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Bio – Entertainment Media Consulting Team

Cheyenne Leonard

RespectAbility’s Entertainment Media Consulting Team

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Cheyenne Leonard

Cheyenne Leonard is a life-long wheelchair user and has consistently worked to amplify the voices of underrepresented groups and improve disability representation. From ages 6 to 18, Cheyenne was a Jr. Paralympic track athlete and changed laws in her school district to allow for disabled students to be on their high school track teams. She also represented the U.S. in the 2013 iWAS competition in Puerto Rico. In 2014, Cheyenne worked with Nevada Legal Services to assess discrimination against disabled people in the housing market. She has also consulted on and advocated for accessibility and disability representation in the media both in front of and behind the camera. Some examples of companies Cheyenne has consulted for include Zappos, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and Breakthrough Inc. As a fellow of the inaugural Women’s eNews Loreen Arbus “Accessibility is Fundamental” fellowship, she writes articles on issues affecting the disability community, such as employment, city inaccessibility, and media representation. Cheyenne is a second-year graduate student at New York University getting her master’s degree in Media, Culture, and Communication. A lot of her graduate school work has included disability, such as presenting a paper on disability and media representation at the 2020 New York State Communication Association conference and serving on panels and committees on disability at NYU. Cheyenne’s thesis is an analysis of disability representation in film across genres, which won her the Barbara Haum award from her department.

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Colin Buckingham

RespectAbility’s Entertainment Media Consulting Team

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Colin Buckingham

Colin Buckingham is a Writer, Actor, and Producer based in Brooklyn, NY. He got his start in writing by choreographing action and stunt coordinating on multiple plays, indie films and webseries. His first short film he wrote, choreographed, produced and acted in is currently in post production. He was a disability and dwarfism consultant for “Tomorrow’s Today” and another project to be announced. As a writer he is mostly self taught, but has taken occasional playwriting and screenwriting courses.

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Diana Romero

RespectAbility’s Entertainment Media Consulting Team

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Diana Romero

Diana Romero has worked in the film/TV industry for over 10 years and has won awards for her films and scripts. Diana worked in development at Lionsgate and Spyglass Entertainment at the start of her career. Additionally, Diana provided script consultation and coaching services via her own company as well as Scriptapalooza and Screenplaycoverage.com. Currently, Diana is staffed on the series 4400, a sci-fi show that will premiere fall 2021.

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Natalie Trevonne-Gross

RespectAbility’s Entertainment Media Consulting Team

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Natalie Trevonne-Gross

Natalie Trevonne is an Actress, Model, Dancer and Fashion & Entertainment Accessibility Consultant. She’s currently working with brands, companies and organizations to make sure that people of all abilities can access things independently. Natalie uses her relationship to both the fashion and entertainment industry as a platform to speak out for more representation of people from historically marginalized groups. She currently serves as the creative director and a cohost for the Fashionably Tardy podcast. Fashionably tardy bridges the gap between the disability community and the fashion industry by telling the amazing stories of some dope fashion creatives killing it in the industry today!

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Delbert Whetter

RespectAbility’s Entertainment Media Consulting Team

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Delbert Whetter

Delbert Whetter is deaf, from a multi-generational deaf family, and has attended both deaf schools and hearing schools and universities throughout his life. He possesses native fluency in both American Sign Language (ASL) and English.

Whetter is the Chief Operating Officer and Head of Business Affairs for Exodus Film Group. He has served as the lead business affairs executive for numerous entertainment and digital content providers for nearly two decades. Delbert has negotiated talent and production agreements including acquisition, development, and film financing arrangements, and licenses of intellectual properties. He has worked on Exodus animated features, IGOR, The Hero of Color City, and Bunyan & Babe, receiving Co-Executive Producer credit on Exodus’ two recent films. Delbert earned his law degree from the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., and his MBA from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management. [continue reading…]

Alexandra Dean Grossi

RespectAbility’s Entertainment Media Consulting Team

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Alexandra Dean Grossi

Alexandra Dean Grossi is a writer, designer and disability activist. Her work incorporates a multi-dimensional approach to inclusivity and accessibility, which utilizes storytelling, emphasizes user empowerment and seeks real-world solutions through Inclusive Design. Grossi began her writing career under the tutelage of television NYPD Blue creator David Milch on HBO’s Deadwood and John From Cincinnati. [continue reading…]

Lachi

RespectAbility’s Entertainment Media Consulting Team

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Lachi
Photo courtesy of Rick Guidotti, Positive Exposure 109

Lachi is a award nominated recording artist, award winning independent film director, writer and actress who’s released numerous music productions with major artists and labels from SONY to Warner Music. Lachi has consulted and held talks and webinars on disability inclusion with several music/entertainment related projects, including the Recording Academy, Folk Alliance, Women In Music and others.

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Shireen Alihaji

RespectAbility’s Entertainment Media Consulting Team

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Shireen Alihaji

Shireen Alihaji is a poet/filmmaker from Los Angeles covering stories on labor rights, environmental justice, hate crimes, trafficking, sexual violence, capital punishment, health care equity, immigration and accessibility for people with disabilities. Her revolving identities (Latinx, Iranian, Muslim Disabled) inspire her to hold space for intersections and advocate for all. She believes that in a society that systematically demolishes concepts of home including; people, land and histories, it is radical to tell stories. Our histories have survived through memory. When we remember we correct our displacement. Film is a way we reclaim narratives and restore truth if we collectively choose to remember.

After supporting writing/directing initiatives for major film studios, she transitioned into community scale media organizing and co-founded an LA-based media cooperative that supports the restoration of voices through story sharing and education. She is in development with her film Blue Veil which has was chosen by the Black List X Muslim List.

In her free time, she volunteers as a videographer for the Women’s Mosque of America and teaches filmmaking workshops for youth. Her work has been featured in Muslimgirl.com, LA Times, KCET and Frontline, the University of Michigan and she has presented at Columbia University through The Muslim Protagonist. You can learn more about her atwww.shireenalihaji.com.
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Vanni Le

RespectAbility’s Entertainment Media Consulting Team

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Vanni Le

Vanni Le is the first-ever Entertainment Outreach Program Manager at RespectAbility. Le brings brand strategy and program management experience from both the entertainment and nonprofit fields, having previously worked at the Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, March of Dimes, and most recently A+E Networks.

Le strives to effect social change and champion diversity and inclusion in industries with underrepresented communities. Her passion for diverse representation in media (and lack thereof) is her drive for pursuing a career in entertainment. As someone with low vision and a recent diagnosis of ADHD that was previously misdiagnosed as mild anxiety disorders, she also recognizes the importance of authentic portrayals of disabilities and general mental health in media. At RespectAbility, Le oversees the day-to-day operations of the Entertainment and News Media team and consults on projects for major studios and networks such as Disney, Sony, and Netflix.

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Lauren Appelbaum

RespectAbility’s Entertainment Media Consulting Team

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Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum is the VP, Communications, of the disability advancement nonprofit RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects 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.

Appelbaum is a sought-after expert and has been quoted by many national publications including Associated PressDeadlineThe Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, The Los Angeles Jewish Journal, The New York Times, RealScreenReuters, TabletUSA Today, Variety and The Washington Post. She has spoken on panels at the RealScreen Summit, Sundance Film Festival and SXSW, among others.

Born and raised in the Philadelphia area, Appelbaum has a master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from Syracuse University; she also has undergraduate degrees from Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. She serves on several national and local nonprofit boards. Appelbaum currently lives in Maryland with her husband, daughter and dog.

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