When Karen Crespo walked the runway at Carrie Hammer’s Fall 2014 show at Fashion Week in New York City, the audience jumped to their feet to give her a standing ovation.
“Karen Crespo is one of the most gorgeous women I know, hands down,” Carrie Hammer told ABC News. “Karen is going to inspire so many people. I hope she inspires the whole world.”
Of course, Crespo wasn’t chosen to walk the runway just for a pretty face. Crespo is actually down in history books as the first quadruple amputee to model at New York Fashion Week. As Hammer has mentioned, this woman is inspiring.
Crespo, who is now 31-years-old, lost all four limbs back in 2011 due to a severe case of bacterial meningitis. Then a registered nurse, she survived two heart attacks, was in a coma for fifteen days and was forced to stay in the ICU for half a year. Despite only a 10% chance of survival, she pulled through.
In this video, Crespo shares the details of her experience with Kababayan LA.
Crespo admits to entering a very dark phase after her amputations, but much of that changed when she watched Carrie Hammer’s model selection for her New York Fashion show in February. The fashion designer chose Danielle Sheypuk, who became the first-ever model in a wheelchair to come down the New York Fashion Week runway. Fueled by inspiration, Crespo reached out to Hammer in an email.
“Seeing her on the runway made me teary-eyed,” Crespo wrote. “because it boosted my self-confidence; something I lacked prior.”
“I have a passion for fashion,” she continued. “I hope one day I will get to show the world ‘Why can’t people with disabilities, people like me, be beautiful and model?’ Maybe one day if I ever get to go to New York I will be able to meet you.”
Hammer, of course, was moved to tears. She didn’t hesitate to ask Crespo to model in her next show “Role Models, Not Runway Models.” Additionally, Hammer helped Crespo get a new set of prosthetics after discovering that Crespo’s custom-made limbs were stolen from her front porch.
With the new limbs, Crespo gained the confidence to go through with the show. She admits that the experience was nerve-racking at first, but says she eventually felt happy and comfortable once the audience cheered her on.
“I have a totally different perspective on things,” she told Today.com. “Maybe this is why everything happened to me. Maybe I’m supposed to inspire or make a difference in someone else’s life, someone who has a disability, or maybe just someone who had a lot of self-doubt.”
These bowing doctors are not the only ones in awe of 11-year-old Liang Yaoyi. This image, along with its inspiring story, has been circulating all throughout China. Everyone seems to be impressed with this selfless young man who proved that children are most certainly capable of doing what is noble and good.
Liang was a fifth grader in Shenzhen, China. Despite his young age, he already knew that he wanted to save lives as a doctor in the future.
“There are many people doing great things in the world,” he told ChinaDaily.com. “They are great, and I want to be a great kid, too.” Well it was only a matter of time before Liang fulfilled that longing.
In April, Liang was diagnosed with brain cancer and even after multiple surgeries, his body could not handle the cancer. There on his deathbed, Liang told his parents about his final decision: After he died, Liang wanted to donate his organs so that he could help others live.
Soon after, the brave 11-year-old passed away. Touched by his incredible selflessness, Chinese doctors bowed to Liang before performing the surgery.
Although he didn’t end up becoming a doctor, Liang managed to fulfill his wish of saving lives. According to China Daily, the boy’s kidney and liver were successfully transplanted to people in need.
I was never fond of elementary school. In fact, I was one of those kids who could never pay attention to anything but the sound of the ticking clock in the classroom, counting down the minutes until I could grab my friends and run outside to the playground.
Sound familiar? Well, maybe this story of a Chinese villager will change your mind about your animal cracker-eating days that have long since passed. Perhaps it will even make you feel nostalgic for your childhood as well.
Zeng Xiangwei was a villager living in rural Hunan (a province of south-central China), who was left to raise his two grandchildren. Despite the poor conditions of his home, Zeng raised them with his wife and gave them a proper family life.
But his warmth and generosity didn’t just end there. Thirty-eight years ago, Zeng also volunteered to teach orphaned children in an old, dingy, abandoned warehouse that was converted into a school in the ’60s. Now at the age of 56 and doing double duty as headmaster of the school, Zeng has taught more than 600 children — 10 of whom have even gone on to study at universities in China. He is also the only teacher at this institution.
To this day, he continues to teach his current 13 students with curricula that he plans and prepares by himself, but also makes sure to include fun activities.
The crafty man also teaches his students the art of paper-folding.
In addition to being a fatherly figure to his grandchildren and students, Zeng is also the village handyman and always steps up to fix satellite TVs wherever there may be a bad connection. On top of all of that, he returns home every day to tend to his three acres of rice fields.
Zeng, who was nominated as one of the best village teachers in Hunan, says he has plans to retire in four years, but that he “has never regretted” the last 38 years of his life, single-handedly teaching hundreds of children.
American Girl Dolls is a popular line of 18-inch dolls with accompanying books, clothes and accessories. First released in 1986, the dolls and their stories were originally intended to focus on various periods in American history.
In recent years, when the dolls began telling stories of modern and contemporary life, American Girl Dolls became known for even more than teaching history. The dolls have received much praise for the diversity within their products. They have not only introduced dolls of various ethnicities and religions, they’ve even introduced dolls without hair and a hearing aid accessory for the dolls.
American Girl Dolls believe that by having dolls that they can relate to, girls can feel more comfortable in their own skin and will have an easier time accepting themselves. But despite the diverse choices, 10-year-old Melissa Shang still could not relate to the dolls she loved. That is why she began a petition to release an American Doll with a disability.
Shang has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease which forces her to use a wheelchair. Shang is an avid fan of American Girl Dolls and wishes for nothing more than to find a doll she can relate to. More specifically, Shang enjoys the Girl of The Years. Every year, American Girl introduces a new character who faces common-day challenges.
Sheng’s goal is to have the next Girl of The Year have a disability as well. Her heartfelt petition states:
None of the American Girl Girls of the Year are like me. None of them have a disability.
Being a disabled girl is hard. Muscular Dystrophy prevents me from activities like running and ice-skating, and all the stuff that other girls take for granted. For once, I don’t want to be invisible or a side character that the main American Girl has to help: I want other girls to know what it’s like to be me, through a disabled American Girl’s story.
Disabled girls might be different from normal kids on the outside. They might sit in a wheelchair like I do, or have some other difficulty that other kids don’t have. However, we are the same as other girls on the inside, with the same thoughts and feelings. American Girls are supposed to represent all the girls that make up American history, past and present. That includes disabled girls.
Read her full petition here and watch her inspiring story below.
Influence comes in many forms, from high-profile advocates who are shaping ideas on an international stage to local heroes who are breaking barriers and defying expectations in their own communities. In our inaugural series celebrating influential Asian American women, Audrey Magazine highlights eight newsmakers, activists, leaders and trailblazers who encourage us to pursue our dreams, explore the unknown, and stand up for those without a voice.
CLICK HERE FOR MORE ASIAN AMERICAN INFLUENTIAL WOMEN!
by Ada Tseng
Photo by Narith Vann Ta.
KELI LEE Executive VP of Casting at ABC Entertainment
For everyone who’s grateful for the recent rise of minority faces on American television, it’s important to note that behind every Sandra Oh in Grey’s Anatomy, every Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Jorge Garcia and Naveen Andrews in Lost, is a casting director responsible for pairing these actors with the unforgettable roles that will go down in television history.
Keli Lee, an executive who has been casting TV shows at ABC for more than 20 years, was on her way to law school when she landed a fortuitous college internship that introduced her to the entertainment casting industry. In her first week working for Phyllis Huffman, who often did casting for Clint Eastwood’s films, Lee operated the video camera that captured the auditions for the Academy Award-winning 1992 film Unforgiven. From there, she eventually worked her way up the ladder, and as Executive VP of Casting at ABC, Lee now has a corner office with a view and spends her days looking for the next new star.
Born in South Korea, Lee moved to the States as a toddler, and whenever her father stayed in Korea for work, her adventurous, road-trip-loving mother would move her young kids to a new state every six or seven months, depending on her whims. “Up until I was 13, I never started or finished the same school, so I met thousands of people from around the country,” says Lee. “It forced me to socialize and understand people, and ultimately I think that’s how I got to be good at what I do. I’m searching for people and learning about their emotional core.”
For Lee, more important than finding a good-looking specimen or skilled thespian is determining whether the actor is authentic. “I think within the first 10 seconds of meeting someone, you can get a sense of a person,” says Lee. “You know whether you want to continue to watch them.”
Twelve years ago, Lee started the ABC Casting Department’s Talent Showcase with the goal of providing more opportunities for minority actors who either don’t have representation or aren’t even aware of the opportunities available. Since its inception, 14,000 people have auditioned, and 432 actors have participated in 30 showcases, with winners earning mentorships. Beneficiaries of this program include Liza Lapira (Crazy Stupid Love,Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23), Carrie Ann Inaba (Dancing with the Stars), Aaron Yoo (Disturbia, 21), Archie Kao (CSI), Randall Park (Larry Crowne, The Five-Year Engagement), and Janina Gavankar (True Blood, The L Word).
In the upcoming fall season on ABC, TV audiences can look out for Ming-Na Wen and Chloe Wang Bennet in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Liza Lapira in Super Fun Night, Ginger Gonzaga in Mixology, Summer Bishil in Lucky 7, and Albert Tsai in Trophy Wife.
“My goal is to change the face of television,” says Lee. “When I came to the U.S. at age 2, there wasn’t much diversity on television, and now, it’s such a different time.”
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On how she ended up in the casting industry
Like most Korean American families, entertainment [as a career] was not an option. It was the stereotype: are you going to be a doctor or a lawyer? So, I had planned to go to law school, I was studying philosophy at NYU, and I was a hostess at Caroline’s Comedy Club, so it was the comedians who introduced me to the world of entertainment. I actually fell into this business. I got an internship in casting and worked my way up, while I went to school full time at NYU. First, I worked at Warner Brothers, and then I went to ABC, where I’ve been for 21 years.
On starting ABC Casting Department’s Talent Showcase to find diverse talent
12 years ago, we were talking about diversity and thinking about how we can provide more opportunities for diverse actors, so I started this showcase program to give exposure and training to actors who either don’t have the representation or aren’t even aware of the opportunities that exist. After my team auditions the actors, we select the top 15-20, and we put them through this training program. Usually you have material, and you find people to play the characters, but this is the reverse: we find the right actors and then try to find the right material for them. Some of the actors who’ve gone through this program that we’re excited about are: Liza Lapira, who was on Don’t Trust The B—- in Apt 23, Jorge Garcia from Lost, Dania Ramirez from Devious Maids, and Jesse Williams on Grey’s Anatomy.
On their first digital talent competition this summer
This is new. We’re the first network to launch a digital talent competition. We had over 14,000 submissions, we’re having a public vote, and the winner will be announced August 30. The winner gets $10,000 and a talent option hold with ABC. Just based on the submissions, I’m excited to be able to find new faces. These are actors from around the country: there’s coming from everywhere from Florida to Alabama, and it’s really great to hear some of their stories.
On the Latino and Asian Outreach Initiatives
This is international. We started this program last year. For the Latino Outreach, we targeted Mexico, Latin America and Spain, and I’m excited to say that one of actors we found in first year of the Latino Outreach Initiative, Adan Canto, was cast as series regular in Mixology. The Asian Outreach Initiative started in India, and we just expanded to the Philippines this year.
Asian faces to look out for in the 2013-14 ABC season
Aubrey Anderson Emmons in Modern Family
Ming-Na Wen and Chloe Wang Bennet in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Ginger Gonzaga in Mixology
Liza Lapira in Super Fun Night
Sandra Oh in her last season of Grey’s Anatomy
Yunjin Kim in Mistresses
Summer Bishil in Lucky 7
Albert Tsai in Trophy Wife
Griffin Gluck in Back in the Game
Naveen Andrews in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
Tim Jo in The Neighbors
Who influences you?
I have an amazing circle of really strong, smart, successful female friends, and we feed off that positive energy and help each other out. That’s part of what I do in my profession: I’m helping people realize their dreams, and that’s what we do for each other. I often have these conversations with my girlfriends, where I wish I had women as role models or mentors, so now that we’re in our positions, we think, how can we help empower other women and be role models for them? All these female pioneers paved the way for us, so how can we pave the way for other women?
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Audrey Magazine is an award-winning national publication that covers the Asian experience from the perspective of Asian American women. Audrey covers the latest talent and trends in entertainment, fashion, beauty and lifestyle.