By: Sammi Norgart
Do you know what it feels like to have people stare at you wherever you go? Well I do. It might be my good looks or maybe my physical disability, we will never know. I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when I was a one year old. Cerebral Palsy (CP) occurs when there is a lack of oxygen to the brain that leaves scar tissue behind in different parts of the brain. There are different levels and kinds of CP such as: some people are able to walk with not great balance, some people can have one side of their body with CP and the other side could be completely fine, or it could affect you to the point where you need to be in a wheelchair. That’s how I got my nickname @wheelchairblondie.
Having CP has definitely limited the activities I’m able to do, especially being in a chair. It is harder for me to do things such as hiking, going to the beach, going up and down stairs etc. Having CP and being non-verbal for most of my life made everything an able-body person is able to do ten times harder, but that never stopped me from living my life. I went to Oregon State University and I was in a sorority; I was the first to join who was in a wheelchair. I have been on the news twice and I have my own billboard in Portland. Cerebral Palsy is a part of my identity because it has shaped me into who I am today. I want to advocate for and inspire people with all different kinds of disabilities. Me having CP and overcoming so many obstacles has influenced my decision in wanting to do that.
I started modeling to bring more diversity to the modeling industry. Along with the good experiences in modeling, like being in not one but two fashion shows in my first year of modeling, come a few bad ones as well. Most modeling agencies and well, models have a very specific size and look expectations based on height, weight, and face structure. It seems to be if you’re not skinny, have a perfect jawline and a flawless smile you aren’t cut out for the job. In my personal experience, everyone always seems so excited to have me, has a job lined up for me and then I never end up even getting a call back because they went with somebody else that wasn’t in a wheelchair instead. But those same agencies are the ones who are screaming to be for everyone and so diverse.
I want to educate society and change the known norm for the modeling industry. I want to inspire and give hope to other people who may be in the same position as I am, or may not be but everyone deserves an equal and fair chance at whatever it is they may want to do in life or be a part of. I want people to know that I want to be heard because I have valuable things to say. In order to communicate with me, people have to be patient and if they don’t understand me, ask again and I will spell it out. It’s so important that no matter what situation or cards life hands you, you go all in and follow what you want regardless of what anybody says to you or about you. I love who I am, who I am becoming and I will never give up on my modeling.