Disabled Girls Who Lift

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E64: “The Film Industry Is Ableist” w/Melina Nakos

July 11th 2022

In this episode, Melina joins Marybeth to discuss life on the set as a queer, disabled director and producer. How can we make more sets, stages, and venues more accommodating for PWDs? How is this ... More

this is disabled girls who lift, we are reclaiming what's rightfully ours, one podcast at a time, it's mary Beth Chloe and Marcia bringing you the thoughts and unpopular topics to get you out of that. A bliss comfort zone. Mhm. Mhm. Welcome back to another episode, y'all. Thank you, thank you so much, like we've said in the past for your support here on Patreon on anchor, um buying our merch, just giving us a like or a follow on instagram, it's meant so much to us that you've kind of helped us grow this community into what it is. And the podcast kind of speaks for itself. We're going onto what almost two years now, uh not skipping a beat on posting and giving y'all some fresh new episodes. Um but as you might have noticed, Marcia's not joining us today, I'm, my name is mary Beth, I will be your host. I'm sitting in northern California on a lonely island and I'm wearing black glasses, a gray sweatshirt, sitting in my living room, very, very colorful living room and I'm super excited to have our guests join us today, be a nice intimate conversation with just the two of us, uh new and somewhat longtime friend of mine Molina Narcos.

I'm super super excited to have you join us and kind of just talk about your experience as a hispanic, lesbian filmmaker, quad, amputee public accommodations. Just everything that you've already done so far as a producer director. Um you know you recently featured me on lifetime and I had a freaking blast Those 12 or so hours that we're together and just the voice and the platform that you're able to provide for folks like us and um yeah, sitting in new york on the land Welcome mel. So excited. I'm so excited to be here. Um I'm mel um I'm wearing a green dress with a little blue and white flowers. I have brown curly hair and I'm wearing headphones and uh in front of me is a small microphone, so it's, it's so good to be here and shout out to blue slate films for letting you borrow.

Oh my gosh, yeah, my incredible mentors, natalia and emery have so graciously lent me a microphone um, so that I can be heard loud and clear. The audio quality is amazing. So I hope so. I did like a, like a test with a microphone on zoom just to make sure that like everything was a okay. Um, and I, I hope for the best that it's not gonna, that nothing goes wrong. But I did like a little test. So hopefully that test holds up. No, you'll be fine and like everyone just uses their Macbook Pro or so far no one is logged in on their cell phone, but you're already, that would be an interesting choice and you're looking great. I love the makeup you've got going today. Thank you. I was just like telling you earlier, I was just like telling you earlier that I literally never wear makeup, I think I'm just like too late.

I used to like when I was younger I was like every single day, like get up before like 5 30 AM before I do my makeup and then I got to college and I was like, I'm not I'm not putting that effort in and it depends where you go to college too, because I feel like me moving from Los Angeles to Berkeley, such different vibes, right? People went to school with freaking sweatpants did not care about their hair or makeup. So I think that like in new york, it's funny because it's so um like I went to N. Y. U. And the vibes are like so like person to person but nobody cares. That's the thing that's like so beautiful because I saw people that would like come like dressed to the nines every single day, eight a.m. Class, like dress like Gucci like just like beautiful clothes and then like, I would be like, there were people who would like show up in like american eagle sweatpants and like a T shirt, but like nobody, nobody like cared either way at least. Like that's not what I experienced.

Um There was no, I think that there was there, there wasn't like an attitude that you had to come in like one way or another at least at Tisch. Um But things might have been different like school to school, but I never really experienced that and that was one of the people that like showed up in like sweatpants and jeans at like the day to day, like any sort of like fit, I was like mhm. And that's what I love, that's what I've heard about new york too, is that of course it's the hub of the fashion industry, freaking like everything all the artists are there and they're dressed into the nines, but there's way less judgment than there is in L. A. Hollywood, like if we were wearing the proper brands were outed, you know, we were outcast and um I don't know, I just so tell me about you moved from the bay area to new york and you've been there for the last how long now? I I've been here for going on seven years now.

Damn. I think yeah, I in august it'll be no six years in august, it will be six years that I've moved here, stayed here like throughout the whole pandemic, like never never left. Um Like my family moved here because like my brothers and was in philadelphia is now moving to new york as well. Um But both my parents are immigrants, my dad is from Greece, my mom is from south America, so um they were always like both of them were kind of like not super tied down to California. Um Because they didn't like grow up there, they moved there like after college, so it's one of those things where I never, I don't think I ever felt like beholden to going back to California, like, oh yeah, this is like my home. Um so when I moved to new york and I loved it here, I felt like totally comfortable like staying here. Um and I hope I never have to leave because I love new york.

Um but you know what happens happens, but I love it here. I love, you're from California, right? Yeah. I was born in the Philippines in Manila and at the age of one, then I moved, flew over to Los Angeles and then move up to Berkeley nor cal for school and can, I've kind of stayed here, so pretty much the same thing. And I think for immigrants to, it's just from one coast to another, it doesn't really make a difference, but when you're in the midwest in those center states, that's when you're like, wait a minute. This isn't the U. S. That I remember as a, as a brown person or as an immigrant still trying to make it out in the world. So I love that though. I love that you're all kind of together and n Y U new york is where you met production where you met all of these projects, you know, the two wonderful ladies that you work with now. Right, Tell me about how you kind of got started there. So I started uh screenwriting when I was 13 in California and at the time I was going to uh, like a school that was like all about stem.

Um so I had no idea what I was doing, none of my teachers had any idea what I was doing. Like the college counselors had no idea like how to help me. Like I was like truly like the black sheep at that school. Um but I went to summer programs that were um geared towards film and screenwriting. Um and that's kind of like how I started out and it was sort of one of those things that uh, it was all about like beg borrow steal, like trying to convince people to like come and like help me on these projects because none of these people had like, none of them like particularly like cared about film, no, no interest. I, my parents were extremely supportive, like right off the bat. They were um, they didn't really understand it, but I think that I was always kind of a storyteller as a kid. Like I loved reading, I loved writing, I loved all those things. So they kind of like saw it coming from a mile away.

Um and then I got into film and I like one of my like core memories is like the first like short film that I like, I directed, I was like 15 crazy Yeah. And then I, I somehow convinced a bunch of people from my high school to help me out and my mom told me this after the fact but the night before all of the people had to show up to my house like five a.m. To help me out on a weekend so that we could like start shooting early and um my mom the night before like told me she was like sitting there, she was just like oh my God like they're not gonna show up like all these people are not, there's no way that they're going to show up at five a.m. And the morning. She was so surprised because all of them showed up and I think that that's like a massive, like I was I was Equally surprised frankly. Um I was like ready for it all to go down the tubes as like a little 15 year old me but I think that growing from that to someone who you know went to their dream school, that sort of thing.

Um There's a certain like scrappiness that I think needs to be associated with you if you're a filmmaker and you need to be able to kind of like get the job done and if things go wrong, like you need to be able to be a problem solver. Um and that like speaks a lot to your like future success I think. Um So I'm kind of glad I didn't ever like attend a school that was like an art school because I think that being in an environment where like the other people weren't like super um into the same things that I was, it kind of like forced me to be like resourceful with what I had um and now that like obviously like when I attended Tisch that kind of carried on in a way that I think was really useful um and I try and surround myself with people who are also uh similarly minded in that way of like um if a problem happens, not just like throwing up your hands and like kind of like giving up but thinking about how to like maneuver your way out of it.

Um And I think yeah, no, I mean that really speaks volume and just the magnitude to your success too and you keep saying saying that you have these small successes but I think you've made it, you are here, you are representing so many of us and it's just beautiful to see and like not being in that environment, I feel like as an adaptive athlete or an adaptive person, a disabled person in the world, that's that's what we're fucking born with to try and navigate the world without having those resources and I just picture you like doing somersaults being the super artsy person, the most like artistic of your, I mean stem folks, you know have their own, I think everything is art to a certain degree, it's just like storytelling is a very different kind of art as engineering or like robotics or um coding um There just like different like forms of it but at the same time like you have to be creative if you are um somebody that wants to design an app like there is creativity associated with it.

It's just not necessarily the traditional kind of kind of storytelling that like I do but I do admit the fact that there is creativity, there is just slightly different and I think that like respecting all fields is what is going to bring like innovation. Yeah and you you need each other to survive absolutely like technology is all over and and shoot like even the technology that we're using now to not be in a studio and record a podcast. I am super grateful for exactly someone had to, someone had to like build this microphone like there's engineering that went into it. Like I think about like the stand like being built a certain way so that it could like be small and compact but also effective like there's things like that um and like adaptive tools that we use like my prosthetics and all of that like the people that go into like my prosthetist is an engineer of sorts. Um like you have to have those skills and I think that just like leaning on each other um and respecting each other's uh the value that we bring is just the most important part.

I love that, I love that and I mean that's what kind of set you apart as a young 13, 14, 15 year old producing and directing your own films and I was gonna say to him like high schoolers of course they're gonna show up at five in the morning, they got nothing else to do but support their own friends and see that you are gonna make it in life, you know, I think that it's just like a whole experience and I think that um, like being disabled in like a field that requires people to take bets on you is like a whole world in and of itself. And I'm like, it's the same thing with lifting right? Like you have to have like a coach that understands you and is willing to work with you and um believes in like your ability to reach these like milestones that you're looking towards, right? Yeah, yeah. And that open mindedness to knowing that like, yes, I am who I am, but I can do this.

There's, there's so much um, yeah, there's so many hurdles that you have to get through in order to be seen. So Did you have like a moment in the last 5, 10 years where you kind of felt that like you felt like you were a disabled um director, a disabled producer? Like did did you have that kind of experience where you were? I don't know, do you know what I'm saying? Like yeah. Um I actually remember um, this wasn't something that like made it into the final like lifetime like cut but you were discussing um on that day about how like your family was like never treated you any differently. Um And I also had a very similar experience to that where like my family was all like fully able bodied people and um I was never like raised with like the mindset of like you know like like you you have to like you can do less than us, like that was never like the thing that was put upon me.

Um So obviously when I like started in uh experiencing able ism I like didn't understand what was going on at first, I was just like what do you like hot? So because like my my mom like all the doctors always told my mom like your daughter is never gonna be able to ride a bike, like she's she like it's just not gonna happen like she doesn't have legs and she's never gonna be able to ride a bike. And my mom was like bet that is the support I needed that And then like I was I was like eight and my mom was just like you're gonna learn how to ride a bike. Yeah. And then she taught me how to ride a bike and like I can't um there was like there's like certain things that I can't do um with riding a bike but you know she found like the adaptive tools to be able to get me to ride a bike. Like I like grew up in California, where like, I'm sure that you also like experiences, like bike riding is like a massive like cultural thing of like your childhood growing up, like taking the wheels off your tricycle.

Yeah, exactly. Like in like in northern California, like biking is such a thing there. Um that it was, it's not like when you're in new york where like if you grew up in new york city, like if you don't know how to ride a bike, it's not like a massive deal in California because it's such a big thing. My mom taught me how to ride a bike and it was uh it was, I think a lot of people surprised a lot of people and prove that dr wrong, you went back into one of those appointments and said, Look, Look, look at what I can do. Um So that's pretty young though, at the age of eight for you to experience that, that level of able ism. Yeah, so it was one of those things where uh the like doctors were also like, oh, like your daughter's gonna be tall, so she's probably not gonna be able to like walk after, like a certain point, cause I'm like I was supposed to be 5, 10. Um I now like with prosthetic legs, I'm like 57, but I was supposed to be like 5, 10.

So like I'm a tall queen, but so all of the doctors are like, oh she's gonna be tall, so she's not gonna be able to walk after a certain point, but like again, like it was one of those things where like interesting logic um because like farther off the ground obviously makes it harder to like move your body in a safe way. Um But I think that like it's one of those things where um as I was growing up and that sort of thing, it was never able ism was always something that wasn't from, like I was never like treated differently in my family. So when I experienced it, it was, it was always like framed for me is nothing is wrong with me. There's something wrong with people who are looking at me and who view me in a way that is inherently lesser than a person who has all four limbs.

Like there's nothing wrong with me, it's something that's wrong with them. Um but I think that by existing in this world, we kind of start to, I think like I want to prove them wrong. I want to like change that because I don't want kids in the future to also experience this attitude that they are lesser um and have to like fight through that, I want to make things easier for them and that has been like a massive part of my storytelling. Um and I think that that goes for a lot of my other marginalized identities too, and like the discussions that are surrounding that, but especially I think with um disability, like being able to like direct something for lifetime with you um like as the subject and giving you a platform to discuss, able ism to discuss uh how you have um overcome a lot of the opinions that are kind of like thrown at you because I don't like the like things like overcome your disability, like that's not overcome your opinions, overcome like shitty opinion, that's what the discussion should be, has nothing to do with like um what's like wrong with you?

It's all of these like the whole of society being built so that able people are put ahead, so being able to do that and and that that framework though, just that, that maturity and mindset, I feel like I didn't gain until 20 years later, you know, and it's and it's such a, it makes me so proud of you and of of like people like us who have worked so hard to just love ourselves and tell ourselves that we can make it in almost any industry that we want to, almost any sport that we want to with some changes with some adaptions with some support and resources, but to know from the get go that this is a systemic issue and not my own fault, like it just gives me chills because you know, like a lot a lot of us or some of us have experienced bullying from other Children, other peers or teachers or people who just thought less than we're not our own family members.

It's like it one, it's none of your business, how I live my life to why can't we just be more supportive for each other so that we can all grow right? And I just, I just love that for you and sorry, my headphones are falling and it's just so important to kind of to have that strength and to also like kind of put up a wall, right? And let that type of negativity reflect back onto themselves. And, and sometimes we have the energy, sometimes we have the energy to kind of make that a lesson for them or have them just realize that what they're saying and what they're doing is wrong, but the fact that like you're prioritizing like your mental health and your heart and moving forward, um in, you know, just doing what you love in life, that's, that's you're, you know, that's huge motivation for for the rest of us.

I'd have to say. I think that like it's it's always one of those things that I think is like disabled people, it's so weird because I'm sure that you experienced this, um, in athletics. Uh, but this idea that uh, we're both considered like lesser, but also given like people argue that were given like unfair advantages like that. I'm like, I'm like, did you stretch before that reach like Pick A Struggle, Pick one. You can't have both. You can't say that I'm worse than you. And that also somehow I get more opportunities than you because I'm disabled. Say it louder, say it louder and that all of a sudden we're like these I don't know, it's ridiculous like the fact that we ask for accommodations to be able to sit in a um, you know, a level playing field as everyone else.

And they see that as a major advantage because it's not for the able body. Like take covid for example, right? All of the accommodations that so many of us asked for in the workplace in school all of a sudden overnight they were able to create those accommodations for the able bodied population where the buck was that five years ago, even two years ago? Oh my gosh, It's so it's and so I mean, have you found yourself in a position with employers or schools in the past where you've needed accommodation going into, say a stage or going into work. And um I don't know, I'm just so curious what it's like behind the scenes, Like what, what is that like for you? I think that it's similar almost. I think that film is a very unique um educational experience. Um I think that being a filmmaker, every single person that works like a camera department, like works out like crazy because they have to like your body is your biggest tool, a lot of the time on set and it's treated as such in like film making in schools.

So so many classes um are very, very physical at Tisch if it's not like a writing class or like a theory class or um history class or anything like that, um all the production classes are so physical. Um but I think that I throughout my time experienced quite a bit of able ism um because the film industry similar to like what you've experienced with um lifting is built for abled people to succeed, like everything else, but in particular because it's such a physical career, um there was so much able ism um and I think that it's a part of it because it is ingrained into the industry. Um the film industry is deeply flawed in a lot of ways.

And one of those ways is that there is so much able ISM and all the professors and all of the students and all the staff and everybody in all of these film schools are a part of the industry or wanting to be a part of that industry, and in turn those flaws within that industry come out in each of those people, so when you're a disabled person and you're one of the only disabled people um at an institution, um a lot of the time you're going to face that able ism threefold and then those same people are gonna be like, oh well I can't cast a disabled person because there's no or I can't hire a disabled person because there's no disabled people. Well, yeah, because when they're in school, you were telling them constantly that they can't be a part of this industry. So of course, when you get into the real world and you're trying to cast a film or you're trying to hire um Somebody who's disabled to be a producer.

You spent four years in your education telling the disabled person next to you that they shouldn't be allowed on set because they need accommodation. I can't stand for 12 hours the same way somebody else can on set. Um And as soon as you take those accommodations, you're shamed for it. Whereas like, I've worked on set with people who complained the entire time about standing up for 12 hours, but they're allowed to do it, but I can't because if I do it, then it's attributed to my disability and that, like, I'm difficult to work with And you're not fit for the job, but like Mary Sue next to me a bit for 12 hours. Are you kidding me? Like Yeah. Yeah. Where where is the line? And and you're right, It's so ingrained from the start, even like in public education before going into um all of that, it's just we have to choose our path and the fact that you are still there um like paving the way for so many disabled like producer, like future producers, future filmmakers and writers, it's like I'm gonna keep saying this, but it is incredible because like it's already hard enough as it is for some of us to disclose that disability in an interview, right?

And to think in production in things like you said, you have to move so you're moving equipment, you're having to get on stage where there's nothing but stairs, no lift right to even get backstage. And um I know because I'm like front facing like I managed entertainment venues but only saw like a glimpse of what production had to deal with and it is a lot of like heavy lifting, but to just look at you and say you can't do this is unfair. Yeah, it's it's one of those things where it's just um you get ingrained fear for asking for anything to make your life easier because you know that people are going to assume then that you can't do your job. Um and I think that like changing that narrative is a massive part of what I want to do and why I'm in entertainment.

Um because I don't think that there should be that fear for disabled folks. Um Two ask for what they need. Um I think that it should be viewed as like flattening the playing field leveling the playing field. Um as you've said. Uh but often times I think that like any sort of adaptive tool is considered both an advantage and also something to be shamed um shouldn't be, it should not be, it shouldn't be either of those things. It's a neutral, it is a neutral thing that you are getting like a band aid. If you cut your finger, like it's not, it shouldn't be like a big deal like you, it should just be like a thing that is. Um But that's not the way that it's currently treated um in any industry, but I've just observed it obviously the most within the entertainment industry.

Um I always say that like able isM is a is a type of discrimination that has an excuse built in. Um Right. And that's the first thing. We can't do it to. Yeah. It's like a sad excuse. Exactly. Like it's always, it's always like, oh like we can't have, we can't have mel on set because we're filming in 1/4 floor walk up. Like did you ask me if I can walk up those questions and if I say no, then we move on to the next thing that I can do. It's not that complicated. It really isn't like people think that maybe we should change the word, maybe we shouldn't even use the word a combination because I feel like people tense up when people are like, I have to accommodate because accommodate 88 is coming after us. Yeah. And they should, it was built. I'm calling them right now stay right where you are.

They're on the way you hear those sirens. They spell your death. I really wish It was like that. I really wish we had some sort of 11 number that we can call like a 011 number. Taking those phone calls. I'm on my way because like the first thing you think of is like okay, do parking lots have handicapped spaces? Does the building have an elevator? There are these checklists, right? That many managers or or um you know architects have to kind of go by. But when you say like all you had to do was ask me all we had to do was have a conversation because everyone's disability is different. It's as simple as that, right? And like it's just so tiring that we hear excuse after excuse. But I mean I think what is making a difference too is like the power that I feel like you are in now to kind of help change that conversation and that dynamic.

Um for one casting right casting somebody like me and not making that excuse that well we couldn't find any disabled people to be a part of this lifetime series. So we're only gonna we're only going to cover like able bodied white women. Like the the you know the center I think the way that we like center media and center like Hollywood. I you're I don't know you're just making a huge difference. I hope you applaud yourself for that. I always like, I always like say like I'm I'm 23, like I have time, like I keep on trying to tell myself that um it's like I do recognize that I'm at the beginning of my career. Um but it always, I'm, I don't know if you also like share this, but it feels like there's like urgency there. Um because I know that like every year I hope that Tish has like more disabled kids like going in and having these conversations like frank conversations with like they're like abled counterparts like whether it be professors or other students or staff and um what inclusion like really, really means at the end of the day.

Um and that it shouldn't be treated as like a burden. Um because I think that that's often times like how a lot of fields are treating it like, oh we have to check this box of like, okay, we have to have this many people of color and this many women and this many non binary folks and like go down like the list, whereas it should be treated as when you have something that is different about you, you are inherently bringing depth to whatever you're working on. Um and that's just like currently just like not the way that it's treated. I think that like a lot of the time people view like it as all the steps you need to go through, um, to be able to submit to like this and this festival or apply to this and this thing or get this and this grant. Um, when that shouldn't be the case. It's the more people that you include that are different from yourself and that have different life experiences and complex life experiences the better your project is going to be at the end of the day.

Oh, for sure. Oh, for sure. And, and like why wouldn't you if you're creating film, you're creating art, right? Like want to appeal to the masses. We are exactly exactly like everywhere. Yeah. Covid has like by virtue of like long Covid has had more and more disabled people in the United States just from like contracting the virus. Like that's just like Covid has changed people's lives. Um, and all of those people deserve to see representation to see themselves on screen. There's so many disabled people in this world. And yet it's like such an ignored. Uh, I also like genre of person, you know, and We know what you mean. And like why do we have to be shamed for it?

We are like, like even prior to COVID, we're already 25%, we make up 25% 1 in every four people that, you know is disabled in some form. There's no age that you reach where you suddenly become disabled. It could happen at any time born with it. You could, you know, and and I think people don't understand that, and people also ignore, like chronic illness and things like that. Invisible invisible disabilities. Um that like you don't see like with your two eyes that like, oh this person is disabled, I'm very visibly disabled, but like not every disabled person is like that and things still affect them. Um But it's like so ignored. I watched I listened to this podcast, I think it was like three years ago when I was still working in the entertainment industry, and it was she put it in the most beautiful way when it came to accommodations in the building and in the arts, because that's what I did I did front of house.

So a lot of its audience facing audience services, making sure that um we made every experience, um not just accommodating, but um was the word was the word that um that we made it a very similar experience for everybody. Um And that was to use all five senses when you're either building a project or you know, writing a play or whatever is. Um Can I, can I see this art? Can I hear this art not necessarily smell, or can I feel this art right? And to make it as as simple as that, you know, taking into account folks who are blind hard of hearing, um putting closed captioning or having like additional accommodations for folks so that they can enjoy art the same way that everyone else is and isn't like even like a.

S. L. Like interpreters how that's so much more important for people. Um When enjoying art um like listening to a concert or whatever because they're enjoying it at the same time as everyone else or they're not missing the punch line because they had to read you know like close captioning is great but like you want to make sure that they're all enjoying it at the same time or making sure that um even if you have a wheelchair, if it's sorry not a wheelchair an elevator. Um if it's like at the very far end of the building where the patron had to travel 234 miles in order to get there and then enjoy it with the rest of their friends. Like enjoy the show with the rest of their friends afterward. That's not that's not intentionally inclusive. Yeah. You're just taking something off the list. So we did our part. But are they actually enjoying this or did they have a horrible experience because they were just second nature like you didn't consider them from the get go and that's just so special.

Like why can't we do that everywhere else? Even entertainment industry? It's hard um to work with you know companies that don't don't consider that. I think that like a big part of it though is that um hiring disabled people two consult on those accommodations is going to like in my opinion like result, I don't know if you agree but like resolve like so much of it because if you are thinking about like uh an elevator or um the way to um uh where seats should be that sort of thing for like disabled folks like accessing um being able to access a theater. Um if you are an abled person and you're sitting there and you're like okay how am I going to design this theater? You are, your first thought is most likely going to be the way that you would want to experience the art and not necessarily the way that somebody who has a like a fundamental difference in the way that they experience the world.

Um There is that and it's either like you have to do like a lot of research or just include like the people that you are building these things for. Um And I hope that a lot of theaters are and a lot of like venues and um places to create art are considering that now. Um I went to like see Wicked the like a couple weeks and my partner had never seen it and I was like we're gonna go see Wicked because I had like a voucher um because like the show's got like all canceled like around the holidays omicron but we went to see Wicked and they were I mean granted like that theater was on it about like accommodations and their um elevator and that sort of thing, like the elevator was like right next to the stairs like they were they were on it um and it was really really impressive whereas other theaters um either you have to go in like some like as you were saying like a convoluted like hallway and exactly yeah just go down 17 blocks left, pay the bridge troll, troll and then like Maybe you'll find like an elevator that smells musty because we haven't been there in 20 years like.

Yeah of course like your people are going to have like, yeah like you checked off that a d a guideline thing but you're not actually being inclusive and I think that there's a massive difference there. Yeah, there's a there's a major difference that those were the words she used, there's a major difference in being accessible and being equitable and the goal is to be as equitable as possible. Like we want to make sure that mellor mary beth enjoys the show with the rest of their friends not by themselves in some poor corner and sits in the back of the theater because it was where it was most convenient, you know for for the theater and I think these conversations are just so necessary and sometimes it is like exhausting. Um But like you said like time is now like I do feel like we should have started this years ago um But but it is important to like hire more of us to be a part of the conversation or to should hire us as consultants.

Yeah. And if if like and the same way that I think um you know, there's this huge trend in companies and corporations to start hiring folks of color to lead um to lead these diversity, right? D. I. Trainings as we should always always always include accessibility in that. And that's one of the first things I did before leaving performances too, is like include accessibility and um people with disabilities and so many other intersections into your conversations of the inclusion, right? And it's not just token izing the brown or black person, the immigrant, the queer person, the disabled person, it's hearing them out, seeing them as like a complete person with like very complex views. Um because I I know that like not everybody is going to have like the same opinion.

Um and it's important to hear, I think everybody out um even the people that you disagree with, I've been like, fortunate in the sense that um when I have like spoken to um professors and that sort of thing. Uh and other students at Tisch, they have been and like emery and natalia, like as soon as like they speak to me and we like get into that nitty gritty um of my experiences and um you know, the way that I have moved through the entertainment industry, they're incredibly supportive and they want to make those changes, they want to help me make those changes. Um And I think I've been very fortunate in that that like I've never like I've never experience like a whole lot of pushback from the people that um have given me the chance to speak about it.

Um I've spoken to like the Dean of film and tv at like the head of the film and tv department um who's just like a lovely guy and like was incredibly respectful and receptive. Um All of my friends are incredibly respectful and receptive and want to make these changes and want to go like above and beyond. Um And I think that as long as they also are coming to fellow able people and saying like, oh like we should make these changes, we should change our thoughts about this our thought process about accessibility, about accommodation um Having those allies out there is incredibly important I think um to like the overall because again, like as you were saying, like it gets exhausting, it's emotionally exhausting to constantly think that this uh mission like befalls like only disabled people's shoulders.

Like Yeah 100%. And I tell I tell tons of my abled friends, tell your abled friends like and don't just whisper it in my ear and my DM that you support me show me that you support me, show me in this industry that you um you know that you can make a difference with me and and I feel like we have been seeing a little bit more of that, and I don't want to just speak on the negative experiences, there are some positive experiences that come out of that, but like you said, we have to keep working and our friends or employers have to keep working with us. Yeah, and I think that that's the case about like, every single marginalized identity. Um there's so much work to do towards like everything um and making things equitable. Um but having people who are receptive is incredibly valuable and I I don't want to like ever overlook that.

Um I know that they're like, there's so much work to be done, but something that I'm always super thankful for our people who um hear my story here, what I'm trying to do and are supportive and um kind of like, our hand in hand with me in like, the fight to make this world a little bit more um conducive to disabled folks and our stories. Uh yeah, and I always try and keep keep thankful for that, wow, and with that, let's take a short break because that was a great way to end the first half. So that was a lot. That was a lot and thank you so much for sharing that mail, that's incredibly um you know, it speaks to the volume of how much work needs to be done in production, filmmaking and in all industries, in sports in just all types of entertainment and arts, like just the power to kind of hear us out and see how accommodations are, you know, absolutely easy.

If you just, if you just include us, if you talk to us, that's all we're asking for. It'd be nice to have a vote on the board. But literally it's also, yeah, I think that it also like goes hand in hand because you need to have those people there, but you also, they need to be encouraged in the sense of their accommodations are not a bad thing because if you're constantly telling them like it's a bad thing to have to be accommodated in any sort of way. And you kind of like society like brainwashes you to think that then, like, when you ask them, hey, what accommodations could we have? They're gonna be like nothing because they had to like bust their ask for however long to not have to use accommodations. So, Or they thought that they had everything on the checklist covered and so well if it's not in the 88 Handbook, then we did our part, like, no, actually every disability, every illness, chronic illness is different.

Like some people need a nearby bathroom to to their desk or they need, you know, to throw away their syringe um after, you know, injecting themselves with whatever, like medicine they need at work. Um Yeah, for sure. And um it's a constant battle just to to survive and live the everyday life, like I want to do a good job at my job as well and you can help me do that. Yeah, exactly, I think that there is so much um to be offered as long as, because the thing is that if a person isn't given accommodations, they can't perform to their high stability, it's just like not going to be like a thing, they're gonna feel uncomfortable. Um And I think that there's a lot of missteps in like also that being a self fulfilling prophecy, right?

Like if you, if you bring me onto set and um you don't have like anywhere safe for me to like sit uh every couple of hours. Um I'm understandably going to be exhausted and I'm gonna move slower and with less efficacy than my able counterparts. Um even though we've been standing like technically the same amount of time. Um So then you can say like, oh well Molina doesn't do their job as well or um I'm like mentally exhausted so I'm not as like on top of it as everybody else because I've like being disabled is also like a mental thing of like, you have to like mentally like think about like where your body is in space, you know, a lot more detail than enabled person, so I'm mentally doing that and as I get exhausted that gets harder, so my brain and my head is less in the game in relation to production and then they say like, oh well you aren't doing as good of a job so you, we don't want to like hire you or they like talk smack or whatever.

Um whereas if even like a small accommodation, like a chair somewhere close to the action where I can just like sit for like five minutes every two hours, um I could perform the same as like another able person. Yeah. It just makes me want to kick them if they say like for once, just like put yourself in my shoes also. Um, and I, I think as, as like people of color or, and I don't want to keep saying this, but we constantly also have to try and prove ourselves and, and we shouldn't have to, we shouldn't have to work five times as hard just to do the same job, right? And then Like 10 times as hard for half the recognition. Yeah. And ship we should be getting paid more if I'm doing five times as much, you know, you get exhausted after 22 hours versus like before and it's your fault.

It's because they couldn't accommodate for you and, and, and to just be able to voice that I think, um, to, you know, your current employers now or future employers like that's super important and hard enough as it is to, to not like constantly try and like prove ourselves and ignore our own accommodations because I feel like that is something that happens a lot we tend to forget what we need in order to prove ourselves worthy or equal as our abled counterparts because we can perform that job where we can, you know, go to the same school and and that's that's a dialogue that needs to change in all management in all um you know, hiring fields as well. Um Yeah. And the thing that I've also. Sorry? Yeah, no, go ahead. Um the thing that I've also noticed is that this is the thing with I think all marginalized identities where um if a person with a marginalized identity is included in something and this goes for a lot of them, like let's say a woman is hired on a set, she needs to be so excessively good at her job, not even to just get hired, but because when a man or when if it's a disabled person enabled person, if it's a person of color and a white person, um when that marginalized person is doing their job, they are whatever they do is somehow reflected onto their entire community.

Um where if a disabled person shows up to set and they aren't head and shoulders above skill wise, everybody else, um they are immediately reflected as worse than everybody else. And then that's producer. Um that executive, whoever is going to say, well, um we're not going to hire another disabled person because this person just didn't meet our expectations. Whereas that would never happen. Two heterosexual cis gender. White man. What he does is a reflection of him not of his whole community. Whereas a marginalized person what they do is a reflection of their entire community. And I just simply don't think that that's fair. Like like if if another disabled person didn't do a good job like were a different person, completely different people, but somehow it's you are representing everybody like you and everybody like you is representing you.

And I just don't think that that is fair at all because we are individuals with individual life experiences and individual education and all of that. Um So as much as I want to make life easier for other disabled people um I I also think that we're all different. 100% and that level of pressure that one has to take on on top of again working five times as hard. Like Yeah it is a hard thing and like I I feel like a lot of us have been the first of our kind doing and performing a lot of the things that we do. Like when I started power lifting, I didn't know of any other like upper limb different folks at the time um that used similar, you know, attachments or adaptive tools that I used until I started like stalking social like social media is like such a beautiful thing because you can find other people in your community that you would have never found in person and that's why a lot of like my closest friends live in freaking florida, Mark Garcia and we've never met because we connect on so many different levels and find others like ourselves to kind of move forward and kind of break those barriers for the rest of us and that's the beauty I think of being the first you know it's like yeah it is a lot of pressure and we do I I try not to represent you know other limb different folks like everybody is unique and has their own story and experiences those disabilities in so many different ways.

Yeah. And I also admit the privilege that I have I like I think that it's important to also like admit the privilege that we have. I have the privilege of using prosthetic legs um and like having that resource and having parents that are very supportive and I know that I carry that privilege of being able to admit that is a massive part of it because things that are accessible to me are not going to be accessible to somebody with the same amputations but they aren't using prosthetic legs. Uh they they're using a wheelchair or they're using um crutches or they're using like other resources. Uh so having that mindset I think is also very important. Yeah the advancement of technology that we have access to compared to so many other countries is like incredible. Like I remember super early in the morning you told me right before our photo or video shoot right, you had some issues with your prosthetic where you had to go and find not your prosthetist in a completely different state but your screws became loose and you had to like fix that within an hour and like I have that resource, other people won't um and it was it was it was a whole journey.

I thought it was like very poetic. You can write a short like the journey of doing that and like thank god I was with two like people like emery and I like like me and Maria natalia like like like my my lesbian moms um that like are incredibly caring human beings uh were there and very very helpful um in kind of like taking me to the place and like super early and like I have a process in new york is like an incredible guy um and he like made the calls necessary to make sure that I could get it. Um but it was like a privilege and you can see it in two different perspectives. Like I can totally like yes one you do you did have the resource at the time luckily and you do have that privilege to be able to fix it like within a day but an able bodied person wouldn't have to worry about that after a flight. You know they just get their full night's sleep.

They're not worrying about having to put on some legs in the morning and making sure that it doesn't fall apart when you walk around right like and yeah, intersection is important to like understand. I think um, I think that intersectionality, like for example, I'm, I'm a woman. So uh women are inherently like treated less seriously in like the medical field. So if I tell somebody that something is wrong, they are much more likely to look at me and say like, oh, you're hysterical, like you're, you're too anxious. Like take a chill pill. Um, because of the fact that I'm a woman, whereas like if a man said the same thing, he would be treated more seriously. Um, so there's like so much that goes into it. Um that I think is important to recognize, which also like speaks back to the fact that we're all different and that everybody's going to have a different experience if I speak to someone else, they're going to have different opinions than I am.

Perhaps it. Yeah, for sure. That reminds me of a little story that you told me in the car and you don't have to talk about it if you don't want to, but being on the plane and sitting in an emergency exit and a man and obvious like an able bodied man pointing at you and saying you're not fit to sit there because you're visibly disabled. Yeah, I got I was I was on the plane, I was I forgot where we were going but it was like a family. I was with both of my parents. Um and the guy like came up and like basically I was like a teen, I was, how old is I was like a teenager, like I was like a young like preteen, like like obviously when you're a preteen you're also like don't look at me, I will explode, like don't look at me, I have a breakout like just Like you because you're not having a good time at all when you're 12, it doesn't matter who you are being 12, it's just a bad time and everyone's opinion matters and everyone's opinions just so important.

Exactly and then this like grown ask fans coming up to me like you shouldn't be in the seat And it was just like so uncomfortable because I'm like you're you're beefing with a 12 year old like that's weird, you're weird for that and to just and point at someone to with their parents there and and so what ended up happening. Um So I got like it was like a it was like a key key with like every flight attendant on the, I felt like um I don't remember it like super clearly but I do remember being asked to leave and being moved seats um in front of everybody was just super awkward. Um But my dad, it was like you should shake her hand like to the guy, like you should shake my daughter's hand because she's the strongest person that you know. Um And that was incredibly powerful because that was, that was what my childhood was.

Like. My parents like never treated me as anything. Like as I mentioned at the beginning like it was just like never, I was never lesser ever. I was held to the same standards. Um and I was given the same amount of opportunity. I was never like looked down upon. So again, like when things like that happened, it was, it's like forever going to be like burned in my memory. Like the dude that was like literally a 40 year old man like beefing with me when I was, because I was sitting in the, I'm like if you wanted the exit that bad, you want the exit road that bad. You probably wouldn't even be able to save half of the people on this plane. Dude. No, I'm like I get it. You want to go down the slide first, okay, like okay chill, okay, here you go. Like you're weird but that's that's like, yeah the level of embarrassment there for you and for your parents, it just, it shouldn't have happened.

It really shouldn't have happened. And and I think we should all go out into the public eye, like grocery stores schools airplanes, airports not like judging people based on their appearance. Like you don't know my life, you don't know the capabilities that I have. And I think that's also, that shows how important will go back going back to school, going back to, um, how we were molded at a very young age. Like that guy probably wasn't taught like everyone's, everyone's capabilities are different no matter their disability, no matter their race, no matter no matter. Yeah. I think that like it's important to like trust people when they say that they can do something just as much to trust people when they say I can't do something, can I have help? Like those are two things that I think are removed from disabled people so often that we're not trusted in either direction.

Um, like I remember the story that you just told me about the Go kart in the car. It's like, it's the same, It's a very similar story. Yeah. Yeah. And again, it's, it's embarrassing because the same way that you got pulled out of that airplane seat that you probably paid for those things are not, not cheap. I paid extra to drive a go cart with my little brother and in front of, in front of the rest of my family who I was like almost the mother too. Um, and the crowd of gold carter's like got pulled out of the car and said, I couldn't drive and, and to have to explain ourselves to like it brought me to tears and it like it was so bad. I wanted to file a lawsuit. Um And that they didn't even have like proof that someone like me couldn't drive a go kart right? Where show me where it says that I can't drive a go cart.

I can show you my driver's license, I could be a freaking nascar driver. I could be a million different things that you assumed I was not. And and you know like it kind of broke their hearts because they felt like they were just abiding by the rules. Yeah but those rules like who made them able bodied folks, it also tells all the people around you in that moment that oh this is an acceptable way to treat somebody who is different than you you can make those assumptions. Um Right there's going to be like a bunch of people and now all those people are they going to go into another flight and tell the flight attendant I saw a disabled person sitting in the exit row and that person got and another disabled person got kicked out the last time I was in so they should also be kicked out. Like all of them are going to like have that in their memory to of like oh on this flight they said that a disabled person couldn't do this so no disabled people could do this.

Um I have never been on a plane that went down but if I promise you I could open up that exit door, I want the extra leg room. Oh, there is more leg room there in the middle, right? Yeah, that's why you pay extra. Hell no. Oh my God. And now I'm so afraid of like going to an exit row, I'm like I'm going to London in august with my partner and you and I want like that exit row sober, but I'm like, I don't want to be kicked out and that needs to change, right? That needs to change or like, and or the extra effort to sometimes that we have to make in explaining ourselves before getting rejected like, hey, listen, I have a disability, I have a B and C and I can do a B 12 and three right at my job or using this public resource and sometimes people wear a fucking sign on themselves saying I am totally capable of you know, doing these things, please don't help me or please help me.

Whatever the case may be. And that extra step that we have to do in order to not be rejected is hard. Yeah. Yeah. I just, I think it's like boundaries are super important as a disabled person. Um I get like stopped and like sometimes like my shoe will be untied and like people would like stop and be like your shoe is untied and then go down to time. Like you're weird. Get away from me, that's the place I live in new york. I have mace in my pocket and I will use it. You have gone up in tighter shoe. Yes. So weird. Yes. And if I fall in public, like, usually it's always men, it is always meant. I will say that like, they will come and just like grab me and try and like pull me up. I'm like, I, I am so close to your crotch sir, do not make me use that as a deterrent. Let me go. I'm like, get your hand off of me.

I hate that. And my partner, I remember when this was happening, but we, I like, I ate it at some point like I felt, which is fine. Like you were, I get up, I'm fine. Um but they know that to not touch me when I'm getting up because it makes it harder for me because I have a certain way that I am going to get up from the floor and if someone is touching me, we're both going to get hurt. Like it's just not gonna work out. So like, please don't touch me. And they know that and I fell at some point and people were giving them the dirtiest looks because they were like standing there waiting for me to get up and they were getting the dirtiest looks from people, but they like, they almost want to be like, they can do it on their own. I'm not, she's fine. Like it's it's fine. But like and that goes back to Rule # one is just ask before touching. That was the biggest rule for us again in like an audience facing venue is don't ever even in an emergency, don't ever touch somebody and try to lift them off of the wheelchair without asking.

Even if yeah, like imagine if someone were to do that to you. Like don't ever assume that you're doing them a favor. That's an invasion of their privacy, an invasion of their everyday livelihood, right? And that's also hilarious that they they looked at your partner was like what the are you doing? It literally was like just being respectful like waiting for me and people were like, like this poor person was doing like what I asked. The assumption is always like you help a disabled person without asking. But I honestly I'm so uncomfortable like when I fall and like someone will always like grab my arm and like yank me up and I'm like you're going to dislocate my shoulder before you help me so I'm begging you to stop and you're gonna hurt yourself to you're gonna you're gonna hurt yourself too. Like what do you Yeah it's it's also it's not like, oh my God I need to get up off the floor.

Now you can have like the 0.2 seconds to ask me like, hey do you need help and I'm gonna tell you know? But then you know, it's just like the, the personal spaces like eliminated when you're disabled, like people like view as like a little rag doll or like a damsel in distress, like all the time. It's so weird. That's like, yeah, I feel like and a lot of us have dealt with a similar experience, you know, or or like not seeing us as human when something like that does happen and and speaking to our able bodied friend instead of us um when asking um the biggest question like, oh what's what's wrong with her? What's wrong with them? Or do they need help? Or um just all of these questions that they ask someone other than you completely, like, I don't know, it's just there's there's so much, there's so much um self esteem and confidence that we have to work on going about these daily routines to try and cater to someone's shitty mindset.

Yeah, I think that it's a, I think that because of the fact that oftentimes when you see disabled people in media, it's always in relation to abled guilt or comfort in a sense that's like most of the time when disabled people are included, it's so um it's so tied to enabled persons self fulfillment. Um So when people see a disabled person in public, they have been conditioned for so long to associate that person struggle with their hero's journey, like their main character moment um and don't view us as our own complex people, like we're almost like, you know, like NBC's and video games, like, like we're almost like that to them because of the way that disabled people have been treated historically in media I think, and I think that if you change that, um it's a massive cultural shift that is going to occur and things are going to get a lot better.

Um but that takes, I think a lot of complex, difficult conversations um that are like slowly happening um and are necessary Say that five times and say it louder. That's so powerful because that's so true and like we hate to target the male abled ego, but I'm sorry that's that's like the world revolves around you in some way and it's always you being the main character of of this story, but like let us be the main character for once, Let us tell our own story, Let us our lives without you assuming that you have to be the hero. I think that like it's a part of that also is that disabled people are always like sad, like we're always just like our lives are like so hard, like they're so bad. I don't like sit around like crying all day life is more complicated than that and more rich than that and and that's why yeah, we stray away from using like um what is it that the overcoming word overcoming the disability overcoming disability, I overcame it or even using us as inspiration on the opposite end, right?

There's, there's so much inspiration porn and in newspaper headlines in freaking what we have just seen super bowl commercials or and it's great again to highlight complex individuals like us, but without catering to your need as an able bodied person, without catering to you being the hero in the story. Yeah, absolutely. I think that um I get called an inspiration like constantly. Um I always get like the two, like probably like most common things that get said to me in public is you're such an inspiration or thank you for your service. Oh yeah, like people assume that I'm a veteran and I'm like, I like that it's so it's such an awkward like blue. I get I get I get like asked that and you, there's no good way to respond.

There's never a good way to respond. But um I got called like an inspiration like so often uh it's really difficult because I think that there are parts of me that are inspiring, but I think that that is the case of most people um I am just very visibly outwardly have like something that is different about me that I had to um contend with. Um but I think that if you speak to most people, they have gone through something um so I had called an inspiration but a lot of the times the people that say that about me know nothing about me. So you're just like saying that about somebody that looks different from you. And the thing that you are saying is you're inspiring because you are outside buying orange juice and I would be sad if I were you, I would be I would be inside crying if I were you that yeah, I'm like, I do this.

I've been doing this for 20 years. Like there's no, I don't think that what I do is inspiring on a daily basis. Like I'm just um at trader joe's like, please calm down. Um but if you see me as like a filmmaker or like on set or like you've seen my work and you say, oh, I think that you're inspiring to me because the world that you live in is able list and you have accomplished this and this because then you are recognizing the thing that I have done and not um something that is visual about me because my outward body, I think is just the thing that carries my brain from room to room. Like it's the vehicle of which I I exist in the world and commenting on that is says nothing about me.

Um I'm not an inspiration. You just think I look different than you do and that's what you find if that's what you find inspiring, you need to do some soul searching for sure. What is the intention behind those words? That's that's what I always have to ask people and and if it's because you feel sorry for me, don't don't, you can feel sorry for me when I ask you to feel sorry for me, but not just based off of my appearance, right? And and the assumptions that you make that my I mean, yes, my life is probably harder than you, but than yours. But that's like, you can't always assume that you can't always assume that we're Yeah, that was well ship, thank you for sharing all of that. That I have. Like, a lot of, I have a lot of opinions about being called, a lot of that, you know, is It's still, it still doesn't make sense to people. And I think that's why we have to constantly repeat it 64 episodes later on this podcast.

Um, and on our social media and everywhere else is because they think that they're doing more good than harm in saying that they think that it's a compliment and um as long as they remove themselves from the compliments, I think, well, lead them into, you know, stronger conversations with folks like us. Absolutely. I think that it's um, I I don't, I don't think that it's uh with malin tent, um like being called inspiration. It's just that a lot of the times if you have, if you try and like have like a deeper conversation about it with that person. They often times like it was just a compliment, like they get then defensive. Um, because they expect, I think a lot of the times, I don't know if you, I'm sure that you've also experienced, I don't know, but they expect disabled people to play a certain role for them.

Um and once they like assign that to you to them, if you break out of that, if you like it or are at all like outspoken, like uh loud, uh I mean like I've been called mean so many times um for just like setting a boundary. Um then it like it can spiral like so fast if you don't like fit into that box. Yeah, no, that's so true. And fuck fitting into boxes because we are bigger than that. We set a platform everywhere. We walk exactly without being too vain of course. But you know, I know I said a platform everywhere I walk and I'm also so pretty just, but I'm so humble to joe humility. Um No. Yeah, I mean 100%.

Yes and and that's just so important for us to hear time and time again. So thank you. Thank you for chatting with me on a Sunday afternoon and hopefully our dogs can have a play date sometime one day one day when you're ever back in the Bay Area. But please tell um our listeners if they're able to find you anywhere on a website. Um if if anyone wants to contact you or share their story. Is there is there a way for people to do that? Yeah, absolutely. I'll put my instagram on on public again just for this occasion. Um, and my instagram handle is I recently changed it, so I just want to make sure that I get it correct. Um, Emma and mary Molina, M E L I N A K O S is my instagram handle.

Um, or you can just search up my name on instagram. It's an uncommon name. So it'll come up Molina Narcos. So yeah, I would love to hear opinions, stories, uh, common experiences. Um, and other people, other people in the film industry as well. Like it's a great way to connect. It's amazing and thank you again for um, everything that you have done so far. I know there's a lot of work to be done, but you're off to a great start. God damn it one Step at a time. Always one step at a time. That is, that is always the key. Awesome. Well, thank you disabled girls out. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Thanks for listening to disabled girls who left. We appreciate all of your support and everyone who's taken the time to show us some love. Don't forget to subscribe rate already, review of our channel. We're on apple podcasts, Spotify player, FM, google podcasts and more.

You can also find us on instagram at disabled girls who left

E64: “The Film Industry Is Ableist” w/Melina Nakos
E64: “The Film Industry Is Ableist” w/Melina Nakos
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