Christian J. Hadjipateras is a London-born writer and motivational speaker. Having been born with severely complex craniofacial anomalies, he underwent over fifty reconstructive surgeries. His mission is to share his story as well as be a voice for adults and children that have similar conditions. He has been involved with two US-based organizations, Face the Future Foundation in Chicago and Children’s Craniofacial Association in Dallas, dedicated to helping children born with facial differences – both emotionally and financially. He also serves as an ACPA Social Media Ambassador.
He holds a Higher National Diploma in Business from Southampton Solent University and has also studied film and production at the London and New York Film Academies. Passionate about film and production, Christian is also working on his first screenplay. He has also been featured in Authority Magazine, contributed to HuffingtonPost.com, and has an active blog on Medium.com.
Christian and his wife Stephanie split their time between Athens and London https://www.christianhadjipateras.com.
Getting to know Christian.
I was born in London in 1984 with severe craniofacial anomalies including a bilateral cleft lip and palate, craniosynostosis, hypertelorism, profound hearing loss, and a horseshoe kidney among other issues. My hairline and eyebrows were also set too high.
A series of operations followed a few weeks later to initially close the cleft. A few months later, I developed hydrocephalus, which resulted in his first major operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Shortly afterward, I developed bacterial meningitis, a life-threatening illness, which I thankfully recovered from.
Over the next few years, I underwent a number of minor operations whilst receiving intense speech therapy. My parents were told that only major reconstructive surgery, which involved huge risks, would correct the anomalies I’d been born with.
At the age of nine, I underwent my first major reconstructive surgery, which would pave the way for my future operations and future in general. Thanks to my parents’ perseverance, I was operated on by Dr. Paul Tessier – the ‘father of craniofacial surgery’ in Paris, which was then followed by another major operation in London (again performed by Dr. Tessier). Dr. Tessier admitted that my case was such a complex and unusual case that he likened it to ‘navigating in the dark without a compass’.
A series of smaller operations followed before a break of several years, needed because I had to reach my maximum facial development before the next phase of reconstructive surgeries. At the age of 18, my parents, sister and I travelled to Chicago to begin the process of reconstructing my nose, by Dr. Gary Burget and Dr. Robert Walton, which resulted in some 15 operations with us travelling back and forth from their home in London. At 21, I had what would turn out to be my last major operation in Los Angeles (Dr. Henry Kawamoto) to bring down my hairline and eyebrows using tissue expansion.
I graduated from Southampton Solent University in 2009 with a Higher National Diploma in Business Studies. I then moved to Los Angeles and spent a couple of years in the film industry. I’ve always had a passion for writing and film and continue to do so. These days, my wife and I are based in Athens.
What are your academic and professional backgrounds?
I graduated from Solent University, Southampton, England, in 2009 with a Higher National Diploma in Business. I also attended both the New York (Burbank, CA) and London film academies and obtained certificates in producing and screenwriting respectively.
You have a unique background. How did you become a motivational speaker and published author? It’s not an easy road, so what steps did you take?
I’d been an avid writer from a young age and wrote my first manuscript at 22, which resulted in becoming a client of Curtis Brown literary agency in London from 2006-2009. I’ve since had blogs on the Huffington Post and Medium where I wrote about my experiences of having undergone multiple reconstructive surgeries. Other topics I’ve written about have ranged from current affairs to travel writing.
Becoming a motivational speaker had been a long-term vision of mine, but it took time to materialize for a number of reasons. As strongly as I felt about sharing my experiences to try to help others, I was on my own journey of acceptance and admittedly didn’t get to a point where I was content within myself until around my mid-20s. I felt I had to get to that stage in my life first. Now, a decade or so later, I feel the timing is right to try to do whatever I can to raise awareness.
As a motivational speaker, what is your mission?
My main mission is to be a voice for children and adults living with facial differences. I underwent some 50 reconstructive surgeries and so I can relate to those who might be in the same boat as I was once in. Equally important is the psychological aspect of growing up with facial differences, which brought its own challenges.
There’s no doubt in my mind that society has come a long way from when I was growing up, both in terms of awareness and acceptance. Certain experiences I went through back then wouldn’t happen today I don’t think. That said, we still have a long way to go. People with facial differences still face discrimination today in some form, which is unacceptable at the start of the 2020s. My other priority is to also raise awareness about mental health.
Again, we’ve come a long way in that aspect too, but there’s still nevertheless a stigma attached to mental health and this must be eradicated. Nobody should ever have to suffer in silence. One of my biggest regrets while growing up was not opening up when I should have done and that is one of the most important messages I want to give. We all have our dark moments, but we must all feel comfortable enough to open up when we feel the need to.
You have a background in film and production. You’re also writing a screenplay. Can you share more details on that project?
I’ve been working on a screenplay for the past year or so, which is in its early stages. But the story is actually a fictionalized account of some of my experiences. It centers on a young man who’s just had his last major reconstructive surgery but does not feel the hope and elation he thought he would. He reluctantly decides to see a therapist after being urged to do so. The therapist along with a girl he meets around the same time end up helping him to realize that his issues aren’t on the outside, but that he needs to find himself from within in order to finally be happy. It’s a bit of a ‘Good Will Hunting’ meets ‘Ordinary People’.
Wellness is critical in today’s highly changing world. What are your best wellness tips? How do you stay focused on your goals?
I’d say that one of the most important ways to maintain wellness is physical exercise, even a jog or run once or twice a week is better than nothing. In terms of staying focused on your goals, I think having a routine is of paramount importance.
What other projects are you currently working on?
Right now, my two main priorities are speaking and getting my screenplay done. Another project I’d love to pursue is traveling around mainland Greece and documenting my journeys, Greece is known mainly for its islands, but the mainland has so much to offer.
How can readers connect with you?