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Bio – Lab 2021

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum, RespectAbility Senior Vice President, Communications and Entertainment & News Media and Lab Founder

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Lauren Appelbaum, Senior Vice President of Communications

Lauren Appelbaum (she/her) is the Senior Vice President, Communications and Entertainment & News Media, of RespectAbility, a diverse, disability-led nonprofit that works to create systemic change in how society views and values people with disabilities, and that advances policies and practices that empower disabled people to have a better future. 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, writers’ rooms, and news organizations 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 9Story Media Group, A&E, Bunim-Murray Productions, DreamWorks Animation, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Nickelodeon, ViacomCBS, The Walt Disney Company, and Warner Bros. Discovery, among others. She represents RespectAbility on the CAA Full Story Initiative Advisory CouncilDisney+ Content Advisory CouncilMTV Entertainment Group Culture Code and Sundance Institute’s Allied Organization Initiative.

Appelbaum also increases hiring initiatives of people with disabilities behind the camera and enriches the pool of disabled talent in Hollywood by connecting them to those who can assist with their careers, both on the creative and business sides of the industry. 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 JournalThe New York Times, RealScreenReutersTabletUSA Today, Variety, and The Washington Post. She has spoken on panels at the Association of Health Care Journalists Conference, ComNet, 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. She travels nationally, often to the Los Angeles area.

Contact Lauren Appelbaum

Reach Appelbaum at [email protected] or on Twitter @laurenappelbaum.

Tatiana Lee

Tatiana Lee, RespectAbility Senior Entertainment Media Associate

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Tatiana Lee, Inclusionist

Tatiana Lee is an award-winning actress, international model and Hollywood influencer. She serves as a Hollywood Inclusion Associate at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to fight stigmas and advance opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Growing up in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, Lee felt unseen in popular media – and when she told people of her ambitions to be an actress and model, they laughed.

Notwithstanding, Lee moved to Los Angeles to pursue her acting career. She learned how to harness social media’s power to speak boldly about accessibility and inclusion in mass media, due to the lack of access and opportunities for herself and others with disabilities.

She is the voice behind the Accessible Hollywood brand, which highlights her journey as an actress, model and lifestyle influencer born with Spina Bifida.

She quickly has become a sought-after speaker for brands like Apple, Bank of America, Human Rights Watch and the LA Film Festival, to name a few.

Lee was in one of Apple’s first ad campaigns featuring people with disabilities using Apple’s accessible features and products.  Some of Lee’s credits include “Stand Up,” which premieres at Superfest during fall 2020 and “Coffee with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.”

She also has appeared in modeling campaigns for Target, Zappos, Apple and more. She was the 2018 recipient of the Reeves Acting Scholarship from The Christopher & Dana Reeves Foundation for her contribution to further disability inclusion in film and media.

Currently working at RespectAbility, Lee consults on a variety of TV and film projects, conducts training for studios and production companies including NBCUniversal, Netflix and The Walt Disney Company, and assists with RespectAbility’s Lab for Entertainment Professionals with Disabilities.

In her spare time, Lee continues to train and grow momentum in her acting and modeling endeavors.

Vanni Le

Vanni Le, RespectAbility Entertainment Outreach Program Manager

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Vanni Le

Vanni Le is the first-ever Entertainment Outreach Program Manager at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. She focuses on fighting stigmas by ensuring authentic representations of people with disabilities in film and television. 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. [continue reading…]

Lesley Hennen

Lesley Hennen, RespectAbility Entertainment and News Media Associate

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Lesley Hennen, Entertainment and News Media Associate

Lesley Hennen (she/her) is the Entertainment and News Media Associate at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to fight stigmas and advance opportunities so people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community. Hennen brings a professional background in Communications and PR, as well as expertise in script consulting and independent film production to the team at RespectAbility, where she works with key players in the Entertainment and News Media industries to promote more authentic representations of people with disabilities on-screen, as well as more inclusive working environments for people with disabilities behind the camera. [continue reading…]

Nasreen Alkhateeb

Nasreen Alkhateeb, Senior Production Advisor

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, 2020, 2021, 2022

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Nasreen Alkhateeb

Nasreen Alkhateeb is an award-winning filmmaker whose work amplifies under-represented voices. By illuminating racial injustice, Disability inequity, marginalized youth, melting ice, women peacekeepers, and the construction of the largest telescope NASA has ever attempted, Nasreen thrives as a leader on diverse storytelling projects. Nasreen has a plethora of lenses she sees the world through. Her ability to motivate audiences is a direct result of being a person with multiple marginalized identities: BIPOC, multi-heritage, Black, Iraqi, Disabled, and 1st Generation.

In 2020, Nasreen was chosen as the Lead Cinematographer for Kamala Harris’ successful Vice Presidential campaign, and Oprah’s EMMY award series Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. In 2019, she executive produced East of the River that screened the Tribeca Film Festival and Slamdance, and she directed two campaigns for NASA and the Women’s March, in addition to lensing two narrative films highlighting LGBTQ and Disabled lead characters. In 2016, Nasreen was awarded Cinematographer of the Year by NASA for her coverage of Operation IceBridge.

Nasreen has participated in the SUNDANCE Film Festival and developed programing for AFI DOCS, the Nantucket Film Festival, the Brooklyn International Film Festival, CINE, TIVA, and the EMMYS.  She is a fellow of The Disruptors, a fellow of Sundance’s Accessible Futures Intensive, and a mentee of the American Society of Cinematographers.

Speaking engagements: Disney’s The Power of Inclusion Summit, TED, AwesomeCon, StoryCode, Filmgate Miami, Light City Baltimore, NASA Women in Action, Pratt at Manhattan Mornings, The George Washington University, WPOW at Ohio University, and Pratt Institute

Her content has been shared on: Apple+, OWN, NASA, Netflix, Amazon, FX, IFC, BBC, NPR, UNITED NATIONS, SXSW, AMC, Discovery, and WITNESS

Leah Romond

Leah Romond, Senior Production Advisor

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, 2020, 2021, and 2022

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Leah Romond

Leah Romond is an attorney, producer and advocate for full disability inclusion in film and television production.

Romond’s recent project, Best Summer Ever, is a feature-length original musical created entirely by an integrated cast and crew of talent with and without disabilities. The film was slated to begin its festival run with a SXSW 2020 World Premiere, and was awarded the SXSW Final Draft Screenwriters Award. While the festival run has been halted indefinitely due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Romond continues to work toward authentic disability representation in front of and behind the camera.

Kiah Amara

Kiah Amara, Lab Program Fellow

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2021

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Kiah Amara

Kiah Amara (they/them) is an NYC based consultant, production coordinator, and producer based in NYC. Kiah founded IndieVISIBLE Entertainment, a production company and artist collective, in 2018 to support representational stories from Disabled and other marginalized communities. Their consulting experience includes script consults for indie features, shorts, web series, and commercial projects, accessible deliverables like captions and audio description, production access, websites, and social media. Through IndieVISIBLE and RespectAbility, Kiah works as an educator and public speaker, advocating the need for authenticity and diversity in the media industry while providing resources for marginalized independent artists and production groups. Especially focused on intersectional Disabled Queer stories, they continue to push for production access coordinators and Disability Officers to be included on all productions and support any creative looking to uplift unheard voices. Kiah is a member of RespectAbility’s National Speaker’s Bureau and a Dance NYC Disability and Social Justice 2020 Fellow.

Kelley Cape

Kelley Cape, Lab Program Fellow
RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2021

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Kelley Cape

Kelley Cape (she/they) is an Entertainment Media Fellow with RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Spring 2021. RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities so that people with disabilities can fully participate in all aspects of community.

Cape has spent her professional and academic career galvanizing inclusive cultures everywhere she goes. From creating access to domestic independent agency, diverse STEM workforces and representation on Hollywood’s screens, to directing research studies that challenge ideas of ableism and promote intersectionality, her dedication and passion for DEI is the center. [continue reading…]

Krista Ramirez-Villatoro

Krista Ramirez-Villatoro, Lab Program Fellow

RespectAbility Entertainment Professionals Lab, Summer 2021

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Krista Ramirez-Villatoro

Krista Ramirez-Villatoro (she/her) is an Entertainment Media Fellow with RespectAbility’s National Leadership Program for Summer 2021. She is a recent graduate from the Cinema and Media Arts program at Biola University in Southern California. During her time at Biola University, Villatoro founded the Girls In Film Club (GIF) to create a space for female filmmakers to collaborate. Her undergraduate work consisted of documentary films of subjects ranging from disability advocacy to migrant refugees at the US/Mexico border. She is continuing her education this fall at the University of California Los Angeles, where she will be completing the Design and Media Arts program. Villatoro is looking forward to expanding into the world of virtual reality for her master’s program. She hopes to use this new medium to speak on the experiences of disabled individuals like herself.

Along with her work in film and art, Villatoro is a committed advocate for the inclusion of disability in sports. While completing her master’s program, Villatoro will be UCLA’s first adaptive athlete to compete at a collegiate level in wheelchair tennis. Villatoro understands the value of community programs that include disabled youth. Because of this, she is currently working with the Rocky Mountain Tennis Center in Boulder, CO to expand the curriculums to include wheelchair players.

In her free time, Villatoro can be found sit-skiing in Winter Park, Colorado

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