A “bionic” Bristol man who refuses to let his disability stand in the way of his dreams is searching for love in a new reality show.
Kyle Elson is pursuing a match in the UK’s first LGBTQ+ dating series, Lovedown, which was filmed entirely during lockdown.
Contestants met each other on video calls and had virtual dates by the same means, recording footage on their phones and computers to send on to the production team.
Bishopsworth resident Kyle is also a finalist in this year’s Mr Gay England pageant, and is no stranger to television.
The 31-year-old appeared on BBC’s Inventing the Impossible: The Big Life Fix in 2018, in which a team of engineers created him a bespoke mechanical gadget to fix to his left hand.
He has ambitions to become a hairdresser but was born with a deformed hand, which was unable to grasp hair as he needed to until they invented him a solution.
The gadget was even given a test-run on Good Morning Britain, when Kyle tried it out on host Kate Garraway.
Lovedown’s team referred to him as the “bionic hairdresser’ and more of his background story will be told in the final episode of the three-part series, which will air on YouTube tonight (June 29).
Kyle told Bristol Live: “I think it’s become quite normal [during lockdown] to have video calls, but to have the additional pressure of a first date was very daunting.
“It’s been really nice to have that interaction and meet people from different walks of life.
“It was like being in Big Brother for a couple of hours a night.”
He said video calling helped to get a better sense of someone’s personality, as opposed to just texting or messaging on dating apps like Tinder.
Kyle added: “It’s really opened my mind up to dating. I hate Tinder because you judge somebody based on how they look.
“For me, I feel I’ve been judged my whole life because of how I look on the outside, so that goes against everything I believe in.”
He spoke of his struggles with bullying at secondary school, and how he used to warn new people of his disability before meeting them for the first time.
‘I used to just see myself as a disabled person’
He said: “It was only a couple of years ago when I did the Big Life Fix that I really started to love my hand and who I was as a person.
“Before then, when I looked at myself, I could only see a disabled person.
“Going on that show and seeing someone else believe in me gave me a whole new lease of life and confidence.”
He said he had messages from people all over the world speaking of how he had inspired them, after the BBC clip – below – was viewed more than 4 million times on Facebook.
Kyle still has plans to qualify as a hairdresser but is focusing on other projects for now, having just signed part-time to a modelling agency.
During the week he works at Ovo Energy in Bristol city centre, and he is also busy fundraising for charity the Charlie & Carter Foundation, as part of his work as a Mr Gay England finalist.
The contest was postponed due to coronavirus but a winner is due to be announced at a ceremony in March.
Kyle said he is a fan of dating shows like Love Island but that it was “amazing” progress to have a full LGBTQ+ cast, adding: “I’m really proud to be a part of something that’s a first for the UK.
“Hopefully it will encourage and inspire others to be a bit more inclusive. It’s been incredible.”
Lovedown is hosted by former Emmerdale actress and The Voice star Kelsey-Beth Crossley, and is now in its second season.
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Speaking about the show, the actress said: “Being single isn’t so bad when you have hobbies, a career and friends, but one day when that’s all stripped from you and all you’re allowed to do is DIY, bake and exercise, it’s nice to have a partner to share the highs and lows with.
“Watching the footage and meeting everyone virtually has brought such light to the long days and we are all having a blast.”
The cast this time was dedicated to LGBTQ+ contestants, to coincide with Pride season.
It is said to be the first dating show to feature a whole season dedicated to LGBTQ+ participants.