I was 18 years old when I moved to New York from the Philippines for college to study drama and New York University Tisch School of the Arts—when I was diagnosed with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome after dislocating my ankle in the middle of a crosswalk after one of my acting classes. I was 19 years old when I got my cane and my wheelchair, and 21 years old when I graduated and was left without my school’s health insurance, leaving me without access to healthcare. And now, a few months before turning 22, I am beginning to understand what it means to create art as a disabled individual.
I work in the entertainment industry, which means my day-to-day life consists of writing, filming, editing, acting, producing, photography: all while pacing myself because without my medication, I find myself to be in a state of fatigue at a much quicker rate. Since my diagnosis and everything that has come after it, I’ve found myself scared of my disability and what people will think of me. As an actor, I wonder if casting directors and producers would allow me a space on their projects, or if my disability will hinder them from doing so for one reason or another. When I was 20 years old, I voiced these fears in a post where I was dressed like Captain Marvel stating, “I am constantly afraid as an actor that I won’t get a job because of the way I look. That the scars littered on my body, many of them from scratches or scrapes that never even drew blood, would sabotage my career. Or, if not my scars, the wheelchair I sometimes use. If not that, then my joints that occasionally pop out to say hello to the world.” Two years later, that same fear still exists, but instead of waiting for the world to make space for me, I’ve decided to make space myself.
Over the past two years, I have expanded from solely acting, to several other aspects of filmmaking, and now I aspire to give myself and others what nobody else did: the space to be disabled within the media. Much of my current work involves disabled people, queer people, and neurodivergent people. Currently, I’m in the midst of trying to get a TV show picked up, with the help of my friends. One that, hopefully, will revolutionize the who we put on the forefront of our televisions, computers, phones, and tablets, and how we write their stories. It is one that, hopefully, will finally give us a box within Hollywood that we can fit into, and it will be carved not by those who do not understand, but those that are wonderfully like us because everybody deserves to see themselves in the media they consume. I hope that one day my story can inspire a little someone like me to understand that there is space at the table, and, if nobody else gives it to you, you are well within your right to create that space yourself. It is hard, and it is arduous, but it is my belief and my hope that it will be worth it.