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HomeAnonymousGrowing up, Heartbreak High’s Chloé Hayden didn’t see peop…

Growing up, Heartbreak High’s Chloé Hayden didn’t see peop…


At just 26, Chloé Hayden is a Logie-nominated actress, an in-demand social media influencer, and an outspoken disability advocate. Her secret to success? Embracing her differences. 

When Chloé Hayden was young, each night she would leave her bedroom window open "on the off-chance Peter Pan would realise he had forgotten a very peculiar little girl".

She hoped to be whisked away to a world of pirates, pixies and mermaids, far from her own strange land that made absolutely no sense to her. Convinced she was an alien, she found solace in the world of Disney princesses.

"I couldn't see myself represented anywhere else in the media, so when you can't find yourself correctly represented, you find yourself in other places," the actor and disability advocate says.

"And I saw myself in these princesses and in these anthropomorphized woodland creatures."

In many ways, Chloé's story is a classic of the internet age, her newfound fame almost accidental. On social media, she's amassed well over a million followers across YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. 


Some of her videos are just for fun, while others are more educational, covering all aspects of life with autism: the difficulties with diagnosis (especially for girls), trouble with facial recognition, sensory overload, meltdowns and menstruation.

All are wildly, unmistakably Chloé, as she bounces around in colourful costumes and flower crowns, delivering her signature greeting, "Hi butterflies".

In recent years she's moved beyond social media, authoring a best-selling book and hosting a hit podcast. Alongside her mother, she organises conferences that sell out in days, and produces her own merch, including "sensory-friendly" T-shirts and hoodies.

And on Sunday night, Chloé, now 26, will walk the Logies red carpet nominated for the Most Popular New Talent award for her role as Quinni in Netflix's rebooted Heartbreak High series.

But it all started as a teenager's cry for help.

Struggling to find her place in the world after being diagnosed with autism, Chloé started an anonymous blog with the goal of sharing her journey and finding other people that were like just her.

Chloé is currently riding high on her success, but the journey to get there wasn't easy. ()

"I never imagined that not only would I find millions of other people like me, but that my entire life would change more than I ever imagined," she says.

"And I've got a very big imagination."

In the beginning

Chloé was a bright child. Her mum Sarah remembers her reading encyclopedias in bed when other kids were still on picture books. She had a huge capacity for facts and a laser-sharp focus on certain subjects; Sharks, horses, dolphins and The Titanic (both the movie and the vessel) topped the list.

She was also less interested in playing with other kids than directing them, like dolls, in imaginary plays.

"There was a lot of really typical tick-box kind of autistic behaviours that I'm now well aware of," Sarah says.

"But, at the time, we just sort of put it down to 'Chloé's too smart to play'. As parents, you think your child is the smartest child in the world. So, we just said, 'Well, of course, she's a genius'."

Chloé's childhood photos show a sparkly, happy kid.()
“I had a massive vocabulary at a very, very young age,” Chloé says.()
Chloé was a bright child with a huge capacity for facts.()

Chloé remembers this time fondly. Her childhood photos show a sparkly, happy kid keen on tiaras and feather boas. But when she started school, everything changed.

"I had a massive vocabulary at a very, very young age," Chloé says. "I actually got detention quite a lot of times from my teachers for using words that I didn't understand. Most of the time the teacher didn't know what the word meant either."

School excursions were a nightmare: "I got in trouble at multiple museums for telling the museum creators that their exhibits were wrong. Again and again … at the age of like 4, 5, and still now."

There were also battles within the home. Sarah says Chloé wouldn't wear any clothing with a tag on it: "I had to cut off every single tag. I couldn't leave even a tiny bit of stitching. It would drive her insane. Even as a young baby, she'd be screaming and screaming until I could remove it properly."

She would only eat white, bland food with fewer than two ingredients. "If you added a third food to the equation, it wasn't going in my mouth," Chloé says. Making friends was another bridge too far. "I didn't have very good social cues. I would say things out of turn, I would say things out of place. I knew that my mind was wrong."

Then, at seven years old, Chloé was sexually abused by a family friend. "It was just horrendous, the darkest, most awful time of our life. And I think her life," Sarah says. "It took her about six weeks to actually come out and tell me what had happened."

The trauma, she says, made it even harder to recognise the early signs of autism.

The challenges of the schoolyard

Chloé eventually stopped speaking to everyone but her immediate family.

"Pretty much every single thing I did was a very tell-tale sign that I was autistic. But I guess it wasn't really known back then," she says. At the time there was a prevailing view that girls couldn't be autistic, that it was mainly a "boy thing". It's an idea that's been slow to change.

"Girls are fantastic at masking and mimicking," Sarah says. "That's certainly what Chloé was doing. They sit there and they watch and they work out what other people are doing and they start to do it. So, it's really like they're acting their whole life, whereas boys tend to be less inclined to do that."

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