What is a Diva?
A Diva is a term we use as empowered women with disabilities. We are strong, influential leaders within society. We must shape our own image of what “disability looks like.”
Take a look at our beautiful Divas with Disabilities. They’ve been with us since the launch of The Divas With Disabilities Project in 2012.
Zazel O’Gara – Global Ambassador
Zazel also served as a movement coach for the soap opera “As the World Turns.” Her modeling credits include the covers of two issues of Essence Magazine, several print and run way jobs. In 2002, Zazel was diagnosed with a brain tumor and the aftermath of the surgery left her partially paralyzed. As a disabled performer/teacher, she shares her resurrection as a disabled artist by giving inspirational talks and customized movement classes at various rehabilitation facilities, hospitals and public schools in NYC. Wanting to share her story she performs with six disabled artists Inside/Out (stories of the disability community) and “Turning Setbacks Into Comebacks,” at various speaking engagements. Zazel appeared in “Nothing like a Dame” at New York’s Schubert Theater on Broadway, a benefit and fundraiser for the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative and the Actor’s Fund. For more information please follow Zazel Chavah O’ Garra.
Heather Watkins is a graduate of Emerson College with a B.S. in Mass Communications. Born with Muscular Dystrophy, Heather is a cane-user, a mother, loves reading, daydreaming and chocolate. She is regular contributor to The Divas with Disabilities Project, a supportive sisterhood network representing women of color with disabilities and serves as Chair of the Boston Disability Advisory Commission. Her publishing experience includes articles in MDA’s July 2007 Quest magazine, Fall 2012 Mass Rehab Commission’s Consumer Voice newsletter and has blogged for OurAbility.com, Artofliving.com, and Thankgodi.com. Heather’s short story, “Thank God I have Muscular Dystrophy” published in 2013 as part of compilation in the Thank God I…Am an Empowered Woman ® book series.
Former television reporter/producer and radio personality Stephanie Thomas is an on-air disability fashion expert. She is also the founder of Luvwhatuwear.com, a blog dedicated to providing styling tips & tools for women with physical disabilities. Her interest in this field dates back 19 years; however she’s lived with physical impairments all of her life.
Janice Y. Jackson
Janice is a dynamic educator, advocate, motivator and innovator. The first 24 years of Janice’s life, she lived as a beautiful abled-bodied woman. In 1984 after being hit by a car, she now lives as a woman with a disability and leads a very successful life from a wheelchair. The start of her new life had a new calling; Janice felt compelled to give back to the women who would precede her. She has spent 28 years breaking down the negative stereotypes that society often depicts of women living with challenges, and has put a new face on women with disabilities. Janice is the Founder and Executive Director of Women Embracing Abilities Now (W.E.A.N.)
Alana Yvonne Wallace has served as Founder and Artistic Director of Dance>Detour (Chicago’s first professional physically integrated dance company) since 1995. Wallace contracted polio at the age of five and since childhood has always believed she was born to perform. Wallace works to expand the concept of what dance IS and WHO can be involved. She has found that the wheelchair is an accessory that affords her a unique opportunity to embrace and express dance. Wallace, along with First Lady Michelle Obama, received one of ten Phenomenal Woman Awards at THE BLACKWOMEN’S EXPO Gala in 2008. Alana appears in two TV commercials for “Think Beyond the Label“— a national campaign to promote employment for people with disabilities. She was named one of the “100 Women Making a Difference” in TODAY’S CHICAGO WOMAN magazine (1997) and she is featured in the latest edition of “WHO’S WHO IN BLACK CHICAGO,” as an accomplished community leader. Join her on her new WHEEL BEAUTY FaceBook Page dedicated to examining the definition of “real beauty” and who can be included. Email: email@example.com
Speaking to groups of people is Erricka Bridgeford’s way of getting real with her true essence. She understands that although she was born with a birth defect, she’s not alone in questioning labels, learning from hardships, and laughing and crying through this ride we call life. In the midst of it all, Erricka says, “Let’s really LIVE. Be whole. Be healed. Be complete. Whether you like it or not, you already are…so why not join your blessing?” Consequently, she offers inspirational speaking and inter-active seminars about labels, self-esteem, and learning the lessons of life. Erricka shares her own experiences to foster honest dialogue. She brings her own issues to nurture everyone’s ability to laugh at themselves. She delivers whatever she needs to say with her heart, passion, and humor. This is her Purpose.
All of this stability was shattered when, at the age of 29, Tarita was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and was struck with the realization that her life would never be the same. Knowing that her best way forward was to take hold of that life and ensure that its direction was one of her own choosing, that the MS was not going to control her future, she seized on a passion for travel she had nursed since childhood. Tarita became an entrepreneur in an industry where she has been able to carve out a significant niche, based on a personal philosophy that travel should be Inclusive and not exclusive. www.taritastravelconnections.com
Ms. Sunshine is a model, actress, dance and model instructor, choreographer, reflexology & massage therapist, motivational speaker, survivor of domestic violence and Hurricane Katrina. She does all of this passionately with a T4- T5 spinal cord injury. Due to a tragic incident of domestic violence, Ms. Sunshine King turned entrepreneur of Sunshine Project H.E.L.P as Founder and CEO. On November 6, 2004, Ms. Sunshine’s life was turned upside down when she was attacked by her husband. She survived two shots, which were bullets to her right jaw and spine. The bullet that entered her jaw exited from the back of her neck. With much prayer, care, and support, Ms. Sunshine is a survivor of Domestic Violence with an incomplete spinal cord injury. Her strength and motivation established Sunshine Project H.E.L.P and Sunshine Models on Wheels in 2005. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jf3m6z8aREg&feature=youtu.be
Dr. Danielle Spencer
In 1993, Danielle became a Doctor practicing her second love, Veterinary Medicine After recovering from a near fatal car crash in 1977 at the age of 12, symptoms of weakness in her legs suddenly showed up in 2004 which put her in a wheel chair. With intense therapy, she walked again and continues her physical therapy. In the works, is a reality show featuring Danielle’s life; one that will bring back memories for people of all ages. For years the fans have waited…thankfully, Dr. Danielle Spencer documented everything. Danielle’s journal of her journey “Through the Fire…The Journal of a Child Star” is due to release in January 2011.
Diana Elizabeth Jordan – Global Ambassador
Diana Elizabeth Jordan has been committed to changing perceptions about disability through her work as an actor activist and motivational speaker. In 2001 she became the first actress with a disability receive a MFA from California State University Long Beach. Diana has appeared in over 30 plays, two episodes of The WB’s 7th Heaven, FX’s Legit a webseries and several award winning short and feature films. As an activist she advocates for disability to be included in dialogues about multicultural diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry. Diana serves on SAG-AFTRA’s Performers with Disabilities National Committee and she was one of the 2011 co-chairs for Inclusion in the Arts and Media for People with Disabilities Campaign -national civil rights and public relations campaign sponsored by the SAG-AFTRA and The Actors Equity Association.
Apryl Mechelle Brown
Born in Pensacola, Florida, Apryl was the 5th sibling of 6. April and her family moved to California when she was 12 years old. She later attended Universal College of Beauty and received her Cosmetology degree in 1986 and continued her education so that she could teach cosmetology to other students. As a successful business woman and innovative fashion designer, Apryl owned and operated a full service salon in Los Angeles for 5 years and created ensembles complemented by her make-up artistry. She also established her own brand and cosmetic line.
Kebra Moore, vocal talent and classical operatic singer is the type of person who lives life to the fullest, regardless of circumstances. In January 2015 Kebra launched her Beautiful Campaign which places attention on educating people who have suffered injuries such as hers and that their disability is not a state of the body, rather a state of the mind. This year as she travels throughout the US meeting people in injury hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and disability expos, she wants them to see that success moves far beyond a pair of arms or legs. “There is so much more to transcending expectations than having the ability to standing upright. God never intended it that way and as long as there is breath in my body, I will forever be campaigning to the world that everyone is “uniquely you” and if your mind can conceive it, your body, regardless its condition, can achieve it.” For radio copies, interviews, and booking information, contact: www.kebramoore.net.
Kamila Proctor – Global Ambassador
Kamilah Oni Martin-Proctor is the founder and Executive Director of the Martin Multiple Sclerosis Alliance Foundation (MMSAF). Mrs. Martin-Proctor was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis when she was sixteen. She founded the MMSAF in 2004 in an effort to promote symptom awareness and education about Multiple Sclerosis in historically under represented and underserved populations. Prior to this, she was a Program Administrator for the Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program at Howard University since 2003. Mrs. Martin-Proctor worked for the District of Columbia’s Government Neighborhood Services Initiative from 2000 until 2002. She has worked as a Staff Assistant and Legislative Correspondent for Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee and also as an Executive Assistant in Senator Robert Menendez’s office. Mrs. Martin-Proctor received a B.A. in Political Science and an M.A. in Organizational and Cultural Communication from Howard University.
Veronica Hicks – Global Ambassador
Veronica’s ambition is to impact the lives of others through art. Currently a dual PhD candidate in Art Education and Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies at Penn State University, her research includes indigenous metalsmithing and crafts, intersections of gender, race and abilities in visual culture, and using graphic memoir medium as a sequential artform. She has lectured internationally on issues of race and gender in art education and nationally about art and special needs. As a graduate lecturer at Penn State’s main campus, Veronica instructs courses focusing on African and African American art. When she is not teaching, Veronica spends her time as a metalsmith who incorporates her heritage through designs created on silver, copper, and gold objects of adornment.
Alice Wong, MS, Staff Research Associate, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, UCSF. Alice works on various research projects for the Community Living Policy Center, a Rehabilitation Research and Training Center funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research and the Administration for Community Living. She is an author of online curricula for home care providers and caregivers for Elsevier’s College of Personal Assistance and Caregiving. Currently, she is the Project Coordinator for the Disability Visibility Project, a community partnership with StoryCorps. The Disability Visibility Project is a grassroots effort collecting oral histories of Americans with disabilities celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Alice is also an Advisory Board member of APIDC (Asian Pacific Islanders with Disabilities of California) and a Presidential appointee to the National Council on Disability, an independent federal agency charged with advising the President, Congress, and other federal agencies on disability policy.
Odunola Ojewumi – Global Ambassador
Ola Ojewumi is an activist, journalist, and a community organizer based in Washington, DC. She founded two nonprofits, Sacred Hearts Children’s Transplant Foundation and the Project ASCEND College Scholarship Program. Ola initiated these charitable efforts after receiving a heart and kidney transplant. Thus far, the White House, MTV, Glamour magazine, Intel, Essence magazine and the Huffington Post have praised her initiatives. Additionally, Glamour Magazine has named Ola among the top 10 most influential college women in the United States. Ola holds a strong passion for writing and speaking. The White House, Marie Claire Magazine’s online publication, and the American Association of University Women have published her writings. She’s held internships in the White House, Democratic Leader/Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Democratic National Committee (DNC/Democratic Party), and Congressmen Albert R. Wynn’s Congressional Office. Additionally, she’s served as Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley and a DNC Hope Fellow.
Renée Berry-Huffman – Global Ambassador
Now some 19 years later, Renée uses a power chair. Keeping her independence remains first in her life. Presently, her daughter and service dog are her immediate family.“There is no manual on this.” Renée has been creative in how she has dealt with her disability, from raising her toddler daughter to adulthood, to going back to college and earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, while helping others to empower themselves in her community. Renee and her daughter are featured in Lyn Mikel’s book, Girlfighting – Betrayal and Rejection Among Girls. Portland Press Herald profiled Renée and her daughter in the 2003, Mother’s Day story, Redefining Normal. Renée is also included on John F. Kennedy’s 2003 People of Courage List. Currently Renée is the creator and Co-chair of Portland Disability Advisory Committee. “Though my journey continues to take many turns, I will continue to do small things with great love.”