Actress, Model & “Push Girl” Angela Rockwood shares her thoughts about her career and the industry
How did you get approached to be on “Push Girls” and what were your first thoughts when you were told what the show was going to be about?
If you believe in “law of attraction”… that is exactly how the show was created. Many folks don't realize but originally the show was suppose to be about my life as a quadriplegic and how I constantly am going like the “energizer bunny”, the show was going to be called “can't sit still”. I was approached by exec producer David Hurwitz of “American Gladiator” and “Fear Factor” to do the show and once he introduced me to producer Gay Rosenthal of “Little People, Big World” I shared how the show wasn't about my life, but all the women and men living out in the world dealing with any type of catastrophic situation. I had already created my team of women warriors with my girlfriends and I explained that it was important to remind the world that no matter what you were going through, it's important not to lose yourself from within but to embrace who you are and live life to the fullest the best of your ability.
The Push Girls
What was the public reaction like when the show aired? Do you feel that it helped to educate the general public about people who are in wheelchairs?
”Push girls” won the critics choice awards for best reality series and I do believe it made a powerful impact by bringing awareness and shedding some light on how it is to live with a disability. Of course the common denominator wasn't about our wheelchairs, but our spirits and how we “pushed through” everything to live our lives as women.
In your first meeting with an agency as shown on Push Girls, you were told that there was only one request for disabled models in a year. How did that make you feel?
I was completely aware of the struggle because I jumped back into the industry 4 years after my paralysis and due to the fact I couldn't sit around waiting for wheelchair jobs to roll in, I then decided to create and produce “Push Girls”.
You were a model and actress prior to your accident and continued your career once you were in your wheelchair. How do you feel the casting experience differs for able bodied and disabled models and actors?
The casting experience is definitely different on all levels. It all depends though with acting and modeling parts because with acting, most of the time the studios are not even sure what kind of performer with a disability they want for the part and it's like a huge “cattle call”… with modeling, I've been lucky that the clients or company hiring are specific about the model they are hiring with a disability, such as Nordstrom, Target, AARP, Sony or Maybelline. They want a model in a wheelchair and that's what they hire.
Throughout your career, have you been involved in any fashion shows, shoots or campaigns that featured both able bodied and disabled models?
Yes, majority of all the jobs I've done were all with able bodied models from modeling in LA Fashion Week, Target, Nordstrom and such.
Why do you think it is important for disabled models to be integrated into the modelling industry?
It's extremely important because I believe beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, color, age and in every vessel. Also, because 3 billion folks live with a disability in the world and we are also the consumers. Who doesn't want to be fashionable, comfortable or feel gorgeous in their clothes? C'mon now.
Have you gone for many modelling jobs that haven't specified that they want a disabled model?
Not yet, but I'm planning on changing that.
Do you feel like retailers and fashion houses should do more to include disabled customers (i.e. using some disabled models in their campaigns, seated mannequins, more wheelchair friendly shops etc?
How do you feel about Hollywood and television companies using able bodied actors and actresses to portray disabled characters?
I have two ways of looking at this. One, I feel Hollywood should step out of the box and hire more “PWDs” (performers with disabilities) to play characters with disabilities to bring authenticity to the screen because it's extremely important. This is a topic I speak passionately about in the entertainment community but on the flipside as an actress who understands the “art of acting” I wouldn't want to take a great opportunity away for an able bodied “excellent” actor to have the moment to act as a “character” like Leo in “What's Eating Gilbert Grape”, or Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump” and so forth. The one thing I do understand, Hollywood does hire able bodied actors to play disabled roles “if” there is a flashback scene where the character needs to be “walking” or such. One argument that I do make is, if “PWDs” want to be hired as an actor to play a role being called for with “their” specific disability… be sure you “can” act and bring the juice to the table because you can't expect the studios to just hire a woman in a wheelchair to play the woman in the chair only because shes truly paralyzed… you have to make sure she can “actually act”.
Have you found that you get treated differently by people since you've been in your wheelchair?
Yes, most of the time but I've learned to navigate around it.
How have you found dating since you've been in your wheelchair?
Ha ha ha, fortunately for me I have never had a problem with dating… whether I'm walking or rolling. I say this with humble confidence because I approach dating the same way I did when I was walking… I just put “everything” on the table, no filter, I don't hold back and I tell it like it is. I act the way I did before my accident, of course being in a wheelchair and being a quadriplegic I need a little more assistance doing things or do things different but I would let the individual I was dating know what's up, ha ha ha. I guess it worked because I'm engaged to my love Steven Profeta.
Do you find having friends who are also in wheelchairs has helped to support you and encourage you to get out of your comfort zone?
Having friends like-minded and who also happen to be in wheelchairs just makes life a little more crazy and fun. I was never uncomfortable or needed to be pulled out of my comfort zone, if anything I need to be placed in it every now and then… but then again life would be boring because you can't have spontaneous moments if you have a “comfort zone”.
The Push Girls
I saw that you managed to go skiing in your wheelchair (which is something I now really want to try!) and I know you were a bit of an adrenaline junkie prior to your accident, but many people would become much more cautious after an accident like yours; do you feel that you've become more adventurous again since your accident and do you feel like the other girls have helped you with that?
My adrenaline junkie, speed freak and “living on the edge” attitude has never left my vessel… and now if anything, I have girlfriends who will get crazy with me.
I love the show's tag line “If you can't stand up, stand out”. How do you make sure that you stand out in your every day life?
I made that statement on the show after I had the meeting with the casting agency. I figured if I'm going to be paralyzed and sitting in this wheelchair, I better be sure I put forth the best dang “visual” anyone can see with their eyes. Its about shattering the perceptions within peoples minds of how they “see” folks in chairs or with a disability. It's no different from a woman going to an event or a red carpet affair that wants to look spectacular and make a statement… or a queen just sitting on her throne looking regal and flawless. For me, it's about putting your best face forward… and it isn't any different from when I was walking or now to sitting in a wheelchair. I remember reading in a specific chatroom, an individual made a statement about our show stating, “there is no way those girls look like that every day”. Ohhhhhh yes, you better believe it, I get up every day and after being thrown in my chair from my caretaker, I roll on into my bathroom, put my “warpaint” on, pick my outfits whether im dressing up or just casual around the house and make sure I “feel” good because when it boils down to it, if you don't feel great on the inside, you sure as heck are not going to radiate on the outside; true beauty starts from within. I make sure I stay balanced within my spirit by meditation or prayer, eat well, and stay positive every day.
What message would you like to give anyone who is newly disabled and is struggling to come to terms with their disability?
The one secret I always share with folks after being newly injured is to remember to focus on what you “have” in the present moment, not what you “had” in the past. Of course, things could always be worse. The fact we are having the opportunity to “live”, “breathe” and vbe given the chance to do whatever you desire regardless is the reward of itself.” I always say, “life is a gift, and what you do with your life, is your gift back to the world, to others and to yourself!”
Keep shining strong and being unstoppable!
Thank you and blessings
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, we wish you the very best of luck for 2017 & beyond!