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Salma Hayek, Role Model for Latina Women with Disabilities

Salma Hayek wearing a black tank smiling for the camera

Salma Hayek

Rockville, Md., Oct 15 – Actress and producer Salma Hayek Jiménez has embraced her disability – dyslexia – from a very young age. Born in Mexico, Hayek was sent to a Catholic boarding school in New Orleans at the age of 12 where she was quickly expelled for setting all of the nun’s clocks back three hours.

“I’m very lucky I didn’t have it easy, because I’ve learned so much from having to figure out everything on my own and create things for myself,” said Hayek. “Now I can teach what I’ve learned to the next generation.”

After boarding school, Hayek spent time at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City; however, she quit to pursue her acting career and left Mexico for Hollywood.

“I came here and I didn’t speak English, I didn’t have a green card, I didn’t know I had to have an agent, I couldn’t drive, I was dyslexic,” she said in an interview with Oprah.

But Hayek did not let any of that stop her. She adjusted. Reading scripts more slowly due to her dyslexia and working on her memorization skills so she would only have to read the lines once, she landed parts in major films such as Fools Rush In and Will Smith’s Wild Wild West.

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Selena Gomez Serves as Role Model for Young Women with Disabilities

Selena Gomez wearing a black dress, smiling broadly

Selena Gomez

Rockville, Md., Oct. 15 – Two years ago, pop star and actress Selena Gomez strutted onto Ellen DeGeneres stage wearing a black floor-length dress and heels. Her hair was slicked back and wavy. Her face held a look of intention. She sat with both a stiff back and smile and told Ellen and the world what it is like to live with Lupus.

“It is an autoimmune disease; I will have it forever and you just have to take care of yourself,” Gomez told Ellen and the audience. “I can relate to people.”

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack itself, unable to differentiate between its own healthy tissue and invaders. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, 1.5 million people have Lupus in America and five million have it worldwide.

Since her diagnosis, Gomez now 25, has prioritized her wellbeing but also has continued advancing her career. Studies show many people within the Latino and other communities hide their invisible disability due to negative stigmas, but Gomez has chosen to use her expansive platform to educate the world and invite people to engage with and learn about disabilities. It is because of this, that she is the perfect candidate for RespectAbility’s #RespectTheAbility campaign, which is highlighting individuals with disabilities who are extremely successful in their chosen career.

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Fast and Furious Actress Michelle Rodriguez Cites ADD as Motivation for Success

Michelle Rodriguez looking fierce

Michelle Rodriguez on set of Fast and Furious

Rockville, Md., Oct. 15 – Known for her sexy and confident female roles in Lost and Fast and Furious, Michelle Rodriguez, a Hispanic actress, now has set her eyes on writing and directing movies.

“I want to write and direct, but it’s not easy with ADD. I have a hard time focusing when I’m alone. I’m a scatterbrain, but I’m nervous of taking medication, I don’t really want to depend on anything to control my brain,” Rodriguez said in an interview with World Entertainment News Network (WENN).

She was born in Texas to Dominican mother Carmen Milady Rodriquez and Puerto Rican father Rafael Rodriquez, but moved to the Dominican Republic to be raised by her mother at the age of eight. She was partly raised by her maternal grandmother. However, at the age of 11, she moved to Puerto Rico with her mother.

Rodriguez has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), which led her to being expelled from five schools. She dropped out of high school but earned her GED privately. At the age of 17, she moved back to the U.S., where she resided in New Jersey. She attended business school but would leave for short periods of time to pursue acting as a career.

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Jeison Aristizábal—CNN Hero of the Year 2016 and Nonprofit Founder with Cerebral Palsy

Rockville, Md., Oct. 15 – Jeison Aristizábal was born in one of the most impoverished areas in Cali, Colombia. Now he runs a nonprofit to provide educational and medical support for kids who live in the same conditions that he grew up in.

Aristizábal was diagnosed with cerebral palsy shortly after he was born and doctors said he would not amount to anything more than a shoe shiner. Children in school would call him hurtful nicknames like “torcido,” which translates to “twisted,” referring to how his body moved.

“My son has to succeed and I always told him that ‘you have to make yourself valued for your abilities, you are so worthy,'” Aristizábal’s mother, María Emilia, said in an interview with NBC News Latino.

So Aristizábal did. While he realized he had the support he needed to eventually live an independent life, he also understood there were many children with disabilities in his community who did not. And so he started a nonprofit to change all of that—at no cost to the kids or their families.

“Many families…are misinformed. They think that it’s God’s punishment. There are children who spend years in bed…because their families don’t know how to care for them,” Aristizábal told CNN.

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Gina Rodriguez, Star of Jane the Virgin, Opens Up About Her Anxiety

Gina Rodriguez wearing a black dress, smiling

Gina Rodriguez

Rockville, Md., Oct. 15 – Fans of the hit CW show Jane the Virgin know star Gina Rodriguez as an open personality on social media. She frequently posts about topics important to her—feminism, body positivity, politics—but she recently opened up on Instagram about a topic the actress had not previously discussed—her anxiety.

Rodriguez posted a video taken by her friend, artist Anton Soggiu, as a piece of “ten second portrait” art. The video showed a smiling and shifting, makeup-less Rodriguez in the streets of Los Angeles.

“I suffer from anxiety. And watching this clip I could see how anxious I was but I empathize with myself. I wanted to protect her and tell her it’s ok to be anxious, there is nothing different or strange about having anxiety and I will prevail. I like watching this video. It makes me uncomfortable but there is a freedom I feel maybe even an acceptance. This is me. Puro Gina,” Rodriguez wrote in the caption underneath the video.

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Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait Painter, Showcases Disability in Her Art

Frida Kahlo black and white headshot

Frida Kahlo

Rockville, Md., Oct. 15 – Frida Kahlo, a Mexican woman who had multiple disabilities including polio as a child and spinal and pelvis damage from a car accident, became a world-renowned self-portrait painter.

At the age of six, Kahlo was bedridden will polio. The polio virus cause damaged to her right leg and foot. She was left with a limp. Her father thought that playing soccer, wrestling and swimming would help her recover.

As a teenager, she was in a car accident. A steel handrail was impaled into her hip and came out the other side. Her spine and pelvis were damaged significantly. While in recovery, she began to paint.

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Demi Lovato Uses Star Power to Fight Stigmas and Advance Opportunities for People with Mental Illness

Demi Lovato smiling wearing a brown top

Demi Lovato

Rockville, Md., Oct. 15 – Pop icon and champion for body positivity Demi Lovato uses her voice to do more than just sing.

Lovato, 25, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2011 while seeking treatment for an eating disorder, depression and her battle with self-harm.

“It’s important to speak up about the things you believe in, because your voice will be heard no matter what position you’re in,” she shared. “I just happen to be in a position where more people would hear my voice.”

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Cristina Sanz: First Hispanic with a Disability As Part of Ensemble Cast to Be on an Emmy Award-Winning Show

headshot of Cristina Sanz wearing a blue top

Cristina Sanz

Rockville, Md., Oct. 15 – Fans of the hit A&E docu-series Born this Way know Cristina Sanz as a lovable, fun and family-oriented dancer and romantic. Last year, Sanz became the first Hispanic woman with a disability to win an Emmy award.

When Born This Way won the Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Series last year, it made history for being not only the first show to win an Emmy that stars people with disabilities but also for having a cast that includes people with disabilities who are African American, Hispanic and Asian.

“Even though people of all races, genders and sexual orientation have disabilities, the media tends to only show white characters,” Born This Way Producer Jonathan Murray said. “John, Cristina and Elena have Down syndrome, but they also are the first individuals from the African American, Hispanic and Asian community with a disability to earn an Emmy. This is a breakthrough for those minority communities as well.”

Sanz also did something that her parents never imagined—she moved out of the house, works at two jobs and became engaged to her boyfriend of five years, Angel.

“I will not wake up waiting for my daughter to come back from a date like my mother did for me,” her mother, Beatriz Sanz, said she used to think. But, Cristina Sanz is the first of her siblings to be getting married now.

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Frida Kahlo, pintora de autorretratos, exhibe la discapacidad en su arte

Frida Kahlo black and white headshot

Frida Kahlo

Rockville, Md., 15 de octubre – Frida Kahlo, una mujer mexicana con múltiples discapacidades, incluida poliomielitis de niña y lesiones en la columna y pelvis por un accidente de tráfico, se convirtió en una pintora de autorretratos de fama internacional.

A los seis años, Kahlo tuvo que guardar reposo debido a la poliomielitis. El virus de la poliomielitis le provocó daños en la pierna y el pie derechos. Esto le causó cojera. Su padre pensó que practicar fútbol, lucha y natación podría ayudarla a recuperarse.

De adolescente, tuvo un accidente de tráfico. Un pasamano de acero se le incrustó en la cadera y la atravesó. Sufrió lesiones considerables en la columna y la pelvis. Mientras se recuperaba, empezó a pintar. [continue reading…]

Cristina Sanz: la primera hispana con una discapacidad en ganar un premio Emmy

headshot of Cristina Sanz wearing a blue top

Cristina Sanz

Rockville, Md., 15 de octubre – Los fans de la exitosa serie documental de A&E Somos así conocen a Cristina Sanz como una bailarina adorable, divertida y romántica que ama a su familia. El año pasado, Sanz se convirtió en la primera mujer hispana con una discapacidad en ganar un premio Emmy.

Cuando Somos así ganó el Emmy al Mejor Programa Reality no Estructurado el año pasado, pasó a la historia no solo por ser el primer programa en ganar un Emmy donde los protagonistas son personas con discapacidades, sino por tener un reparto que incluye a personas con discapacidades que son afroamericanas, hispanas y asiáticas.

“Si bien las personas de cualquier raza, género y orientación sexual tienen discapacidades, los medios tienden a mostrar únicamente a personajes blancos”, expresó el productor de Somos así, Jonathan Murray. “John, Cristina y Elena tienen síndrome de Down, pero también son las primeras personas de las comunidades afroamericana, hispana y asiática con una discapacidad en ganar un Emmy. Esto representa un avance importante para esas comunidades minoritarias también”.

Sanz también hizo algo que sus padres nunca imaginaron: se fue a vivir sola, tiene dos trabajos y se comprometió con su novio de hace cinco años, Angel.

“No me despertaré esperando que mi hija regrese de una cita como hizo mi mamá conmigo”, es lo que solía pensar su madre, Beatriz Sanz. Pero ahora Cristina Sanz es la primera de sus hermanas que se va a casar. [continue reading…]

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