Demi Stokes: My life in six pictures - by Man City and England defender

Demi Stokes

Manchester City and England defender Demi Stokes has 56 international caps and has been playing for City for six years, winning three FA Cups and a Women's Super League title with the club. She talks us through her life in six pictures.

Fish and chips are the best in South Shields

South Shields
Stokes was born in Birmingham but her family moved to South Shields when she was three

My upbringing was quite interesting as we were the only mixed-race family on the estate we lived on. But I have good memories of South Shields, especially in the summer because of the beach.

I used to get my backpack, knock on the boys' doors and go and play football down at the beach. We'd get a supermarket trolley and put the goal posts on it to carry them down to the beach because they were too heavy. And we'd get snacks and play all day until nine o'clock at night.

I basically spent all my summers outside, at the beach playing football. I'd be like: "Mum, can I have a pound?" And we'd all chip in for a portable barbecue and cook food on it. I do miss that now that I'm in Manchester.

I knew nothing about Vancouver before I moved there

Demi Stokes kayaking in Canada
In 2012, Stokes moved to Canada and played for the Vancouver Whitecaps

I assumed Canada was just cold everywhere - I didn't know much about it. But playing and living there was such a good time in terms of the football, and also the social side of it. We always did things together as a team.

Although it looks like I might be having a great time in this photo, I actually wasn't.

We were kayaking. Me and a girl called MK, because we were so competitive, were like "let's kayak as far as we can go."

Obviously if you kayak two hours out, you have to kayak two hours back. We got to a point where we realised we had no snacks - nothing. We were so far out and then we started bickering because we were both 'hangry' and realised we had to go back for two hours.

We didn't speak for the whole two hours because we were both so tired. We had also done upper-body training that day as well so our arms were killing. I laugh about it now!

Don't let your struggle become your identity

Demi Stokes
Stokes says all her tattoos are meaningful

I have a few tattoos.

The one on my quad says: "Don't let your struggle become your identity." I thought that was very fitting and something that I like. And I've got the Florida palm trees because I was playing there for four years of my life. I just thought it was a really good experience and it offered me a lot.

The one on my calf is my nan's initials and her date of birth. I also have lilies because my nan loved lilies, and a quote saying "I made it through the rain", which was played at her funeral - it's a Barry Manilow song. I have that because I think life can be a storm.

I was really close with my nan - her and my mum pretty much brought me up. My nan sacrificed a lot for me and my brothers and sisters to give us a better life and we were really close. She was the best.

I proposed to my partner in lockdown

Demi Stokes and her partner
Stokes enjoys playing pranks on her partner, Katie

I bought the ring - and how people buy rings and wait months is beyond me - on a Monday and I was going to propose the following Sunday, but I didn't sleep the whole week because I was so excited. Katie asked why I wasn't sleeping and if I was OK, and I was like: "Everything's fine!"

I waited to do it until I was off the next day because we're always here, there and everywhere.

I opened the door and she was like: "Why have you got a full outfit on?" I said I had just been on a walk. She was like: "What, in that outfit?!" It was quite funny - she was asking lots of questions.

I think we try and complicate those things but she always says she loves our house and garden, so I just did it in the garden.

How it started...

Football team
Stokes says her teacher, Mr Williamson, was a key part of her footballing career growing up

I always wanted to be a footballer. My primary school teacher Ian Williamson put me down for trials for Sunderland. I think I was seven or eight years old at the time so that was my first exposure to being in a team. I've always made sure we stayed in touch and he came to France for the World Cup.

He was always someone that believed in me. He made me captain of the boys' team and he was just really supportive. My mum was a single parent, so having that male figure there was quite good for me. He even used to watch all my games in the freezing cold when I was younger.

If I've ever had decisions that I wanted to make, he's someone I will ring and ask his opinion because he's been on the journey with me. He's somebody I would probably call family.

..and how it's going

Demi Stokes
Stokes has been playing for Manchester City since 2015

Sometimes you do have to sit back and think: "Look what you've done."

Jordan Nobbs was the first one of my friends to go professional. Seeing your friends do it makes you think you can do it. One night when we were younger, me and Jordan stayed up really late talking on MSN about how we were going to go to the United States and become professional footballers. So I think it's quite cool that we're all still friends.

I used to love Rachel Yankey because I looked like her. I wanted to be like her and play like her. Now I just see myself as Demi, but I might inspire five more girls myself and I think that's important.

It's good to reflect and think that as a young girl I dreamed of something and I've reached it - and now I can help other girls get there. It's incredible that I'm able to do this job because I love it and there aren't many people who get to do that.

  • SEASON zineexternal-link is producing a series in collaboration with BBC Sport celebrating some of women's football's biggest names. This edition was produced by Naomi Accardi, Olivia Portas and Miriam Walker-Khan.
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