“Who are you wearing?” (Hilton. P, 2017)

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Just over 3 years ago, my 18-year-old self, boarded a one-way Aer Lingus flight to London. As I sat in my overpriced seat I was confident, more confident than I had ever felt in my entire life. I had just left my Mum, pretending to cry into the sleeve of her jumper, outside WHSmith in Belfast International Airport to pursue my dream of working in Television. Fast forward 3 years, I return, to the same sight of my crying mother, with my tail between my legs and my bank account £1000 overdrawn, having failed to secure Holly Willoughby’s daytime slot.

Living in London introduced me to a great concept, I previously had not heard of, called ‘growing up’. I would have voted myself, the least likely out of my undergraduate course, to pursue a Master’s Degree, however, somehow, I have found myself back in Belfast, learning about this concept of “public relations”. Image may contain: night and outdoor
As interesting as I find myself, I have learned to find PR even more interesting, since starting my MSc. My only real experience in the field of PR stemmed from my part-time job in a restaurant, dealing with the public all day, every day. I learned more about ‘people’ waiting on tables in that small restaurant that I had in the previous 18 years of my life. If I could take one thing away from the customer service industry, it would be the idea of “giving the people what they want”.

Like Jade, in the iconic “Bratz” movie, I have a “passion for fashion”. Growing up, when most boys my age were idolizing Gary from Geordie Shore, my only interests were the panel of judges on America’s Next Top Model. The fashion industry is ever evolving, and this week, the biggest piece of news in the industry was Gucci’s decision to stop using real fur in their designs.
Fur in the fashion world has always been a controversial topic, however, it is an issue I have always remained relatively neutral on. Recently I have begun to think, is fur really necessary in the fashion industry? For years, organizations such as PETA have campaigned against the use of fur in the industry, but why now in 2017 has such an iconic brand such as Gucci decided not to carry on using real fur?

I recently was reminded in my Strategic Marketing module, of this idea that you should “give the people what they want, not what you think they want”. Which perhaps is what Gucci’s CEO Marco Bizzari is now beginning to do. In PR, we learn about the idea of ‘publics’, does this mean that Bizzari has decided that his customers do not need real fur anymore?

Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA said “The writing was on the wall: Today’s shoppers don’t want to wear the skins of animals who were caged, then electrocuted or bludgeoned to death. Until all animal skins and coats are finally off the racks of clothing stores worldwide, PETA will keep up the pressure on the clothing and fashion industry.” (Holt, 2017)

Gucci, along with other brands such as Ralph Lauren or Stella McCartney has been able to adapt to ‘give the people what they want’ which is becoming refreshing, seeing as other brands such as Versace, stick to the conservative idea of ‘tradition’. I said previously, that I have always remained neutral on the issue of fur within the fashion industry, however, after Gucci’s decision of taking fur off the catwalk, my opinions have swayed. The fashion industry and current trends change season by season but the issue of fur has been a long-lasting battle. Should other brands now follow in Gucci’s footsteps?

Before enrolling on this course, I would have never thought about issues like these in this way, however, my eyes have been well and truly opened to the world around me. In the PR industry, likewise with marketing, I have learned that we cannot sit on the fence. Opinions are a great thing, and questioning others’ opinions, is also great.

This time next year, I hope to sit again on a flight to London. Although this time, I am not after a seat on the “This Morning” sofa.

Jordan Spry is studying for an MSc in Communications and Public Relations with Advertising at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter and Instagram: @jordanspry_

Queen of Crohns

It has been a while since I have put fingers to keyboard to blog about things close to my heart, but as May marks ‘Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month’, it is only natural I write a feature blog on one of my best friends, Rachel Nugent, who battles this disease fearlessly every day of her life.

I have known Rachel since I was around 14 when we went to hip-hop classes together (hilarious, I know), but I have always known her as a happy, positive and care-free girl. If something was ever wrong, all she had to do was stick on her earphones and play ‘Cascada-Everytime We Touch’ until she was feeling better. Or was it Tiesto?

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Like how could I forget December 2011….

But despite being obsessed with terrible EDM and hip hop dancing, she always seemed have these bouts of sickness which had never been explained. Her back would give her problems, damaging her thriving hip-hop career (if you can’t already tell, this is a joke), her mouth would be full of ulcers making it difficult for her to speak and her foot would randomly swell making it look like a ballooned animal. Her symptoms were so random, that it took until Rachel went to A&E with excruciating stomach pains for them to discover she suffered from Crohn’s disease. In 2014, after being put on steroids, she suffered depression which she eventually overcome, until she was discovered to have an abscess in her bowel. After this Rachel then underwent a ileostomy, or for the every day person – “The bag”.

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Doesn’t stop her topping up the vitamin D.

So what is Crohn’s?

I don’t want to go online and get some faceless definition from a health website. So in Rachel’s own words, Crohn’s is “the devil lol”. But in all seriousness, she sent me this as the best definition of the disease.

Crohn’s is a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system or gut. As well as affecting the lining of the bowel, Crohn’s may also go deeper into the bowel wall.  Crohn’s is a chronic condition. This means that it is on-going and life long.

How it has affected her

So far you have only heard a very brief overview of Rachel’s story, and it does not show the fear, anxiety or the pain that Rachel had to feel throughout the last few years. Before people knew Rachel suffered from Crohn’s, and due to the severe swelling of her lips, she went under intense scrutiny from the local area over an alleged ‘lip job’. I spent the majority of my energy explaining to these people that Rachel suffered from a disease that even I didn’t understand and that she hadn’t had her lips done. There were times when Rachel couldn’t even produce words from her mouth because her lips were giving her that much pain. It broke my heart, I couldn’t even imagine how she felt.


A lot of people didn’t know Rachel was going through the post-traumatic stress of one day having full control of your body, and the next having to rely on a bag. This played on Rachel’s mind for months, severe anxiety haunted her behind closed doors, depression came as a side-effect of the steroids – despite partying with her friends almost every weekend – it took her a while to come to terms with the disease.

Where is she now?

After her disease meant that she had to quit her education in Belfast, Rachel then trained with numerous MUA’s and is now one herself. She has set up her own Make-Up Salon from her house where she performs literal miracles on people like myself. Currently, her ileostomy is temporary and there is always hope that she will be able to get the bag off, but right now she is focused on raising awareness for this invisible disease.

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Rachel in action

But she still gets her bad days, despite being the most incredibly positive person I have ever come across! She has expressed her fears over not financially being able to cope as you never know when the next bout of sickness is going to come, not meeting someone who understands fully how to handle this disease, never being able to move away as she relies so heavily on the NHS and her mum and dad. She has helped my own family with advice and tips on the bag, always offering herself up as someone for them to talk to about it.

She is one of my biggest inspirations, and she should be yours too. x

How can you help?

Share this blog, let your Facebook followers see how Crohn’s can affect someone.

Or you can attend Rachel’s Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Casino Night in Sense Nightclub on the 26th May. Event details @ https://www.facebook.com/events/125075944713760/


Shannon Quinn is a 2nd year CAM student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on LinkedIn at https://uk.linkedin.com/in/shannon-quinn-556236132 and on Twitter @ShannonQuinnPR.