wheelchair motivational speaker
In the disability community, it is well-known that calling a person with a disability an inspiration simply based on their appearance is condescending and offensive. However, it should be recognized that some individuals with disabilities are inspirational - not simply because they live life with a disability, but because they have overcome such obstacles and used their situations to educate and motivate. Tamara Mena is one of these amazing individuals. At the age of 19, Tamara was in a car accident that killed her boyfriend and left her with a spinal cord injury. Her injuries also included collapsed lungs, which temporarily took away her voice. In a recent conversation, I asked Tamara how she motivated herself to acclimate to life after her injury, how she deals with the assumptions often assigned to her appearance as a woman in a wheelchair, and about her work as both an activist and a model.
Tamara Mena (Photo Credit: Garth Milan)
On stereotypes and assumptions: When I asked Tamara about the most challenging parts of interacting with others who did not understand her wheelchair use, she cited the limitations that others put upon her. "People don't think you can do a lot of things when you're in a wheelchair, " she stated, and went on to describe how others immediately assume that she is less independent than people who don't use wheelchairs. Even seemingly flattering statements like "you're too pretty to be in a wheelchair" operate under the assumption that wheelchair users are somehow "less" than others. Tamara is often offended by this statement because "spinal cord injuries do not discriminate." Tamara takes every opportunity to engage in dialogue about wheelchair users to educate others on how to interact with them. She is also a cofounder of the Limit-Less Campaign, which seeks to educate the media and the public at large to eliminate the phrase "confined/bound to a wheelchair" from their vocabulary, as it reinforces stereotypes. "I like to create a warm environment and make people feel comfortable. When a child asks why I'm in a wheelchair, I use it as an opportunity to educate in a kind way." Her greatest piece of advice? "Don't just assume that a wheelchair user needs help."
On the challenges of her recovery: Tamara has been extremely successful as a motivational speaker and model, but the path to her success was riddled with challenges. Her approach to overcoming these challenges was a sense of positivity and inner strength. "I thought maybe one day it would hit me that I couldn't walk and that I'd be majorly depressed, but I was just never shocked by that. Things only got better with time." Her support network was a vital part of motivating her, especially Dr. Suzy Kim, who is a wheelchair user herself, and her mother, who supports her unconditionally. When she got home, she faced the challenge of getting back on track with her schoolwork. "I was usually ahead of the game in school, but now I had a two-year setback. It was frustrating seeing my friends graduate. I just had to constantly remind myself that I would get there, that I was not going to give up, and that I was not going to let the wheelchair stop me from pursuing my dreams." Despite ending up in the ICU twice due to infections that traveled to her blood, she graduated summa cum laude and served as the commencement speaker for her graduating class. Additionally, out of all graduates she was selected to receive California State University Stanislaus's most prestigious award, the J. Burton Vasche Award. "It was an amazing day. I was the first commencement speaker in a wheelchair and spoke in front of ten thousand people, my largest crowd until this day. I was prouder to get my degree in my chair, and that I didn't 'walk' the stage. It was a mark of what I went through to graduate and it meant more. I wouldn't change it."
On her work as a model: Prior to her accident, Tamara was set on becoming a fitness model. Her paralysis changed the course of her modeling: "I was in my best shape before the accident, especially my legs and abs. And ironically that's what I lost after the injury as a T-3 paraplegic. That was hard." However, she remained positive, accepted it and went further to embrace her new self, her new body and image, and the wheelchair. She even went back to modeling, now in her wheelchair. "I don't like to be referred as a 'disabled model' because I feel that discredits me as a model. Yes, I have a 'disability, ' but don't disable me." While she has noticed some continued negativity towards diversity in the industry, Tamara notes that there is certainly progress as well, citing a fashion show, Modelle Rotelle by Vertical Fondazione in Rome, in which she participated that contained both standing and sitting models. "It wasn't just a 'disability' fashion show. It showed diversity and high fashion with the statement that fashion is for all."
However, her biggest moment came this past year when she modeled in Mercedes Benz Fashion Week for FTL Moda Loving You and Vertical Fondazione. It was the first time MBFW has seen an integrative runway with models with different abilities, including wheelchair users, amputees and models with various mobility devices. Of the nine wheelchair models, Tamara was the only model from the U.S. and the only Latina. She reflected on the progress that has been made, saying that "modeling isn't superficial to me. It's a vehicle to break barriers which is what I always want to do." She also said she took a moment backstage to think about the times she had been rejected and was thankful and proud she did not let other people's negativity or insecurities limit her or stop her from pursuing her dreams as a model. Tamara plans to continue to break these barriers by entering the entertainment industry, continuing to challenge others to dispel the stereotypes of wheelchair users. "We aren't oppressed or 'confined to a wheelchair ' It's good for people to see us simply as we are and just as competent as others."What are animal tricks in pathfinder? Why are you beset with gloom meaning? Where dolphins perform tricks crossword? How to make a heart on keyboard? What does tax exempt mean? What type of tips do bandage scissors have? Tips for responding when the people you're talking to get distracted? What is the meaning of smoky quartz? How to show tool tips minecraft hp laptop? What does antiseptic mean? What is the meaning of olivia? What movie theaters are open? How to grill salmon with skin? What does hibachi mean? What time is it in lithuania? how do i call someone gods helper in hebrew How to change airdrop name? How to watch the office? what difference cd4 and t helper cells Easy tips on how to use outside sand terrarium? How to do cool juul tricks? What are the tips for the car that would also apply to the human body? What is tableau? What does wop mean in cardi b song? What is the meaning of halal chicken? How to connect dual monitors? What does transaction mean? What is the meaning of lobotomized? Put your money where your mouth is meaning? How to become a licensed therapist? How to delete youtube history? How to get over fear learning new tricks mtb? How to teach mip tricks? What is the meaning of egypts flag and colors? What does boricua mean? How to figure out percentages? What does love bomb mean? How to guide basic tips stringify? What does exalt mean? What is amazon pay? Fertility tips how to get pregnant fast? What is a mutual fund? What does kinetic energy mean? What is tips microsoft? What does painstaking mean?