Can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
I’m Vanessa Osman and I’m a writer, voice-over artist, actress and activist for disabled rights. Nearly 14 years ago I was injured in a car crash that left me a quadriplegic as a result of a Spinal Cord Injury. Since then I have rebuilt my life and career and want to help and inspire others who have been through similar experiences
How and where do you find inspiration?
All around me, every day. I have a large network of friends and family around the world that I keep in touch with via telephone, social media. I love films, being an actress I love exploring what it means to be a human being – the good parts as much as the difficult and dark parts. Ultimately, I’m a communicator – but as much as I am a talker I also try to be a listener! I think it’s important to be empathetic and take time to understand people’s situations, since everyone has a different story to tell. If I can help someone else in pain (whether physically, emotionally or both) then that is the biggest inspiration that keeps me going.
What does empowerment mean to you?
Empowerment for me is twofold – firstly being as independent as I can be, in spite of being a quadriplegic and secondly being empowered as a woman in the modern world. I greatly value the freedom of being an American; in this day and age there are so many communities around the world where women are still fighting for basic rights.
The ultimate empowerment is being comfortable in your own skin and being the best version of you that you can be, despite the odds and regardless of your situation.
When was a time you felt completely discouraged and how did you push through it?
Well as you can imagine, following the car crash I had to adjust to a whole new reality and the implications of not being able to do things for myself that I had taken for granted. Sometimes strength of character isn’t just about driving things forward, it’s about enduring a situation and just having the dedication to keep going. Physical therapy is an important part of my life now and through years of work I have now gained some motor skills in my upper body – and I’m so glad that I just kept going as I wanted to give up so many times! So if anyone is reading this and thinking ‘I’m never going to be able to do this or that again’, I would first of all say ‘you’re human and it’s normal to feel discouraged sometimes, but just by getting this far, you’ve done so well. Please just keep going!’
What is one piece of advice that you would give a young woman to navigate today's ever-changing world?
Well one size doesn’t fit all and as young women we’ve been told for a long time how we should look and behave. A few weeks ago, I was honored to be one of the models in the Michael Kors / Macy’s fashion show for Artists for Trauma. The show was about challenging stereotypes of beauty as much as it was about raising funds for Civilian and military survivors of level one catastrophic injuries. I’m in a wheelchair but I still want to feel beautiful – what woman doesn’t?! I also want to have a voice to talk about the things that really matter. So if I had one thing to say to younger women, it would be that being beautiful is about accepting who you are - and knowing that is all you need. You are enough! Don’t be afraid to speak your voice – people might dismiss you but the good people out there will support you – and as a modern woman it is your right to find your voice and use it.
We are so proud to have Vanessa as an Ambassador for Slick Chicks. We believe that it is with powerful, proactive voices like hers that true change happens! Ladies, we encourage you to never forget that you have a voice and that voice can make a difference!
Remember, if you can’t stand up; be like our Slick Chick Vanessa and STAND OUT!
To learn more about Vanessa’s story go to: www.vanessaosman.com
Photo credit: Margaret Malandruccolo mmfoto.com
See ya in your skivvies!