Influencers Changing the Disability Narrative
Jessy Yates aka is an actor, model, burlesque dancer and currently the first person with a physical disability to be enrolled at Yale School of Drama. Her stage name is cerebral pussy and frankly she doesn't care at all if her disability makes you uncomfortable - she’s here to stay. Before going to Yale, Jessy worked in New York as an actor, model, performer and consultant for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation. Last year on her instagram, she documented every time the elevators were down at subway stations across NYC and the delays it caused in her commute — it happened almost everyday and you can check it out here. Also, don’t forget to watch her break down dating with cerebral palsy.
If you don’t already know Zach Anner, you’re doing something wrong. He’s a comedian, writer on ABC’s Speechless, and author of New York Times Best Seller, If At Birth You Don’t Succeed. You can also catch him on Youtube in his hit series Workout Wednesdays where he crawls up a mountain and does naked push-ups. He spends most of the time in his underwear thinking about how he can change the world and he’s already done so in a massive way. He’s an ambassador for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and highlighted the pitfalls of inaccessibility in New York City in the viral video Quest For the Rainbow Bagel that’s been seen over 40 million times and discussed The Top Ten Things He Wished People Knew About CP.
Maysoon jokes that she’s the triple threat of minorities - female, disabled, and Muslim. She’s an ambassador for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and is on a mission to change the way America thinks about disability. She tours around New York at Gotham, Caroline’s and Stand Up New York and discusses terrorism, life with cerebral palsy, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She was just listed in Time as a top comic that’s changing what’s funny. Watch her viral Ted Talk, I got 99 problems… palsy is just one. PS she hates the word ‘inspirational.’
Jerron is a principal dancer and Developmental Director at Hiedi Latski dance. He's also currently on the board of Trustees at Dance/USA and strikes the best poses you’ll ever see in your life. He was featured on Great Big Story and is called "the inexhaustible Mr. Herman" by The NY Times. Jerron is also a consultant for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and a trainer on CPF’s adaptive fitness app Evolve21where he leads yoga exercises.
Johnny Agar is a triathlete and has competed in 5ks, 10ks, 25ks, half marathons, triathlons, and a half ironman. He normally competes with his dad but recently he wanted to walk a mile himself - maybe something easy for others, but for him it was his own marathon. He crushed it and crossed the finish line with monstrous energy. He regularly posts his trainings and competitions on instagram and is honestly the best #fitspo out there.
Sarah Kim recently graduated from Columbia Graduate School with a focus on print and investigative reporting. She lives in downtown BK and launched her career as a journalist and has been featured in Huff Post, Teen Vogue, The mighty and the Daily beast. Her most recent gig is freelancing for the inclusion and diversity section at Forbes. Read her article, “Why No One Talks About The High Unemployment Among Women with Disabilities.” When she’s not writing she’s living loudly with a Margherita in her hand, modeling on the beach, and showing the world what confidence looks like.
First came love for this writer and editor, then marriage, then three kids. Ellen's oldest son, Max, has cerebral palsy. She launched her blog, Love That Max, in 2008 to inspire other parents, to inform, and to raise awareness about abilities. Her award-winning work has been featured on The Huffington Post, CNN.com, Today.com, Mashable, and other websites. Ellen writes about everything under the sun including Max's progress (like seeing a movie alone), topical issues that affect people with disabilities (like Starbucks ditching plastic straws and Eminem dissing disability in a song), and the joys and challenges of parenting.
Micah Fowler stars on ABC's speechless where he plays an individual with cerebral palsy — and he actually has cerebral palsy IRL. When does that ever happen?! He brings his real life experiences and authenticity into the role and it's one of the best things to ever happen to disability representation. Catch him on the red carpet giving a thumbs up and rolling in the dough in Vegas — just kidding he can’t gamble yet, he’s only 20.
Jason is an American sportscaster and has been the play-by-play announcer for the Chicago White Sox since 2016. He’s also acted as a broadcaster on ESPN, Fox Sports, Westwood One, and Time Warner covering football, baseball, lacrosse, hockey, and basketball. When Jason isn’t calling the shots, he’s sharing his real life experiences in the CPF series, Awkward Moments which brings humor to daily life with disabilities.
Robyn hails from Perth, Austrailia and brands herself as an athlete and explorer of movement. She said, “I hope to educate others on all aspects of life disability, the good and the bad, through sharing my day to day happenings on various social media platforms. I'm also a lover of androgynous fashion, and I focus on developing my personal style as a way to challenge societal perceptions of gender and disability.”
Greg brands himself as a triple threat: actor, writer and cripple. The New York Metro News called him, “The hottest thing currently visible on a New York State.” His most recent production was Teenage Dick, a brilliantly hilarious take on Richard III. Teenage Dick reimagines the most famous disabled character of all time as a 16-year-old outsider at a modern high-school played by Greg Mozgala. The New York Times commented, "True, many of the actors have been memorably affecting, but never until this week has one convinced me that he knows what disability feels like from the inside...Which is to say: Mr. Mozgala shouldn’t just be playing young Richard; he should be playing the old man himself."
Andrew is a Disability Awareness Consultant and the work he does is immensely important. He’s changing the conversation about disability issues and created the viral hashtag #DisabledPeopleAreHot. Thousands of people submitted sexy photos of themselves feeling confident in their disabled bodies. Andrew is not afraid to rock a harness naked and wants to change perceptions about disabled bodies, spread body positivity and break down gender biases.
Steph the Hammer
Steph is the 1st CrossFit level 2 trainer with cerebral palsy. Yes, you heard that right - THE FIRST. She also opened Hammer Driven Fitness, one of the only fitness facilities in the world designed for every single body that walks inside. Steph shares her fitness journey with the world and is shifting the perception on what a trainer should look like. Steph is an icon for not only the adaptive fitness community, but simply the fitness community at large. Btw, she was also the first adaptive athlete to be sponsored by Nike.
Sam is one of the most yoked dudes you’ll ever meet. He’s a professional body builder and a blue belt jiu jitsu. When Sams not crushing it at a body building competition he’s swimming, doing yoga, or painting. Watching Sam’s instagram always makes me feel like I’m not doing nearly enough - but in the most motivating way possible. Sam believes staying fit for life supports the mind and body wellness so he encourages everyone to work as hard as they possibly can.
Holly Palmer is a singer-songwriter that’s worked alongside music legends Bowie and Michael Bublé. In her most recent work, A Family Album she sings about her experience raising a child with CP — a major first in the music world. A Family Album was just featured in the Daily Mail Top 100 Albums OF ALL TIME. Holly also started a really important mini series on her instagram called #FamilyMusicMinute where she candidly talks about the intersectionality of her career and daily life while raising a child with CP. Holly said, “My hope is to share our journey with families that just received a diagnosis and let them know that although things look different, there is joy in unexpected places.”
Fifi and Mo
“A few months after Finley was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy I was in a dark place, feeling lost. I needed a safe place to share my heart. For 15 months I struggled silently as an overnight mama to a preemie and completely lost my identity. I was out of work and never left my house (because, germs). So, I started fifiandmo as a secret instagram account with the hopes of getting to connect with other Mamas - perhaps there was a world out there that could help me. Google sure wasn't of much help. Seems like every post I made amounted to something good. From putting a smile on my face, learning a new CP related Tip, or making a true connection with another mama and chatting for hours upon hours. I met several moms who were ahead of us in our CP Journey - that were so forthcoming with their knowledge. This changed my life. They changed my life.” - Christina Smallwood, Fifi’s Mom
Keelan dedicates his Instagram account to his beautiful son and his diagnosis with cerebral palsy. The page highlights the special journey he finds himself on & life lessons & experiences he’s learned along the way. He hopes that this page finds people in a similar situation and gives some hope and strength.
Dylan aka the The Surfing Samurai is an adaptive surfer and has been surfing for over 3 years. “It gives me freedom that I don’t really get anywhere else. I leave my wheelchair aside and forget about everything else when I’m in the water” said Dylan.
Eva is a writer, sex educator, consultant on Speechless ABC, and reviews Sex Toys. She’s been in the sex ed field for over 15 years simply because she could never find any applicable information when she was teenager. She wrote a handbook about how to find queer-friendly aides, how to talk to your partner about your disability, how to adapt sex toys, and how to masturbate if you need assistance. Her blog is dedicated to reviewing sex toys with an accessible lens! Pretty sure that’s a first.
Rosie is UK based comedian. She said, “I found that people can be a bit awkward around me because of my CP so I always had these one-liners in my back pocket. My comedy routine started out with those. If disabled people can relate - great. If able bodied people change their perspectives - great. But all of that comes secondary to making people laugh.”
Justin Gallegos made history by becoming the very first professional athlete with cerebral palsy to sign a contract with Nike. He was connected with the Nike Sports Lab and together they worked to create a shoe that would help Gallegos with his running. A team of Nike innovators, including Geng Luo, brought Gallegos in to Nike to study his gait. They created a shoe for him, based on the research they did about his needs and his gait. For the half marathon, Gallegos wore what will be called the Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 35 FlyEase. He’s currently an undergrad at University of Oregon and in 2019 completed the Eugene Half Marathon. “I was once a kid in leg braces who could barely put on foot in front of the other! Now I have signed a contract with Nike Running! Trust the process!,” said Justin.