This interview with Chelsie Hill is one of the best I’ve done so far. Chelsie is so honest and raw, you just gotta love her!
What is your disability?
I have a T-10 spinal chord injury. I’m paralyzed from the belly button down.
What are you most proud of?
The fact that I am still dancing. I have a lot of friends in chairs because when I was injured I decided to build a community around myself that would support me. When I was walking, I wanted to live in Los Angeles and be a dancer. It makes me proud that I pushed through and still did and am doing that. Developing a community of dancers around me wether able bodied of differently abled makes me very proud. And the fact that my journey seems to be helping others in their own goals is icing on the cake.
What questions do you get asked most about your disability?
A lot of people ask me what the hardest thing for me to physically do is. Or what the hardest thing for me to overcome is. One I get asked a lot is when I accepted that I was in a wheelchair. The funny thing about these completely justified questions is, the answer changes daily. Sometimes what is hardest for me to overcome today was maybe easier for me yesterday. And I have accepted my new normal and don’t live my life asking “why me?” but I don’t think I will ever fully accept it. Life happens and changes daily to me the way it does for everyone. Each day brings new joys and new challenges.
What challenges do you face in life?
I think one of the biggest challenges is that society has a hard time accepting people in chairs. I feel my life is so normal. I try to live my live in a normal, authentic way so it’s hard for me to accept that so many people don’t see me as normal. I want to make the presence of disabilities more mainstream and accepted in our society.
What do you want people to know about what its like living with your disability?
I want people to know that we work hard and have goals just like everyone else. We have dreams and aspirations just like you. It might just take us a little longer and we may do it a little differently.
Whats the biggest misunderstanding about you?
Living and working in Los Angeles can feel so self focused sometimes. I am pursuing my personal goals and dreams which is my right but I think people sometimes don’t think a career in dance or television can be for the greater good and it is. The letters, emails, and social media posts I receive about how me chasing my dreams has encouraged others to chase theirs is what fuels me. When my success opens doors for other people in chairs, that is what truly matters to me. I want everyone to succeed in their own way.
Check out Chelsie working it! My goodness does she look sexy!
What do you wish to accomplish in life?
That is a big question! I would love to have a dance team that is always busy performing. I would love to own a dance studio one day where I can teach and bring in dancers and choreographers from all walks of life. I hope to be in the dance community for the rest of my life. I have big dreams that I’m chasing. But at the same time, I want the simple things too. I want a happy marriage, happy kids, and I want to be healthy. When you boil it all down to a couple things, I want to be happy, healthy, and surrounded by the people I love. When something this life changing happens to you, you can’t help but continually appreciate the little things.
What do you want to tell other people struggling with their disability?
I’d rather show them than tell them. You know? I meet with a lot of people who are newly injured to give them some encouragement and I always tell them to come out and hang out with me and my friends. Building a community of people who understand is really important. Don’t isolate yourself. I have my own days where I need someone to tell me how to handle my disability. I need encouragement sometimes too. But I have a life to live. A life that I am extremely thankful for because when my accident happened no one was sure I would live through it. I could spend all day thinking “poor me” and no one would blame me but if I have a heart that is still beating and air in my lungs, I have a purpose and things to get done.
What is the funniest story involving your disability?
Funny things happen all the time! Like when I go out with my friends and there are five of us in chairs EVERYONE stares. Like getting four of us into an Uber or through the airport with all of our luggage. You have to laugh. You have to find the humor in the things that could be embarrassing or frustrating. And that is for everyone, disabled or not.
Photo’s courtesy of Chelsie Hill