Hairdresser Andrew Barton opens up about finding out he was adopted and how life has never been better.
Celebrity hairdresser Andrew Barton has had a busy old time of it of late. Not only has he been busy snipping lush locks, he has been training hard for the London marathon, which takes place on April 24. The well-loved Creative Director for Urban Retreat at Harrods running to raise money for adoption and fostering academy CoramBAAF, an organisation that is close to his heart. Here, in an emotional interview, Andrew opens up about how at six years old he found out he was adopted and how his loving parents set him up perfectly for life.
So Andrew, how did you did find out you had been adopted?
I was adopted as a baby so I only knew my adoptive parents. They were solid northern working class people who wanted children and could not have their own. I had been born to a young mother and was given up for adoption. As soon as I was old enough to understand, at around six years old, my parents explained to me about adoption and that I was special and had been chosen by them to be their son.
That’s a lovely way of putting it.
It’s how I grew up with a belief that I’d been chosen and was special. The orphaned hero, appears throughout our reading of fairytales and fantasy fiction and is a mythic archetype springing up in so many of the worlds oldest stories. Harry Potter, Oliver Twist, Huck Finn, Jane Eyre and even Moses abandoned as an infant are all stories that have given me strength and learning and something for me to identify with.
Was it a tough adjustment?
I guess at school, yes at times it was tough. Feeling different was not always easy. I was bullied and that’s why now I’m an ambassador for an amazing charity called Kidscape who works to help young people who experience bullying. I was blessed to have a wonderful caring family not only in my parents but my siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Being in a strong busy fun family network I learnt the values of family gave me strength and confidence. As a teenager growing up in small community, coming to terms with my sexuality and understanding what adoption meant to me were both challenging but it was ultimately the loving support of my family that empowered me to become the man that I am and I’m incredibly proud to say I’m adopted.
Had you ever considered seeking out your birth parents, was that a tough time?
Of course there have been times when I have thought about tracing my birth mother. It’s funny how I feel no attachment to my ‘genes’ and therefore have never thought about tracing a lost family, as my family are the people who raised me and nurtured me. I work as a patron for a children’s charity called Coram BAAF they are the UK’s oldest children’s charity and the leading authority on all things adoption. Working with them on raising awareness for the adoption and fostering has taught me so many things about who I am and helped me realise no matter what your level of engagement in adoption is everyone as a different story and different needs. So just because I do not feel an urge to trace my birth parents that does not mean it’s right or wrong, it’s just what’s right for me.
Is it weird to think there is a part of your life you don’t know anything about?
My birth mother was pure white English and there is little known about my birth father, genetics can skip generations but there is something in my genes that gives me more southern European looks so that has always interested me. Recently a friend of mine gifted me a genealogy test and it showed up interesting dynamics including high percentage of Turkish, Italian and Spanish ancestry, which explains a lot !
Did you go through feelings of anger or sympathy?
Yes, of course. Like all of us, we are a complex mix of all emotions and it’s how we manage them that matters. I have a great circle of friends a wonderful family, brother and sister and being open about being adopted and being able to discuss it with others that are close to me as always given me more understanding and empathy. Being adopted is a big part of who I am and it’s rare a day goes by without some mental or emotional reference to it but much of my feelings are about pride and respect and an understanding for me that my life may have been very different without adoption and my family.
Did it affect your confidence knowing there is a part of your life that is not known to you?
Whoever we are I think it’s important to understand our core values in life and what makes us feel secure and happy. I practice various forms of physical exercise including running which I find mediative and practice meditation too it’s the focusing on the now rather than the past that gives me great strength to be better in the relationship I have with myself and importantly with others. With that in mind I don’t focus on a part of my life that is not with me and therefore it does not knock my confidence to stop me from doing what I want to do and have the relationships I want with others. I’m a great believer in you get what you give out and I know it may sound cliche but you can’t change the past.
What advice would you give kids who have just found out they are adopted? Who should they speak to?
Coram BAAF have great help lines and there are various organisations locally across the UK that can offer support. It’s important to talk and express your feelings especially with those around you if you can, chances are they will not want to push you and will only want to help you. There are so many sides to adoption I now see it full circle with many close friends that have adopted or going through the process of giving a child a ‘forever family’. I’m no fool and am not trying to paint only one picture of adoption. My story is a positive one and not every adoption story is, but adoption gave me something very special and if I can create a little awareness and connect with others that were adopted then I’m proud of my parents for making the big brave decision to adopt me. Don’t be alone if you need to talk about how you feel there are great organisations like Coram BAAF that can help.
There are so many great foster and adoptive parents out there – have you bought of adopting yourself ?
I’m the worst uncle, godfather there is, telling my loved ones how they should bring up their children. It makes us all laugh. Who knows what the future holds?
We live in a world where families are more than just blood relatives, especially in the gay world where many people form their own families after theirs have rejected them. What in your eyes constitutes a family?
It’s as much about nurture as nature. Sure if I were to meet my birth parents I’m sure there would be many similarities but it’s uncanny the similarities that I have with my adoptive family. I catch myself in the mirror often and see mum’s mannerisms, sayings, her attitudes on things. They were the influencers and I’m immensely proud of my northern working class roots. And the biggest compliment anyone can pay me is ‘he’s a hard worker’ and that he definitely comes from my parents and their nurturing.
It’s getting easier for gay couples to adopt – have you heard horror stories from friends who have found the process hard?
The process of adopting obviously needs to be hard to ensure as much success as possible both for the child and the parent and extended family. Over the years much as changed regarding the process and regardless of your politics the current government have done much to make the process easier whilst staying robust but making it quicker. Again without getting political organisations are stretched who are involved with adoption and fostering much due to government cuts. if you are interested in supporting adoption the contact your local agencies and see how you can get involved to fund raise or create awareness. There are well over 5,000 children right now in the UK who need adoption and that’s without the heart wrenching stories we hear every day about orphans around the world. Adoption is a back bone of our society and the children that need good solid family homes are the generations of the future.
What kind of parent would you be?
I’m quite traditional in many ways as a parent. I’d want to instil good manners, a work ethic and discipline in the home including routine. We all need security in our lives so ultimately I’d want to create a loving caring secure home where a child had the freedom to grow to his or her own potential. I’d follow much the ways that my brother, sister and I were brought up, family meal times and doing things together and of course lots of cuddles.
Is it important to have a family as u get older?
For sure. I have now lost both of my parents but my connection with my brother and sister is very deep and with their children too … I’m their uncle Andrew and that means the world to me.
Tell us about the marathon. What are u raising money for?
This is my 5th Virgin London Marathon that I’m running for Coram BAAF. It’s pretty gruelling with lots of training in the months in the lead up. Joy of joy though I can eat as much pasta as I want between now and then as it’s a carb fest to build up the energy store. As it’s my fifth marathon I know what I’m up against. It’s an amazing experience and a personal challenge but despite the journey and it’s up and downs there is no better feeling than running down The Mall with Buckingham Palace behind you and knowing your loved one’s have been on route pushing you on and waiting at the finish line for you and that is the best pint I’ll ever have. If you’re in London please come out and shout me on and sponsor me just a couple of quid would be wonderful.
To sponsor Andrew click HERE