I have faced discrimination and stumbled upon many prejudgments in the world I have been surrounded in, especially as a model and host in a wheelchair, primarily centered on beauty and good looks and often times made feel like I am simply not good enough… But I’m using these negative experiences for something positive because I don’t want other young people to have to face this…
Sure, the fashion and entertainment industry can be quite superficial, and disAbility isn’t often seen and it has been really difficult for me when people haven’t even given me a chance to show my talent, simply because of their prejudgments and limitations they are imposing on me. “If I don’t limit myself, don’t limit me, just because I have to go around in life in a wheelchair” is what I want to tell them! In this day in age, it has blown my mind to see that sadly this IS happening. But at the same time, this means more because it isn’t easy, this is making me stronger, I have thicker skin now after all I’ve gone through, after all the rejections.
For me life is no longer about being an inspiration or that I’m recognized for my story… (although having the opportunity to be of inspiration or motivation to people is something I cherish) but I want to be known for my talent and I want for people to give me a chance, to hire me. And so many of us, that’s what we want, to not be defined by our disability, much less limited and just be part of society, integrated and hired for different positions that we’re very capable of performing.
I was down one day and feeling frustrated after I was discriminated upon a few times very close to each other, and then thought of a young girl, an 18 year old, talented and driven, but who might just want to give up, like me at times, if not given the right chance to even show her talent. I thought of that and just said, I don’t want young people ahead of me who have what it takes to shine, and have to go through this, to not be given equal opportunities only because of their abilities, only because of their physical condition or because they happen to need a wheelchair to get around… This is not okay. I have to do something to try to change that! Which is why I am creating the Campaign, “See me for my talent.” For people to say, “see me for my talent, not my wheels or any visible ‘limitations’ you might see.” This is not about me. I want people to take a stance for their own talent and/or for people to support this effort because we cannot be discriminating because of someone’s physical abilities. But people need to hear about this, know this is even happening! The creation of this campaign is to advocate for a community that is often disregarded, but also for anyone who isn’t given a chance or taken seriously as a professional only because he or she may be different.
We have to give people a chance. It’s not about someone doing us, people with disabilities, a favor by hiring us or incorporating us in a team or organization. It’s about seeing the different talents we ALL have and incorporating those with an open mind. We need more REAL INCLUSION. Inclusion for me is NOT just sharing stories of people with different abilities on tv or magazines here and there (although all that awareness and exposure is indeed very important!) but it takes far more than that, it takes creating real opportunities, jobs, etc.
I want to challenge anybody who is reading this to yes, be more open minded, but also be open to diversity, in all of its forms and, change, make a proactive change that shows you support this, that you get it. If you are in fashion, then not just “include” but hire models that are different, in wheelchairs, with walking aids, plus size, transgender, you name it all of the above!
People with “disAbilities” are not and should not be just used as charity. If you are a producer, make more roles that can include people with different abilities or just be open to an actor in a wheelchair taking a role that wasn’t perhaps designed for a wheelchair user, but just think “why not?” And give that person the chance to prove his or herself. In general, for any employer out there, be open to what someone with a “physical limitation” or difference can do.
Don’t disregard us or pass us because you never know what we are capable of doing, until you’re willing to see. But that’s why you have to see us for our talent, not limit us by our wheels etc. You might just be surprised. If we show up to the audition, the job interview etc, I think that’s pretty telling of how serious we are and that we believe in our potential. So if we do, why shouldn’t you?
Why do any of this? Because we exist, we are all part of society and the more we see this everywhere on runways, in ads, on TV, public service jobs, etc, the more representative of this world we become, the more people you will impact in a profound way, I guarantee that.
If you would like to be part of this campaign please contact me, send me your info, from whatever industry you’re in and what change you’re willing to make. We are all and should be more equal. We all can improve; we all can become more inclusive, more diverse.
Please, I am looking for sponsors to get this campaign and its message out there. The goal is to break stereotypes, sure but even more, to inspire change in people and organizations that can create real opportunities for many of us who’ve struggled in finding those. Please let me know if you are interested in becoming a sponsor for this campaign.
But we also need for people to just hear about this, to know this is happening, so I ask for everyone to please share this!
I hope I can pave the way for others. I hope people become less judgmental and more open minded. I hope people can see people who are different, people who might have a disability, a different ability (as I see it) for who we are, for our talent, and give us a chance to show how talented we are despite going around on two wheels or despite any physical “limitations” we might have. You might be surprised about how strong we are and that our limitations don’t limit us, but instead just means we can highlight other abilities. That’s all! Be the change you want to see! #betheuplift #bethechange #empowerothers #helpothers #seemeformytalent #notmywheels #mywheelsdontstopme #belimitless #limitless #beunstoppable #showtheworldwhatyougot #youaretalented #differentispowerful #differentisbeautiful #embraceyourdifferences #ownyourpower #innerbeauty