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Holly Valance has been married to property tycoon, Nick Candy, for less than a year, and now the singer and TV host reveals that the couple are not only keen to start a family, but would also consider adopting a disabled child.
“We”re leaving pregnancy to fate,” she says in an exclusive interview with !. “I”m from a big family and would like lots of kids – but they don”t necessarily all have to be ours.”
The actress, 30, who competed in the BBC series, Strictly Come Dancing, and is currently a judge on the new TLC reality show, Ultimate Shopper, decided this after becoming an ambassador for Disability Rights International – the organisation battling for human rights for people with disabilities all over the world.
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“When I see these kids, it feels as if an elephant is sitting on my chest,” she says, referring to the heart-wrenching sight of children locked in rooms, tied to cots and left to deteriorate in soulless institutions.
“I don”t have a child and that feeling will only get worse when I become a mother. So I”d definitely consider bringing one or more of these children home, although I don”t even know if it”s possible yet.”
Holly, who raises awareness of the plight of disabled children through a film on her website, hosted her first event for DRI last week at an elegant dinner called “Summer in the City,” held at her panoramic apartment overlooking London”s Hyde Park.
With 70 movers and shakers on board – including the Duchess of York and the Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey, as well as numerous celebrities, such as comedian Jimmy Carr and Strictly judge, Bruno Tonioli – Holly made a poignant speech and played the film of these forgotten children to her distinguished guests.
“There wasn”t a dry eye amongst them,” she recalls. “Something special happened that night and I know many guests will never be the same again.
“Esther was fantastic and discussed rights for the disabled. The Duchess was also a wonderful support. She”s an extremely compassionate woman who”s always fighting for these kids.”
Holly became involved with DRI six years ago after watching an NBC news item. She was horrified to learn that, in all but three countries in the world, one billion children and adults with mental and physical disabilities are segregated from society in abusive institutions.
Taken away by the authorities at birth because they have conditions such as Downs Syndrome, epilepsy or even a cleft palate, they are often tied to cribs, drugged into submission, and forced to sleep and eat in overcrowded rooms for the rest of their lives. Some are locked up for years, and children, deprived of education and affection, are never taken outside to play.
“I sobbed for three days after I heard this,” recalls Holly. “If these were prisons, there would be outrage. Yet these innocent children and adults aren”t granted the same human rights.
Desperate to help, Holly wrote to DRI and met with the founders in Washington DC, where the organisation is based. Since then she has visited several institutions and experienced the appalling conditions for herself.
On a recent five-day trip to Eastern Europe, her own husband, Nick, asked to accompany her. The 40-year-old multi-millionaire was profoundly affected by what he saw. “I”ve learned to go into “soldier mode” but Nick”s an extremely kind, soft, warm-hearted person, and I was worried how he’d react,” recalls Holly.
“Whenever he walked into a room, the boys would flock to him. He became the cool dude with the nickname, “Chief Hugger”.
“He bonded with one boy in particular and it was heart-breaking to say goodbye. When you feel them clasp their arms around your neck but have to put them down to go, you feel as if you”re deserting them. I just wanted to take them all home with us.
“They sob when you leave. It really choked us up but we couldn”t cry in front of them; why put them through that Nick and I promised them we”d be back…”
Nick, who met Holly in 2009, is now her greatest ally and right-hand man in her work for DRI, which is a testament to their happy marriage.
“Being married to Nick has brought me peace of mind,” says Holly. “Even if we have an argument, I feel secure in the knowledge that we”ll get over it. There”s none of that fear of ‘is this the end” that you get when you”re dating.
“Last night, we turned to each other and smiled, “I guess we”re stuck together.” And I want to be stuck, in the nicest possible way. With Nick I feel as if I”ve grown up.” A large part of Holly”s life now is also her work as an ambassador for DRI.
“Im so proud to be associated with it,” she says. “Of everything I’ve ever done – from my music, to TV, films and awards – this is what really matters to me. It”s my greatest achievement.”
For more information, go to www.disabilityrightsintl.org