Anthony Miller has had more careers than most, but for him, it’s an example to others how failure can shape success
Antrim-born Anthony (43) recently recorded a TEDx Stormont Studio 2021 talk entitled Good Enough For Me and believes that even if you experience failure, you’ve tried.
“I think the world as it is at the moment, we’re coming out of a pandemic and going into a recession… We need people prepared to take risks, and there are so many talented people who are afraid to take another step because they failed once, and society has told them, ‘That’s it, you’re a failure now, there’s nothing else left,’ when these are probably the Richard Bransons of tomorrow so they’re to be encouraged.”
One look at his CV demonstrates that he has enjoyed a varied life — but it hasn’t been plain sailing. School was difficult — “if you didn’t fit the template, you were a misshapen reject” — but Anthony found solace and support attending a Protestant youth club.
“Where responsibility or trust would be taken from me in school, at youth club it was being given to me,” he explains.
“They trusted me, they believed in me.”
The one constant in his life was a belief that he could achieve whatever he set his mind to.
“I came from the sort of family, thankfully, that if I said to them tomorrow, I’m going to be the president of the United States of America they’d say, ‘Yeah, you’d be a good one,’” he laughs.
He began modelling and by age 21, was managing an agency. “And then I went, young, ambitious, too soon out on my own and it was a flop,” he says.
On moving to England to stay with his sister who was undertaking a nursing degree, his career turned to licensing, resulting in two venues in south London.
“For me, if I was going to be a street brusher, I was going to be the best street brusher. It was never about needing to be CEO of a world bank; whatever I was doing, I needed to do well within it,” he explains.
He spotted an opportunity with the launch of same-sex weddings and, along with a company director, became one-half of Ant & Dick, the wedding planners.
This led to him appearing on TV throughout the UK and Ireland with his first series on Sky’s Wedding TV distributed globally.
“I don’t know where that comes from, I’ve always had it,” he says of his get-up-and-go attitude.
“My earliest memory is being about five or six years of age, going up and down the street getting people’s empty Coke bottles to go and get the money back. I always had that thing in me, I always had to be at something.
“I was washing cars, running errands, whatever I could do to turn a shilling.”
Having lived through several upsetting incidents, including a petrol bomb attack on the family home, it was a significant loss that propelled Anthony into his next career. “Law was always an interest of mine. I always loved courtroom dramas or any TV shows about crime or courts,” he says.
“I remember watching, as you did in the Eighties, all those sorts of movies where they’d be graduating from Yale or an Ivy League university.
“It was always one of those unmet ambitions... I thought because of my school background, I’ve never gone to university, I’m certainly not going to law school.”
Shortly after the death of his four-year-old nephew, Anthony met a friend who, when he said his biggest regret was how his education had played out, suggested he apply to study law.
He did, and offers arrived.
“It was a light in the dark at the time,” he says. “It was a boost that I needed. And it was a challenge that I needed as well. Sometimes in life, you know you’re not done but you don’t know what you can do, and you need a change, and you don’t know where it’s going to come from.”
Given his knowledge of the Civil Partnership Bill thanks to his wedding role, Anthony did not have to undertake a foundation year, and started on the first day of the degree “same as everybody else”.
“They all knew how to do academia. My last exam was the Eleven Plus and I failed it,” he laughs.
In his first year, he won the mooting competition, beating first- to third-year and postgraduate students.
“That was me hooked,” he says of the competition. “I knew that the academia I could pick up on but the lawyer skill, I had it, it was there.”
He later graduated with a first and was also awarded a Lord Denning scholarship award.
“I think it was probably the first time I was able to stand in my own skin without trying to be anybody else.
“I didn’t have anybody else’s standards to meet, I met my own. I had a piece of paper that said I had met my own as well.
“Some of my family flew over for the graduation, and I remember just standing waiting for my little turn to go across the stage, and it was as if time had just stopped. It’s a calmness, it’s not a pride, it’s a calm feeling of being good enough for yourself.”
Anthony is now one exam off qualifying as a barrister.
“I’m hoping to get that all finished by April. I’m working as a university lecturer teaching law and I’m also currently on a course for qualifying as an accredited civil and commercial mediator, so they all feed into each other.”
In his TEDx talk, he opted to unveil the failures behind his successes, to encourage others not to feel defeated if things don’t go according to plan. He is inviting the public to join him in a movement #goodenoughforme.
“Some people go backpacking around the world, this is my equivalent of that,” he says of his career.
“I’m in my mid-40s, it’s not something I ever would have imagined doing but I’m just loving it. I’m lucky, I think very lucky, to be doing it.”
He’s also keen to promote others wherever possible.
“Having come through university and being a university lecturer, I get to see so many backgrounds. Some of the stories would break your heart.
“I’m massively passionate about social mobility. We hear that everybody has an equal opportunity, we do, but we don’t have an equitable opportunity, so we can all apply, we can all get our numbers counted, but we’re not all on the same level playing field. We all have circumstances that are different.
“My passion and the message I want to get out there to those people is that you are good enough, take whatever help is going to prove it.
“It’s got to be good enough for you, what is your standard?”
The future is looking rosy for Anthony, who has recently signed with a new TV agent and is a columnist for queerforty.com, a global magazine for gay people over 40.
“Life’s a box of chocolates as Forrest Gump says and I’m quite greedy,” he laughs.
But it’s a box of chocolates with only your favourite treats, we say.
“Yes, no coffee creams.”