Latinas with Disabilities

5 Latinas with Disabilities Who Are Thriving

We Latinxs have a hard time getting representation in realms that are considered “mainstream,” such as film, television, fashion, and politics. It’s even harder to be seen, heard, and represented for Latinas with disabilities in today’s world. This is despite the fact that, according to Axios, “one in six Latino adults in the U.S. has a disability,” and a whopping 5.4 million U.S. Hispanics in total “have some form” of it, per findings from the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability.

That’s why it’s important to highlight those Latinxs who are succeeding in spite of their disabilities. They are representing and opening doors for two majorly underrepresented groups, while showing the world that it can be done. We want to shine a much-deserved light on these celeb Latinas with disabilities who are thriving–and inspiring.

Jillian Mercado

Afro-Dominican model and actress Jillian Mercado, who has spastic muscular dystrophy, has blazed a path for other badasses who just happen to have a disability. She has graced the covers of Teen Vogue, Glamour UK, and The Untitled Magazine, made her New York Fashion Week runway debut for The Blonds, and has appeared in ads for Oil of Olay, Diesel, Target, and Nordstrom. As an actress Mercado has been a part of several productions, including playing Maribel on The L Word:Generation Q.

Salma Hayek Pinault

There are many celebrities who you would never know had a disability if they hadn’t shared their stories with others. Mexican-Lebanese actress Salma Hayek Pinault is one such celeb. She was diagnosed with dyslexia as a teenager, and is also said to have ADHD, but none of this has stopped her from succeeding in Hollywood. The Best Actress Oscar nominee told Harper’s Bazaar UK, “I have an accent, am dyslexic, short and chubby. You name it, I have it, but I am here. I must be the luckiest girl in the world to be working.” She told Oprah “I came here and I didn’t speak English, I didn’t have a green card, I didn’t know I had to have an agent, I couldn’t drive, I am dyslexic.” But nevertheless, she became a star.

Lauren Ridloff

 

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Afro-Mexican actress Lauren Ridloff, one of the stars of the iconic zombie television show, The Walking Dead, was born deaf. She plays Connie in the series, holding her own in the physically and emotionally demanding post-apocalyptic world that is TWD. She also made history by playing Makkala, Marvel’s first deaf superhero, and “the first deaf actor ever to play a superhero in a studio feature film,” in The Eternals. In an interview with Variety, Ridloff said, “it felt like a lifetime of waiting. I didn’t really see anyone like myself ever represented on the screen.” Another role Lauren Ridloff is known for is Diane, an ASL teacher in the 2021 film, Sound of Metal.

Sofía Jirau

 

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The parameters of fashion have thankfully expanded to represent beauty in all its forms, instead of a very narrow sliver of the population. A Latina trailblazer who has broken down barriers in the world of la moda is Sofía Jirau. Not only is she a Latinx model on the runway, but Jirau also has Down Syndrome. This year, the Puerto Rican became the first model with Down Syndrome to represent the iconic Victoria’s Secret brand. In addition to being a first in fashion, Sofía also made her debut at New York Fashion Week, walking for fellow Puerto Rican Marisa Santiago, and has her own clothing brand called Alavett.

Selena Gomez

 

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Everyone has something that they have to deal with in life. It’s when we share these struggles that we realize we are not alone, but rather are a part of a larger community. Chicana singer, actress, producer, and entrepreneur Selena Gomez has been open and honest about living with lupus, having the kidney transplant she needed because of the autoimmune disease, and having anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. Selena wants others in similar situations to feel seen and heard, so she’s doing things like joining up with the White House, MTV, and her beauty brand Rare Beauty’s The Rare Impact Fund to hold a Mental Health Youth Action Forum.

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V. Alexandra de F. Szoenyi is a writer at BoldLatina, Refinery29, LatinaMedia.co, and Mission Local. Her work focuses primarily on fashion, beauty, and Latinx culture. She has also written on San Francisco for a number of publications including the San Francisco Examiner, Bob Cut Mag, 7x7, and The Bold Italic. Alex recently co-founded the Latina Writers community.