Declan Sykes. For many, his name is synonymous with “the dude with the white hair from X Factor.” But behind the professor-like white coat and glasses is a 15 year old with a shady past and a voice beyond his years.
Diagnosed with Asperger’s at just five years old, moving schools a whopping 12 times and battling bullies every day has only served to make this young performer stronger.
DOLLY caught up with Declan and discovered why this guy is fast becoming our new favourite contestant!
Q: How are you coping with being a rising star?
A:To be honest, we don’t get enough time off to enjoy it! It’s school holidays now so we’re really cautious going into shopping malls. Johnny, Reece and I went out to a mall one day at 2.45pm which was a drastic mistake. All these school chicks were there and it was like hell, but heaven at the same time!
Q: How hard was it moving to 12 different schools?
A: Here’s the deal. I moved [so many times] because I found it difficult to make any friends. I was bullied at a few schools and I moved from others because of my mum’s business.
Q: How did being bullied at school affect you?
A: It sucks a lot. The injuries and the emotional injuries that you sustain stick with you for a while and it sucks… You start a really bad habit of reacting to the kids but deep down I actually didn’t really give a crap. It’s just one of those things that has rubbed off on me now. Now, after any performance, I don’t get excited, all the emotions are taken away from it.
Q: How did you overcome being bullied?
A: I grew to six foot two! That pretty much will do it! I kind of look at it as a blessing because it made me tough enough and grow up a lot quicker and I look at the world in a different way which kind of helps me.
Q: Well you’re the one laughing now…
A: I guess I can rub it in a bit. I don’t though…
Q: What advice would you give to other teens who have been bullied?
A: You can tell the bullies to stop bullying but at the end of the day they’re bullies and they are still going to do it. You’ll find the older you are and the more mature you become and the more you realise how idiotic these people are, you’ll start to learn to view it from a birds eye perspective instead of viewing the situation as a victim. It’s just one of those things that you just have to wait out. Trust me, it took me a very long time. I’ve had bones broken but I came through it.
Q: There are a lot of misconceptions about Asperger’s out there. How does it affect your day to day life?
A: It means some parts of my brain are heightened and others are depleted. It’s not really an abnormality but it changes the way your brain thinks. You can be on one end of the spectrum where people generally think you’re retarded, you are completely cut off from the world, depressed all the time and don’t get along with peers.
With me, my social skills are a little depleted with my peers. Socialising on a daily basis is difficult for me. I always manage to isolate myself when we are doing group activities on X Factor. It’s just something I do. It gets hard at times, because so many people in the world don’t understand it.
Q: Did the condition contribute to the bullying?
A: That’s how the whole bullying started. I would hurt my mum too, mentally. When I used to get bullied a lot, I refused to let my mum touch me when I was crying and I look back and it would have sucked for my mum just seeing that and not be able to do anything.
Q: What is your ultimate dream?
A: My ultimate dream is for me to be the person that I am and for people to accept that. I want to be an artist of myself.