National Leadership Program, 2022
Isabella Vargas was an Entertainment and News Media Fellow in RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Spring and Fall 2022, and is now working as the Entertainment Media Program Coordinator. 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 neurological disabilities, she crafted video pieces that captured the difficulties of being disabled in Latinx spaces. Her short 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 worked in the production department. 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.
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 projects that focus on the immigrant diaspora and its relationship to trauma and the politics of care.
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RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. Learn more about the National Leadership Program and apply for the next cohort! Contact BenS@RespectAbility.org for more information.