When I was first born, my parents were in shock. They had never seen a little person before and didn’t know if I was going to live a “normal” life. I was born as the first little person in my family’s history. Even though there are only 30,000 little people in the United States, 80% are born to average height parents. Believe it or not, even though I’m 4’1″, my father is 6’4″. Everyday, for 28 years, my family has empowered me and I’ve empowered them by proving that I’m capable of anything. During my early childhood and adolescence I underwent eight major surgeries, primarily to correct bone abnormalities, which come along with achondroplasia dwarfism. The most difficult surgery, at age 15, was called a laminectomy, which required a neurosurgeon to remove bone from seven vertebrae. This was necessary due to a constriction of my spinal cord, causing me to lose my ability to walk. The surgery was a success and I regained full sensation in my legs. Though I missed 29 days of my sophomore year, I completed the year on time and with honors. I continued on to graduate from high school with my class, also with honors. I then went on to attend Providence College, in Rhode Island. I majored in marketing and took part in several internships in the entertainment industry.
Following college, I moved from Boston to Los Angeles. My motives for moving to Los Angeles had to do with my determination to find a way to change the way little people and all people with disabilities are perceived in the media, since that ultimately influences the opinions of society as a whole. I thought that I had a job secured when I first moved out to Los Angeles, but it fell through when I arrived. Right away, I reached out to several Providence College alumni, made cold calls around town and sent out both letters and e-mails to express my strong desire to work in the entertainment industry. I went on 100 interviews, two temporary job assignments, and then, six months later, landed a temporary to hire position at Creative Artists Agency. I was a temporary employee for seven months and then continued my path as a permanent employee. I learned so much about working in the entertainment industry. In the chaotic agency environment, I had to empower my bosses to believe that I was going to work just as hard, if not harder, than anyone else and could get the required tasks done each day. Five years later, I was looking for change and landed a job in casting here at CBS.
Most people who I come across in my everyday life have never seen a little person before meeting me. As a result of modern day reality television shows, which include little people, and the rising fame of Peter Dinklage on HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” little people are becoming more apparent. This proves that the media creates awareness of and broadens people’s perspectives towards a little person’s abilities. Every time I meet a person who has never met another little person before, I feel that it’s my responsibility to educate them. Hopefully, this leads to them educating others. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case since little people are often still the butt of a joke. I do enjoy educating people about my disability and would never be insulted by a question asked. I don’t ever want people to feel bad for me, however I want to make life easier for the next generation. Just because someone looks different, it doesn’t mean that they should be treated differently. Everyone deserves a chance.
While working here at CBS, I’ve realized that it’s important to surround myself with people who believe in me. Both inside and outside of the entertainment industry, I’ve surrounded myself with people who share similar experiences and passions. If more people believe, then more positive changes can be made. As a strong advocate for people with disabilities, I constantly have to prove to others that even though people with disabilities may do things differently, they’re capable of doing anything that anyone else can do. I find that many people with physical differences seem to relate to each other well, as they understand what it’s like to have to overcome other people’s preconceived notions of their capabilities. Often, the average person can’t fathom the thought of overcoming their fears and asking a simple question that will most likely have an answer that could put them at ease. More people are affected by disability than anyone seems to understand.
As difficult it is for us to acknowledge, disability is one category that anyone can become a part of at any point in his or her life. With baby boomers and returning war veterans, nearly 25% of the current U.S. population is disabled. Life doesn’t end with disability. Perseverance is key. Just believe that anything is possible for any type of person who sets their mind to it and works hard toward it.