“It is through living that we discover ourselves, at the same time as we discover the world around us.”
I have traveled the world, yet have not seen the seven seas as a child of a career military man. When I entered this realm, I was born in a small town called Clovis, New Mexico. Through my dad’s career I experienced the globe, living overseas in the Philippines to Spain and then the charming island of Guam. I returned back to the United States at 15, attending three different high schools, graduating in Tampa, Florida. I began modeling at the age of 17 my senior year and with two art scholarships under my belt I left home to venture out into the unknown to fulfill my every dream in the Big Apple. By 21, I left the modeling world and later became a fitness instructor, which led me into the world of martial arts in the city of San Francisco. At 22, I relocated to Los Angeles, and within a year was engaged to my best friend. We bought a house and I fell back into the entertainment world by launching an acting career, with small roles in The Fast and the Furious and the syndicated television series V.I.P. with Pamela Anderson.
My life was practically perfect until turmoil struck one week before 9/11 on September 3, 2001. Two of my bridesmaids and myself were driving home from a trip from San Francisco when my girlfriend spun out of control. I was in the backseat and was thrown through the side-rear triangular window suffering a broken neck and severed spinal cord; as a result I was diagnosed as a c4 quadriplegic.
When I awoke from a major blood transfusion, neck surgery, and 3 to 5 % chance of regaining any movement from the neck down, I felt I was living in a surreal, parallel reality and now was transported into the realm of the paralyzed for a reason; that I had a mission to fulfill. Unable to move or feel anything, I instantly knew I had two things left; life and my indomitable spirit. My experience was like De-ja-vu, “I instantly knew I had a huge choice to make: to turn a catastrophic situation into something extraordinary and to be a powerful voice for others in similar devastating situations”.
A martial artist and a firm believer in alternative methods of healing, I didn’t accept the doctor’s prognosis. Two months after the accident, with numbness in my hands, I was able to wiggle my left index finger, a dramatic moment captured live on an Entertainment Tonight piece about the ‘Power of the Mind’. And then, just a month later, I touched the top of my head. In 2003, I was the third American to undergo a pioneering stem cell surgery in Portugal, which allowed me to later operate a manual wheelchair. Although I’m unable move my fingers fully, I can feed myself, paint, train in martial arts and apply my own makeup!
Today as an Ambassador for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, I represent the Paralysis Resource Center and assist in their outreach campaign to inspire and educate the Asian-American communities. I’m proudly a spokes model for Ti-Lite Wheelchairs and work as a model for clients such as Target and Nordstrom. I have also appeared on Larry King Live, and in People Magazine discussing how to live life to the fullest even after paralysis. With incredible passion, I have energized my acting career by landing three national commercials for AARP, Mabelline, and Sony. I’m featured in CinemAbility, a documentary to be released in 2013, directed by Jenni Gold, which includes Ben Affleck, Jaime Foxx, and Jane Seymour.
After my injury, I have chosen not to focus on the negative, but instead to go down a positive path, hoping to be a positive example for others and especially those in the disability community. My tenacious attitude and purposeful personality allowed me to shatter the negative stereotypes as opposed to focusing on them. With my ultimate mission of pushing boundaries, I created, produced and star in the Sundance Channel’s, ‘’Critic’s Choice Awards’’, Best Reality series Push Girls. The show follows the lives of five women living with paralysis while cultivating their friendship as they undertake everyday life. The exposure of Push Girls has given me the opportunity to share my journey on Ellen, Jeff Probst Show, Marie Osmond, Access Hollywood, Inside Edition, Good Day LA, Extra, Huffington Post Live, Kcal 9, Katie Couric Show, Good Morning America, and a return segment on Entertainment Tonight. I had the honors of making an appearance at The White House!
I continue to fulfill my post-accident vision by sharing my own experience with hopes of creating a change within others that reignites the human will. I embrace myself as a ‘’change agent’’ who is passionately relentless in manifesting change and implementing ideas through my teaching at the Joey Travolta Theatre ‘Manifestation Classes’. I have also taught my classes at the Performing Arts Studio West through Meet the Biz Workshops. As an innovator, I’ve successfully spoken about ‘Living to the Fullest’ at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital, L.A. Rescue Mission Assembly, and Edwards Air Force Base. I have given up my secrets with ‘The Beauty from Within’ for the Miss Global Organization. A group of 4,000 Paul Mitchell students in Las Vegas, and the California Association of Realtors were the recipients of a topic close to my heart; ‘Pushing the Limits’.
I am a vessel that is inspired by my grand purpose, deep within my soul I carry a specific mantra daily: “Life is a gift and what we do with our life is our gift back to the world, to others, and to ourselves.”