INTERVIEW WITH EMILY J PRIOR
Model. Actor. Activist.
We've long admired your pursuit of inclusion and diversity; as well as your resilience that your followers witness, and desire to live life to the full and be undeterred. Briefly tell us the backstory behind your pursuit of inclusion and diversity.
Hi! I have Cerebral Palsy which affects the way my muscles work. I was diagnosed when I was one year old.
When I was around eight years, I was looking through a catalogue and I realised that there was no one like me. There was no one who had a disability and I asked why people with disabilities were being excluded in media and advertising.
I decided that I wanted to change that. I wanted to show how disability could be included and I wanted to change the way society thought about disability.
FINDING MY VOICE. SHARING MY PURPOSE
There are definitely barriers when you have a disability. Accessibility and attitudes were my biggest barriers. Attitudes of brands not wanting to include disability in their advertising was and still is frustrating and disappointing. Not being able to access the same opportunities as models or actors without a disability. 1 in 5 people have a disability it’s not represented. The media reinforces disability stereotypes or doesn't include disability at all. For me, I just wanted to show everyone what disability and fashion looked like, so I used Social Media to do this. It gave me a platform to share my images and to tell my story.
Many of our Tween community have a passion or purpose but perhaps haven't found their voice yet - or the appropriate platform to share their message.
What practical and emotional barriers did you have to overcome to get your message out there?
Do you have a top tip you'd recommend to other young readers to help get their message heard or help them form a movement?
Yes! It doesn’t matter if your voice is small, the more you talk, the more people will listen. Sometimes it means your voice might be the only voice but it is important to continue to use it for something you believe in.
MY PERSONAL WINS
Of course we HAVE to ask this question: what are you most proud of having achieved in the pursuit of your purpose?
There are lots of little moments that I am proud of because they have helped to achieve my big moments. I think though, it is all of the “first” moments that I am most proud of.
One of them is appearing on the front cover of a Target Australia Catalogue. It was the first time a disabled model had featured on the front cover. Then being in the Target Back To school Campaign, where I was on the front cover again and all throughout Australian Target Stores.
Walking the runway at Perth Fashion Festival last year was also something I am very proud of. I was the first disabled model to walk the runway in their 20 year history.
Being named as the first ever Youth Ambassador for Disability Sport is also something I am very proud of.
Recently, it was announced that I was the star of a TV Film appearing on ABCMe called Rocky and Me and this is definitely my most proudest moment. After doing so many auditions to finally be cast in the lead role was a dream come true. To see disability being represented (authentically) on TV has been my biggest goal.
YOUR PURPOSE - YOUR FRIENDSHIPS
Did your purpose affect your friendship group or popularity or socially gain you respect in any way?
I think by doing what I do and talking about the importance of disability inclusion, it has helped my friends understand why it is so important to me and to people with disabilities. However my friends just see me for me and who I am. Yes, I have done some really cool things and met lots of TV stars who have definitely helped me share my message but I don't do it to be popular, I do it because it is important to me and for people with disabilities.
EMPOWERED THROUGH PURPOSE
Please offer your best piece of practical or emotional advice to any Tweens affected by a feeling of physical disability or exclusion
I think one of the best pieces of advice I can give is to advocate for yourself in the best way you can.
Having a disability is not tragedy and I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. Having a disability makes me who I am. So always proud of who you are and of your disability.
I also found having my mentor (Robyn Lambird) who is also disabled has been the best. Being able to share the experience of disability has really helped me to grow and understand my own disability.
Please offer your best piece of advice to any Tweens unsure if the putting yourself out there is really worth it/ whether they can make a difference
My best advice is that if you are passionate about something, if it has meaning to you, then do it!. Just start somewhere and start telling your story.
If it doesn’t happen straight away don't give up!