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Isabella Vargas

Entertainment Media and Lab Apprentice

Isabella Vargas smiling headshot

Isabella Vargas

Isabella Vargas is an Entertainment and News Media Apprentice in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Spring 2022. RespectAbility is a national nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Vargas is a filmmaker and community organizer who grew up chronically ill in the Hispanic heart of South Florida. Chronic illness was her perfect excuse to devour every movie and book she could possibly find.

A first-generation graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Vargas earned a Bachelor’s degree in filmmaking. During her time at Sarah Lawrence, Vargas’s main interest was celebrating underrepresented experiences. In her sophomore year, she worked on a documentary on indigenous youth in Chiapas, Mexico. And, when coming to terms with newfound epilepsy, she crafted video pieces that captured the difficulties of being disabled in Latinx spaces. Her student films have screened in festivals across the country.

Straight after college, she dived into every niche of the film industry – from development to production. She tends to boast about getting a first look at some of Late-Night host Samantha Bee’s jokes when she was once a Production intern. Soon after, Vargas became interested in the intersection of media and activism. She was recently a 2020 artist resident at UnionDocs in Brooklyn, New York, while acting as a community organizer for different NYC organizations, such as Veggie Mijas.

While she immensely enjoyed these experiences, Vargas felt the need to further explore disability advocacy. Caring deeply about her intersecting communities ultimately led her to RespectAbility. After feeling excluded in media and activist spaces, Vargas is excited to share space with folks who share similar passions. Her ultimate goal is to be a disability advocate in the media space while also cultivating the tools necessary to craft compelling stories about people who identify as disabled and as BIPOC.

When not overanalyzing films, Vargas is an avid video artist, specializing in hand-drawn animation, a comic book collector, and a plant lover with a bad green thumb. In her free time, she enjoys writing and directing short films that focus on the immigrant diaspora and its relationship to trauma and the politics of care.

Meet the Author

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the VP, Communications and Entertainment & News Media, of RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so all people with disabilities can fully participate in every aspect of community. As an individual with an acquired nonvisible disability – Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy – she works at the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. She regularly conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible for entertainment executives throughout the industry. Appelbaum partners with studios, production companies and writers’ rooms to create equitable and accessible opportunities to increase the number of people with lived disability experience throughout the overall story-telling process. These initiatives increase diverse and authentic representation of disabled people on screen, leading to systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities. She has consulted on more than 100 TV episodes and films with A&E, Bunim-Murray Productions, NBCUniversal, Netflix, ViacomCBS, and The Walt Disney Company, among others. She represents RespectAbility on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory Council, Disney+ Content Advisory Council, MTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative. She is the author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit and the creator of an innovative Lab Program for entertainment professionals with disabilities working in development, production and post-production. She is a recipient of the 2020 Roddenberry Foundation Impact Award for this Lab. To reach her, email [email protected]

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