Passion for Life
Meet James – the ‘three foot seven dwarf’, as he describes himself. Jen Johnson reports
‘I enjoy life – I love life – I’m living the dream!’ James Lusted – the actor, TV presenter, sports fan, husband and dad – is full of joy and has a real passion for life. But his life so far hasn’t been without its challenges. Born with diastrophic dysplasia, a rare disorder of cartilage and bone development that causes dwarfism, he measures just three foot seven at the age of 32. He endured bullying in school and, until his teenage years, felt very limited by his condition.
‘I couldn’t play rugby – and, as a Welshman, that’s all I wanted to do!’ says James.
‘I’ve always had the most encouraging supportive parents. They’ve always challenged me to become a better person.’ But he hasn’t always found life easy and his height was an issue at times. He recalls one day in particular, aged 15 years old, when he came home from a day of facing the bullies, headed straight for his bedroom and hid himself under his duvet to cry. In that moment, his mum, a Christian, came into his room and saw how distressed he was. Her words made all the difference. She told him: ‘James, you are made in the image of Christ. It doesn’t matter who you are, or the way you are – you can do everything, just in a different way – and you can use your voice to ask people to help you. If you can’t reach that box of cereal on the top shelf in Tesco just ask someone to help…God has a plan and a purpose for you and he wants you to see life and live it to the full.’
‘It was like a switch in my heart just flicked on,’ says James. ‘From that day onwards, I went into school and started to stand up for myself…Yes, I am different, but that’s okay.’
From that moment on, James possessed a new-found confidence. ‘I believe it is a faith-filled confidence, which God has given me, to be bold in my life,’ he says. Indeed, a quick glance at James’ CV shows that his condition has not held him back in the slightest! He has made several appearances in pantomime, as well as in other theatre performances. He is one of the presenters of the well-loved BBC programme ‘Songs of Praise’ and has appeared in the children’s comedy drama series ‘4 O’Clock Club’, as well as various documentaries. He speaks Welsh fluently. He is a leader at Festival Church, Chester, a local councillor in Conwy, a former trustee of Disability Sport Wales and an Ambassador for Sports Chaplaincy UK (sportschaplaincy.org.uk). In his political role, he has pledged to campaign for the rights of people with disabilities, and he delights in spending time with his family and watching sport. ‘I’ve got my fingers in a few pies!’ laughs James.
But he holds all these things lightly. ‘Am I going to be a presenter on TV for many years to come? I don’t know. Am I going to be a senior pastor of a church? I don’t know. But all I want to do is say “God, it’s all for you” and I just want to give everything to him.’
James’ attitude is one that puts the God that he believes in first. Quoting the Bible he adds: ‘He knows the plans he has for me, plans to prosper me and plans not to harm me – I just need to be obedient in that.’
These days, James embraces his short stature. He even uses his height as his website domain name – threefootseven.co.uk – and he says ‘I’ve always said, if I had another opportunity to live on this earth again, I’d want to come back as me – James, the three foot seven dwarf!’ At the same time, though, he’s clear that it’s not the most important aspect of who he is. ‘I’m proud to be who I am. I’m proud to be diastrophic dyplastic, which is a rare form of dwarfism – there are more than 200 different conditions within dwarfism and I have a rare form, but I’m not defined by that. God has made me who I am. I’m defined by who I am and by Christ. Throughout all the challenges that I’ve faced…I’ve learned and grown so much.’
A beautiful blonde
Another area in which James’ faith is evident is in his family life. He had always prayed that he would find someone to marry and that they would be able to start a family, but he couldn’t know whether this would actually happen. In 2012, he had the honour of carrying the London 2012 Olympic torch through Colwyn Bay in North Wales. A ‘beautiful blonde girl’ called Chloe watched him from the crowd and she was one of a number of friends who joined his family to celebrate afterwards. James saw her and prayed ‘Lord, if this is going to happen – let it happen!’ They started dating in 2013 when James invited Chloe out for a drink – and they never looked back! They married in 2016, in a ceremony that was later featured in a BBC TV documentary.
‘Chloe is of average height. She’s two feet taller than me – we have a lot of laughs and jokes about that, and we do have our challenges,’ he says.
‘She saw my personality…not a dwarf. That’s who she fell in love with. I’ll never forget on our wedding day the tears of joy to know that Chloe had accepted me as I am,’ says James. The couple have appeared on television together to share their love story, in the hope that it will encourage others not to see outward differences as a barrier to love. In 2019, they welcomed baby Olivia to the family and faith remains at the centre of their life together. ‘I pray for my little Olivia every day, for protection, that she will be protected – and I pray for Chloe, my beautiful wife,’ says James.
So, what’s next for James? ‘It’s so important that not only do we keep our mental health and our wellbeing and our physical health in a good place, it’s important to keep our spiritual wellbeing in a very good place too,’ he says. ‘It’s so important to wake up every morning as if it’s a new day, with new potential in that day. My hope for my future is just to bring glory to God, and to keep listening and hearing from him giving me direction and wisdom about what to do next.’ He is also clear about how important it is for him to encourage his family to keep listening to God, too.
Most of all, James is clear about where he finds stability in life: ‘Hope has a name, and that name is Jesus.’
Watch James tell his story to Warren Evans from Sports Chaplaincy UK