say long may continue into many more hundreds as well. And so I suppose really we should get to the interview with Gem now as well.


Mailing 8:29  Yay, let's hear it.


Martyn 8:34

Sorry, Gem. We've just been talking about how we've not met before in person, that kind of feeling we do know each other from the wonders of social media, but it's so yeah, really nice to connect with you today.


Gem 8:45


And you, it's very exciting. I was really really happy to have the invite say thank you so much for having me on. And I know what you mean about the whole social media thing. You feel like you know someone or someone really knows you and it's a bit of an odd one isn't it?




Martyn  8:59

It's amazing though it does bring us all together as a community. I think it will get stuck more more into you know, what your how you're using social media for, for good and as an influencer, that we can get to some quite neaty discussions and topics out but be great just to kick off, give a little bit of a background to yourself and Diego, as far back who share what you feel is relevant and just be great to set the scene really.


Gem 9:26

Okay, well, there's a long story and a short story. I guess we've got time. So I'll start from the very, very beginning, though. I was made disabled at the age of nine after heart surgery went a little bit wrong. And there's a whole video of that on my channel if people want to find out more about that, but I had major internal bleeding during heart surgery, and I suffered a ti 10 incomplete spinal cord injury as a result of that and was made disabled and that was In the mid 90s, and I was very alone and very lost. And it was just awful. I hated the fact that I was disabled. I hated everything, and everyone around me and I was in a really dark place for a really long time. And obviously, growing up at that time, popular shows such as Blue Peter in top of the parks were on and I remember thinking, no one, like me, no one that I can identify with. And I remember turning to my parents one day, and I was like, I'm gonna be the first disabled television presenter. And, okay, cool. Go for it if you want, that's fine. Because I've always been very theatrical and loved art, drama, and all of those kinds of things and singing. But yeah, there was just no one that I could identify with. And I went through my teens in a really dark place, actually, and tried to hide my disability and didn't want to be disabled. And I went to college, and I started to learn to drive and I was able to get a job and I began to accept my disability a lot more. And I had a lot more independence. And I think leaving school really helped. Because school was a very, very difficult place for me. And then I met Shawn, my husband, and I had Daisy, my daughter, but there was always that sort of spark in me, I've always wanted to do something, the utricle I was born for the stage. But I ended up working in retail. And I did that for 12 years. And during that time, my husband saw an advert and Channel Four, we're looking to recruit at least half of their talent to present or work on the London 2012 Paralympic Games.


Martyn 11:58

I remembered that, yeahYeah


Gem 11:59


The million pound talent. half million pound Talent Search, I think it was. And I was like, this is it. This is it. You know, when you get that feeling? This is it. Yeah. So we had one day to film. I mean, there wasn't much publicity around it. And the closing date was the next day at midnight. My daughter was barely one. And I was like, Lauren, my sister has this and it had my daughter, we took an old flippy video camcorder. We went into Brighton because we had to film a three minute video doing something and I was like, right, we're gonna go to Brighton. We're going to Brighton Pier, we're going to do a travel show. And that's what we did. And it was like four degrees. It was absolutely freezing. But it was a beautiful, crisp, cold day. And I had no idea how to edit. No idea how to get this thing up. I mean, the stress level, I had to do quick research on Brighton pier in such a short amount of time, I ended up like, kind of editing it on my laptop, which was like a million years old, and then recording it again with the camcorder because I didn't know how to edit. And, I sent that off and it was so dark and the footage was so grainy. You can just about hear me and just about make out a figure and is actually still on YouTube. And then to my amazement, a couple of weeks later, I got a call saying well, we really liked your video, would you come down and have some training? So I went down and I met 12 other 11 other disabled people. And we learned how to present in a live studio. We had open talkback, we had autocue, and we met a few people from Channel form. And it was one of the best experiences of my life. I absolutely loved it. And what was really, really amazing was being in a room and not being the only disabled person for the first time. And I learned so much about myself, I'd never been in a position like that before. So I remember we were there. And at the end of it we kind of had everything recorded for our show reel. And I had to do this one segment and they were like, and now we're going to cut live to Gem at the butcher court. Literally crickets. I didn't know anything about Paralympic sport just because I'm disabled doesn't mean that I know about the Paralympic sport. And I was like, Oh, so when you're talking about a subject to potentially millions and millions of people on live television, you've really got to know what you're talking about. And I clearly didn’t and so, unfortunately, Paralympic reporting was not for me. But as I said, I learned so much and I'm so so thankful for that experience. And then, you know, I went home and I started to do a few things on YouTube. So this was back in 2010, kind of like yourself when you're just starting out and no one knew what they were doing no one, yeah, didn't have a clue. And to be honest, it was all a bit of a minefield. And work and family life took over, and I just carried on. But there was always that desire. And then after 12 years of working for my company, I got made redundant.and i was like Oh my god what am i gonna this is all I've known, and I really loved my job, I really valued it. I'd grown up there, you know, I started not with 17, they really changed while I was there as well. And then I saw a girl that I worked with doing hair tutorials on Instagram. So this was in 2015. I've got quite good hair, I don't really know anything about hair. Here we go again. So running v. And I started to do hair tutorials on Instagram. And I set up my page, wheels, no heels. And I always knew, like since becoming disabled, that I had to help people with what had happened to me. It's always been designed inside of me, but how I was going to find that way of doing it. I don't know.


Gem 16:17

 When I startwheels, no heels on my YouTube channel. No one can be interested in disability, like, no one was doing it. The hashtag for spinal cord injury had about 12 posts on it disability had about three posts, the niche really hadn't grown at all. So that was that. But I thought you know, I'll just be a girl in a wheelchair doing hair tutorials, it's a little bit different. And I carried on doing that for a couple of years. But it really wasn't my passion. And I really began to not enjoy it. I found it really hard. And then I started to get really superficial, hate comments. And I thought you know what, this really isn't for me. There's more to me than this. And I started to then branch out and look more into disability. And I found an amazing YouTube creator called Jessica out of the closet. And she had just heard of her. And she just kind of started as well. And we're starting. Her channel was starting to take off and we did a couple of collabs together. And I kind of learned from her what she was doing. And yeah, and then one day I just did a post on Instagram and I said I'm changing everything up. Nothing's going to be about hair anymore. It's all going to be about a disability lifestyle. And it was the best decision I ever made. I am so passionate about it. I live and breathe. It's just like, absolutely love it.

Martyn 17:41

Yeah. I love seeing your content, it pops up on my Instagram, you'll see people listed with purple goat, it's become a big thing for us to work with influencers, like yourself and to do the brand campaigns but like all the people that pop up like yours are just that passion really shines through. And he talks about theatrical and singing and I saw you did a sea shanty the other week was that right?. Yeah. Amazing. Like, just so cool. to weave all those passions, as you say, it's like, all those different things you were working through? over? Yeah, as you say, it's over your life Really? Isn't it that becoming disabled and working through that, and then wanting to be a TV star, and then, you know, kind of being with the family and working at the retail company. But it's so cool that all those things kind of came together the last few years. And you're, you're in your zone with it, and it really shines through.


Gem 18:41Totally, Yeah


Martyn 18:43 Give us a bit obviously kind of brought us up to sort of up to the now I suppose in terms of the backstory, or even just the backstory that there's so many things jumping out in my mind. And that sort of, you know, never giving up the internet, trying things even when you don't really know how to do them or like not letting being a perfectionist from like, all that kind of stuff is it just resonated so much. I mean, I'm sure it will with the listeners as well. But just just in terms of the now I mean, kind of what are some of the things that you're up to maybe talk a bit through sort of how you're still creating content, because you're very prolific. like it'd be good to get that sort of that the way you go about trying to keep that consistency and variety because I know from some experiences, it's very difficult. But I'm sure a lot of people listening are going to be looking for that inspiration about how you know how to be a social media influencer. It would be great to hear Yeah, some of your ways of working in the background as well.


Gem 19:45


Oh, yeah, it's really, really hard to keep coming up with content. And that's a bit contradictory because when I first started my YouTube channel, ideas came to me really really easily and really, really quickly. I could show how to do transfers and we can cut that down into subtopics, they have to do chair floor transfers, and then how to do bath shower bed transfers. And then you can. I did a series on how to push your wheelchair correctly, how to do wheelies, and how a carer can push a wheelchair correctly. All of these practical ideas that weren't around, you know, when I was growing up, I made the videos that I would want to see when I was growing up. And they came really, really quickly in like, two, three years, which was really, really great.


Martyn 20:39

You almost actually found that medium and that creative outlet, it sounds like you had two or three years everything you'd all that sort of pressure had been building up it kind of exploded out, right?


Gem 20:54

 Yeah. And yeah, so that was great. But I'm not gonna lie. Martyn, like the last year has been really, really hard like,


Martyn  21:03

Especially lockdown. Right? You know, it's not just a general kind of what to talk about. But like, we've all been at home for months, as well, right?



Gem  21:12

Yeah. And the day we went into lockdown was the day we were supposed to be flying to Australia. And I had all this content planned. And it was just so stressful to try and think of good stuff that people wanted to see. That's the key, because you can make stuff that people might not want to see.


Martyn   21:33

thought process you are considering what is it that people are interested in? And what sort of trends and that sort of stuff? Yeah,




Gem 21:42


Yeah, totally. And it was, yeah, it was really hard. So in the end, I focused more on Instagram, and making reels and doing those kinds of short form content, which I found to work really, really well last year. And we just had to take a bit of a break from YouTube. But I have, I haven't actually started it yet. But I am sort of re-branding and trying some new stuff from my YouTube channel, starting the video that's going to be coming out at the end of this month, beginning of next month. So we'll see how that goes. But yeah, in terms of all those videos that I've made, now, I don't want to come across as arrogant or anything, but people who are now starting their channels with disabilities are taking inspiration from those videos. And we are doing them which is amazing. That's what YouTube wants. And the more people talk about a topic, the bigger it gets, the more awareness we raise. But I don't really have anyone to take inspiration from because I've done it, I've literally done it all, or I get an idea or a topic that I want to talk about. But then I feel like maybe I'm not as confident in that topic, then I think, and then you get these thoughts saying, Oh, yeah, but people might think that and then take it the wrong way. And that can be really, really consuming. And I just go with my gut on everything. Yeah, I'll give you an example. I'll give you an example. I make a lot of videos about manual wheelchairs, and how to choose manual wheelchairs and what to look out for when choosing a wheelchair and mistakes people make when choosing a wheelchair. And they've been really, really popular, and really, really helpful, and definitely something I would have wanted to have seen when I was choosing my wheelchair. And then I thought you know, we haven't done a wheelchair video on wheels. So let's do a video about wheels. And I got people to ask me questions and give their advice and stuff before I sat down to do the video. And I was like, You know what, I just am not feeling it. I just don't feel like I have got the right authority, the right knowledge to put something out there. And you've really got to feel you've really got to be knowledgeable and you've got to be confident in what you're saying. And you've got to get the right advice.



Martyn 24:05


Did you always feel a bit like you're still talking about a wheelchair when you're talking about the hair? Is it that sort of feeling that you just didn't feel you had that absolute sort of passion or background knowledge to do?


Gem 24:18

Yeah, you definitely hit the nail on the head there. Yeah, I just had  passion wasn't there. So that is my favorite kind of video. I don't know if you've seen any Marty n, but my favorite kind of videos are when we're out and about and we're doing things and there's fun. And yeah, yeah. And like one of my favorite videos that we filmed was a husband shopping in wife's wheelchair.


Martyn 24:42


Gem 24:43

Have you seen it? Shawn is in the wheelchair. We've done a couple of those videos. I love those ones. I love being out and about and yeah, so that's kind of the direction I want to take now rather than sit down.


Martyn 24:55

There's just always more dynamic. Is it just when you're out and about and random People that you might be inspired by or me and yeah, just there's more, I guess there's more to play with, right? Whereas at home, it always feels a bit more like talking to a camera, or as you say, you've already done the kind of how to do transfers and all that sort of stuff. So yeah, I can totally relate.


Mai Ling 25:22

I've always said the most valuable things I've ever done to increase my business and industry knowledge in a very specific niche of disabilities was always related to learning from other people, whether it was going to conferences, introducing myself and connecting directly with LinkedIn messages, or asking people for a warm referral, hearing other people's stories, and finding pearls of wisdom has been a priceless part of my journey. And ultimately, my success with various offerings is directly related to these. That's definitely why I created this podcast for you. And also why 13 other amazing disability leaders and previous podcast guests join me to write a book for you. For less than $15 you can get intimate stories and priceless startup journeys from 14 xceptional disability leaders, including my co host of this podcast, Martyn Sibley. So I invite you to go to Amazon search for becoming an exceptional leader and get this book today.

Now let’s get back to our amazing interview.


Martyn 26:17

One thing I wanted, I did pick up on the back, and he said about the TV wanting to be a TV presenter, I found it so interesting, this dynamic of how the TV radio print is not growing and really is declining. I think they said it to say it's dead. It's not that extreme, but like it's declining, I think. And then obviously, conversely, social media is on the rise. And if you're a younger generation, you know, pretty much everything was on the phone, and it's on Instagram and YouTube and Tiktok. You know, all that kind of stuff. So did you consider it almost like you are living that dream? But it's just manifested in a different way?



Gem 27:03

Oh, Yeah That's right. Do you know what I do feel like? Yeah, I'm so lucky. I really do feel like I'm really lucky. Because Martyn, I have worked so hard, and to get to where I am. And sometimes I don't really feel like I'm where I want to be, or am I ever gonna get there? Or am I there? And I should be grateful for what I'm doing now. So yeah, I'm trying to be grateful for where I am at the moment. Because I have reached a point that when I first started, I never thought I would be able to get to some of the brands and companies that I have worked with, or I'm working on is just a dream come true to be able to raise awareness of a particular brand. And that's really, really cool. And yeah, the dream was to do television presenting, but like you're saying, Now, I think I'm absolutely loving what I'm doing. And I wouldn't want to change that.



Martyn  28:03

Yeah it Make sense for the similarities, because we both ended up doing like social media influence. with a disability, like there's obviously going to be a few similarity of both of us. But like, I remember I was on BBC Breakfast in late 2010, or something. And it was a dream come true to be on the TV. I know you've done some TV work as well I've been doing in terms of news, and you know, those sort of pieces. So there's still that bit there for the taking. But it does feel like culture really isn't the thing it was when we were growing up to be on TV. Yeah, kids want to be YouTube stars. They don't want to present a BBC One program. And I just find that cultural shift really, really interesting as well. Yeah.


Gem 28:50


Yeah, yeah, you're so right. It was like the be all and end or you either, you know, if you wanted to do the whole theatrical thing, it was a movie star, a singer, a television presenter, or, or an actor or something. And now, it's not at all.


Martyn  29:05

Yeah. It's still there for the taking. If you or I or others want. It's still a cool thing. And it's still doable. But yeah, I definitely think social media is disrupted in lots of ways. And I suppose for that, that point would be good to get your thoughts on what you think social media has given the disabled community in a positive way. I think we're all aware generally of negatives or social media. You talk about some of the negative comments you've made or touch on the negative stuff in a second if you want to, but yeah, I'm always more on the positive side. Yes. saying, Yeah, what do you think for you, and obviously, just the community, social media is enabled that otherwise wouldn't have been done previously?



Gem 29:50

Such a good question, Martyn. And how long have we got? Well, you know, as I said, and I'm sure this resonates with you. When we were growing up, I presume we're sort of in the center. And when we were growing up in the 90s, it was so isolating, so lonely. And disability for me was definitely not something to be proud of. It as you’re petite People have very ablest attitudes. And I know I said it before, I was in a really dark place in my teens, and nearly ended it all and had quite a few sort of mental health issues, which I didn't really touch upon. But it wasn't until I was able to actually drive, get a car and go out that I then had a bit more freedom and the sense of independence, which really boosted my confidence and got a job. But in terms of social media, it's given us a voice. Yeah. And some people physically don't have a voice. But it's given them a voice to


Martyn 31:03

Yeah that’s so powerful


Gem 31:06 Which is really really intimate,you know maybe we should leave that there.


Martyn 30:10 Guys, I'm like, drop for me, that is just like, yeah, it's given everyone a voice, right? I mean, that. I mean, you can weave in all sorts of other bits. But that's fundamentally that probably is the big one, isn't it?


Gem  31:22

Yeah. I mean, back during the pandemic, this time last year, I was campaigning, I was campaigning and talking to politicians, and doing interviews on news channels. Yeah. I'm gonna be on BBC politics next week. Well,yeah what is that all about


Martyn 31:39

Well,Isn’t it?


Gem 31:46


It never happened in a million years, because I was campaigning for disabled parking spaces or accessible parking spaces to stop being blocked off to eat social distancing? You know, it's discriminatory, there's just an awful, awful time. And there's no way I would have got the engagement and the publicity that I had from it, had I not had social media. Yeah. And that is amazing that, you know, I was able to actually get a response from the Minister of disability, which was, as I've said, once before, is useful as a wet fart, but, you know, I got a response. And, you know, we provoked a reaction. So, yes, social media has done that. It's given me a career, which I never thought that I would be able to achieve what I have achieved, and it's also met amazing people, such as your good self, even though it's been virtual, you know, I try to


Martyn 32:44

Hold on to connection, isn't it, we, we've been able to connect with other disabled people, whether it's purely around the kind of change in activism, or just like, you know, get on as mates go and have a drink. And it's cool that you get to meet people that are more like yourself sort of thing. But overall, that community and connections been a big one for me, I think,




Gem 33:07

yeah, yeah, I definitely feel less alone. And, you know, I can say, oh, has anyone experienced this? And they're like, Oh, yeah, I have that too. And, you know, I never would have had that, you know, like, with symptoms and things that can be quite reassuring to know that you are not the only one, and it's not all in your head and make Yeah, making friends and not being alone. It's just a massive one. And



Martyn 33:35

The positive side of it is the positive mental health of having that connection, not isolation, etc. And, yeah, I think, let's not go too down the rabbit hole of the negatives of search, but I think they're probably quite broadly known. And they have, you know, that trolling and the negative side, I think the listeners are aware of that. I mean, it's only if you want to particularly touch on that topic. I don't want to presume you do. Wouldn't want to but, you know, we don't need to lay there too long at the same time..



Gem 34:03

To be honest, Martyn and touchwood. Once I changed to a disability, the trolling stopped. And it hasn't been that.


Martyn 34:16

You have a disability, whether you're doing botch hair or disability, but yeah, that's interesting that when you did have a disability that wasn't that troubling.


Gem 34:29

You Get the odd comment or someone would disagree with what you're saying, which is fine. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. Yeah,


Martyn 34:35

yeah. But not like personal attacks or whatever.


Gem 34:38

No, no. Touchwood obviously, when a video goes viral, I've learned to stop and not wait for the comments. Yeah, I've just had one go viral and uh Bye


Martyn 34:53

and I think advice, right. So listen, you know, to do this as a career, you know, to to not get stuck in that, even though it will happen and sort of thing.


Gem 35:04

Yeah, definitely, you know, respond to the comments that you usually get, you know, in the first sort of hour or whatever. Yeah. And then if it starts to take off, close it and leave it, yeah, yeah, definitely.





Martyn 35:17

Covert bad rap in a minute. I guess my last thought was just looking ahead. Is there any, you know, sort of when a person, whatever things you're still new goals or new dreams that you're now looking to pursue in any kind of amount of time. I likewise for the community, that sort of thing that you're really hopeful that we can make more change and impact as well as as a whole group. And carrying


Gem 35:42

And carrying on as I'm carrying on doing my thing and raising awareness and hopefully, you know, wheels, no heels will continue to grow. I want to get back into my YouTube channel. That's been a bit dormant for the last year. So I really want to get that back up and running because,


Martyn 35:58

like a new initiative, getting back into the YouTube stuff a bit.


Gem 36:02


Yeah, yeah, definitely. Lots of people are using Instagram and tiktok. So I really don't want to forget YouTube, because I think that's important. But also, we've had a recent I don't know if you've seen my stories today. There's been a lot of ableism around Tiktok at the moment. And I have come across some really ablest tiktok, towards the disability community where people have been making fun of disability, abusing, accessible parking and abusing help that we get at the airports because we need it. It's not a luxury, and tik tok or letting these videos go viral. These very ablest harassing, really upsetting, it's really upset me, I couldn't sleep last night videos, they're going viral. And then when I do a video of me just getting out of my car, and doing a bit of driving that gets banned for community guidelines and being unsafe, and I'm driving, I've got a license. What's wrong with that? And I can't seem to grow on an equal scale as someone else and hundreds of my followers have reported these harassing videos. And they believe that they haven't breached community guidelines when they have a tiktok have a statement out a list of all of you know, age, race, creed, and then on the list as well as disability but they're not.


Martyn 37:31



Gem 37:32

so I am really hopeful that hopefully we can make a change.


Martyn 37:37


Yeah, yeah, that's a good one. It was interesting. When I worked at Skype, the chairman, he is a guy that was the word disabledism. And so from your understanding, is that the same thing as ableism, as a sort of definition, has the term decider changed just in terms of by word, but I was also just gonna say what what's your kind of definition or understanding of what ableism is for the people listening that might not know ableism? is so hard to put into words, isn't it?


Gem 38:10


I think in really basic terms, it's you know, being unfavorable to a person with a disability or people with disabilities. Whether there are many different sub categories within ableism so you've got you know, a building, if that doesn't have the correct sort of requirements for people to access that building. That's being ablest then you've got people with ablest attitudes, who may make ablest assumptions, such as that someone in a wheelchair can't work, they can't drive, they can't get married, they can't have children. That's a very ablest attitude. And there's very sort of like direct and indirect ableism. And it's very, very hard to depict tonight, I actually get people writing to me saying, this happened to me today, is this ableism because it's so so hard to decipher. Not only that, we've also got our own internal ableism where I used to think that I couldn't be a dancer and I couldn't do dancing because I'm in a wheelchair. And I flew out to LA in 2019 to meet roll it and do wheelchair dancing. And that was due to my own internal ableism that the environment kind of inflicts upon us.


Martyn 39:23


Yeah, it's good to put it in that is so basically the social model, isn't it? The social model barriers, the environment, the attitudes and then the policies and procedures. As I say it was over 10 years ago that they used scope as a disablism  but I've heard the word ableism bandied around a lot more recently, but I guess in another way, it's the same as sexism and racism. Yeah, but towards disabled people. Yeah, exactly.


Gem 39:52

 Yeah, exactly. Yeah. An actual fact I haven't heard the word disablism. Maybe they cut it.



Martyn 39:58

They just Yeah, it's just ableism. It's interesting.


Gem 40:03

But I do have to say, I've done a whole series of ableism on my Instagram with examples of things that have happened to me in real life and spoken about them. And I have to say that since researching and finding out about ableism, it's made me understand a lot about myself as a disabled person, and other people as well. So if anyone is out there kind of struggling with their disability and things, checking out ableism is, what it means and how it affects us, I found to be really, really helpful.


Martyn 40:33

Yeah, it's interesting how that sort of, for me it was through the social model. It's all the same thing. But I remember when I learned about the social model, it's great that I was like, wow, I'm not the problem. I'm not Yeah. But actually, if they designed buildings and educated people and had policies that are inclusive, then I wouldn't be inverted commas disabled in terms of societal barriers, you know, there'll be no barriers. I just be myself. So that was very liberating. Similarly, yeah, same.


Gem 40:10 I agree with you there.


Martyn 40:11 Yeah. All right. Well, we're gonna wrap wheels No heels. Is that YouTube as well?


Gem 41:19Yeah.


Martyn 41:20 Yeah. So wheels, no heels, everyone listening, do follow and like and subscribe and all that good stuff. Thank you for let Jeb know what you thought of the interview, and get any final thoughts you want to share before we wrap? Well, have you said everything that you wanted to say today?


Gem 41:36

You know what, I'll probably be laying there tonight thinking. But no, I think I think we've touched upon some good stuff today.really  Thank you.


Martyn 41:46

Thanks so much Gem hubbard , good luck with all that obviously the follower growth and the sort of metrics, I know you're creating so much impact by reaching more and more people when the obviously does generally with revenue up to it's fantastic, and the great creativity commencing.


Gem 42:08 Thank you so much Martyn


Mailing 42:10

Thanks so much for joining us for this episode. And I invite you to connect with me directly at the  We also want you to let us know what you think about the show ideas and how we can continue to help you or referrals to a great guest through our Facebook group at xceptional leaders podcast, or email us at


Martyn 42:31

Yes, Mai Ling, I totally agree that I know we're both really mission driven people. And for me, it's always been this big mission, to have a world that's fully inclusive for all people. And in the end, that's probably why we've bonded and come together so well on this podcast, exceptional leaders podcast, because we get to meet cool people, give them a platform to share their story, and really just make such an impact in the disability world. Love it. Also, for everyone listening please do head over to disability This is the magazine that I co founded about 10 years ago. We've got a free mailing list there for all the latest article news, discounts for the shop if that's your kind of thing. And definitely definitely do get your copy of becoming an xceptional leader book. We want you to get as much information as you need and to be as successful as you can be.

Gem HubbardProfile Photo

Gem Hubbard


After suffering a Spinal Cord Injury age nine, Gem felt very alone, lost and depressed for many years. When she was growing up and recovering she noticed that there wasn’t anyone in the public eye with a disability that she could relate to. This made her feel even more isolated, and ashamed of who she was. This led to multiple mental health issues.
With a love of all thing drama and media related Gem always felt she needed to get out there and show the world disability was nothing to be ashamed of. Her goal was to be “The First Disabled TV Presenter.”
In 2010 her dream nearly came true when she became one of the final 12 to present at the London 2012 Paralympic games with Channel 4. With a lack of Paralympic sport knowledge, Gem didn’t quite make it, however she learned many new skills and it motivated her even more to succeed.
It wasn’t until 2015 she began posting videos on Instagram, and WheelsNoHeels was born. Her following grew rapidly, and shortly after, then she began creating Youtube videos too.
WheelsNoheels is more than a social media platform. It offers a friend, it offers a community, and importantly it offers education. Her video style is very upbeat, with added humour that audiences of all ages, and backgrounds can relate to.
Gem now creates content she would have liked to have seen when she was growing up. So that no one ever has to feel alone.