THE mother of a disabled boy who made history by featuring in the M&S Christmas advert has spoken of the overwhelming public response and raised the possibility of future TV appearances.
Caroline White, mother of four-year-old Seb, said she has received dozens of emotional messages of support since the ad debuted last month as well as celebrity endorsements from Katie Price and Liz Hurley.
Seb, who has Down’s syndrome, became the first model with a learning disability to star in a UK television advert for a high street brand, according to Marks & Spencer.
Mrs White said that her son has become a celebrity around Bath after his appearances on BBC Breakfast and cannot contain his excitement whenever he appears on television.
“He absolutely loves it. The second the advert comes on he is aware it’s the advert,” she said.
“He sits and he goes ‘wait, wait, wait’ and then when he comes on he gives a big cheer.”
Seb’s new-found celebrity status has even followed him into the playground, both at the special school he goes to two days a week and the mainstream school he attends.
“One of his little friends at mainstream asked his mum: ‘Does Seb only come to school Wednesday to Friday because on Monday to Tuesday he is making clothes for Marks & Spencer?’,” Mrs White said.
“Another friend said ‘Is Seb famous enough to go on Strictly Come Dancing’, which I thought was pretty cute.”
Seb’s elevated status among his classmates seems a just reward for his mother’s long-fought campaign to get disability better represented in advertising.
For over a year Mrs White has been approaching high street brands and posting photos and blogs about Seb in the hope that he might be used as a model.
Part of her inspiration came when watching last year’s John Lewis ad featuring a young boy excitedly counting down the days until Christmas.
“It was such a heart-warming lump-in-the-throat advert that I just thought, ‘But that could be Seb’. I did think how much of an impact it would have on people as well if Seb was in an advert,” she said.
The key turning point came when she wrote on M&S’s Facebook page, triggering a wave of online support and a call from the supermarket’s marketing team. A day modelling for the brand’s Christmas magazine was followed by a request to appear in the TV ad, directed by the man behind many of Beyonce’s biggest music videos.
Now Seb is being seen by millions jumping in a Christmas jumper with other child models, – an image that still brings Mrs White close to tears.
“Every time I get a huge lump in my throat and a ridiculous swelling of pride. It is just incredible,” she said. “I know it was on the final I’m a Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! ad break before they announced the winner.”
Now Mrs White receives two or three messages about her campaign every week, often from parents with disabled children.
She said: “Some of the e-mails I have had from new parents have just been mind-blowing. To hear from someone who has got a new baby that we have really helped give them faith that everything’s going to be alright is amazing.” As for the future, Mrs White is hopeful that there may be more M&S appearances to come.
“I met up with Steve Sharp [executive director of marketing at Marks & Spencer] fairly recently and he is really keen to use Seb again,” she revealed.
But for now, Mrs White says Seb and the family are just happy to enjoy the moment: “We’ve made a piece of history and no one can take that away from us now.”