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Bio – Lab

Lauren Appelbaum

Lauren Appelbaum, Lab Director and RespectAbility Vice President, Communications 

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Lauren Appelbaum, Vice President of Communications

Lauren Appelbaum is the Vice President, Communications, at 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 writes about the intersection of disability, employment, Hollywood and politics. From entertainment professionals to presidential campaigns, journalists to philanthropists, she conducts trainings on the why and how to be more inclusive and accessible.

Appelbaum provides tools, trainings and contacts to support creative and business executives at major production companies and studios to improve the number and quality of authentic, diverse and inclusive representation of people with disabilities on screen. She and her team have consulted on projects with A&E, Amazon Studios, Bunim-Murray Productions, NBCUniversal, Netflix and The Walt Disney Company, among others. She 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. Appelbaum 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.

Focusing on employment best practices, she is the talent behind #RespectTheAbility campaign, which highlights model employers that demonstrate how hiring workers with disabilities benefits the employer, the employee and society. The campaign’s goal is to erase negative and untrue stigmas associated with hiring people with disabilities.

She also supervises several Fellows through RespectAbility’s Fellowship Program. Her Fellows ultimately want to go into careers in journalism, public relations, political communications or the entertainment industry.

Outside of work, Appelbaum is active in community theater. She has served in a variety of behind-the-scenes roles for more than a dozen musicals and plays. Having organized volunteer ASL interpreters and coordinated ADA seating at performances, as well as directing a nonverbal actor with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair, she understands first-hand the importance of inclusion of both performers and others with disabilities.

Appelbaum has been quoted in many articles by national publications including Associated PressIndieWire, The Los Angeles Jewish Journal, RealScreenTabletUSA Today and Variety. She has spoken on panels at the RealScreen Summit, New England Newspaper and Press Association Conference, Association of Health Care Journalists Conference, and ComNet, 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 then served as a digital researcher with the NBC News political unit for the 2006 midterm and 2008 presidential elections. Appelbaum currently lives in Maryland with her husband, daughter and dog.

Contact Lauren Appelbaum

Reach Appelbaum at LaurenA@RespectAbility.org or on Twitter @laurenappelbaum.

Tatiana Lee

Tatiana Lee, Lab Program Associate and RespectAbility Hollywood Inclusion Associate

Photo of Tatiana Lee

Tatiana Lee, Inclusionist

Tatiana Lee is a Hollywood Inclusion Associate at RespectAbility, a nonprofit organization fighting stigmas and advancing opportunities for and with people with disabilities. She was a Communications Fellow in Spring 2019, participating in the leadership program to gain better knowledge and skills to be a more effective advocate in Hollywood for disability inclusion. Now, she helps represent RespectAbility in Hollywood. Like RespectAbility, Lee has dedicated her life to fighting for inclusion of people with disabilities in all aspects of mass media. 

Growing up in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, Lee felt invisible to the rest of society because she did not see anyone that looked like her in popular media. Lee majored in Business Marketing with the help of online college courses while managing her major health issues. Lee wanted to learn how to market herself as a brand because people laughed at her when she told them she wanted to act and model.

So Lee moved to Los Angeles to pursue her acting further and vowed to be the change she wanted to see. She quickly realized that wheelchair accessibility was a major barrier for her and wanted to shed insight on her perspective.

Lee learned to harness the power of social media to speak boldly about accessibility and inclusion in mass media. She became the voice behind Accessible Hollywood,where she highlighted her journey as an actress, model and lifestyle influencer born with Spina Bifida. Lee was in one of Apples first ad campaigns featuring people with disabilities using Apples accessible features and products.

Lee has appeared in several short films, including the 2018 Disability Film Challenge Best Awareness Film Footlooseand Coffee with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.She also has appeared in modeling campaigns such as #PerfectFigure for Parfait Lingerie. Lee currently is undertaking speaking engagements, panels and attending Upright Citizens Brigade Improv Theater as a 3x Diversity Scholarship recipient. She is the 2018 recipient of the Reeves Acting Scholarship from The Christopher & Dana Reeves Foundation, which she accepted at the Media Access Awards.

Lee loves living in the heart of Los Angeles for the ease of getting to auditions, and it is where a lot of the magic of Hollywood happens. Lee loves being in the middle of the Hollywood vibe. Her goal in Hollywood is to star in her own major film, snag the cover of a major magazine and to eventually write and direct her own projects. Most of all, she wants to shift societys narrative of what it means to be a woman of color with a disability and make sure that all people with disabilities have a chance to steer their own narrative of disability in mass media.

Lee loves beauty, fashion, fitness and attending and hosting events with her peers. When Lee is not acting, modeling or fighting for inclusion, she is taking boxing classes, doing yoga and cooking a fun meal with her family that she is close with.

Bryan Munguia

RespectAbility’s Hollywood Inclusion Fellow and Summer Lab Program Intern

RespectAbility fellow Bryan Munguia smiling in front of the RespectAbility banner

Bryan Munguia

Bryan Munguia first joined RespectAbility as a Communications and Diversity in Film & Television Fellow in the National Leadership Program at Respectability in Spring 2018. Now, he is a rising senior in college pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communication at Pepperdine University. Being a son of Mexican immigrants and a first-generation college student, he has become deeply invested in the variety of issues that minorities face in our society.

As a child growing up in Simi Valley, California, which is only a highly congested freeway ride to the hub of Los Angeles, he became passionate about professional acting and went through cycles of extensive acting workshops and talent agencies. Like many other LA rookie actors, the industry was simply not opening the door for him when it came to work.

Munguia’s passion for the entertainment industry then shifted to behind the camera in the business sector, and he soon started interning for a local talent agency that represented a variety of professional talent. This was the first internship that provided a hands-on experience in the casting process of television and film projects. He soon realized that the industry was not as glamorous as he thought because he had a closer look at the alarming lack of diversity that exists in the entertainment industry.

Leaving that internship, Munguia knew from that day forth that he would invest his own energy and time into changing Hollywood and bringing in the necessary diversity that can break many negative stereotypes in society. He hopes to achieve Hollywood diversity by effectively communicating with entertainment leaders and creating an inclusive working environment for talented minorities with disabilities.

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info@respectability.org

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