Hollywood superstar Zendaya got candid about her mental health and how she learnt to prioritize it while growing up in the spotlight.
In a sit-down with British Vogue, the Dune actor, 25, spoke about going to therapy and recommended everyone to give it a try as well.
“Of course I go to therapy. I mean, if anybody is able to possess the financial means to go to therapy, I would recommend they do that. I think it’s a beautiful thing,” said the Euphoria actor.
“There’s nothing wrong with working on yourself and dealing with those things with someone who can help you, someone who can talk to you, who’s not your mom or whatever. Who has no bias,” said the former Disney star.
The actor also spoke about how the COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown that subsequently followed led her towards feeling persistent existential sadness.
“[It was the] first kind of taste of sadness where you wake up and you just feel bad all day, like what the [expletive] is going on? What is this dark cloud that’s hovering over me and I don’t know how to get rid of it, you know?”
Click here to read the full article on The News International.
Batgirls launches from DC Comics in December, a new series by Becky Cloonan, Michael W. Conrad, and Jorge Corona starring, as the title implies, Stephanie Brown, Cassandra Cain, and Barbara Gordon. Cloonan and Conrad did a promotional interview for DC’s website last weekend where they debuted plans to have Barbara begin using a cane and a wheelchair again. Not all the time, but sometimes. According to Cloonan, showing Gordon “in a chair again” was one of the things they pushed for when asked to work on the book. “She’s just going to have some days where she needs to use it,” Cloonan said.
Here’s what Cloonan and Conrad had to say about addressing Barbara’s “relationship with mobility and disability” in Batgirls:
BC: We are addressing it, I think, pretty head-on. Right now, Barbara has a chip in her back that allows her to walk again. But in our book, she has off days. She’s got bad days. So, we’ll see her using a cane. She does use a wheelchair occasionally. She’s got days when she’s just spending some time under her desk rearranging all the cables, you know? And I think anyone would want to spend the rest of the day sitting down. So, I think it’s just natural. We don’t make a huge deal of it because it’s such a big part of her character and her history. It’s not like we want to beat readers over the head with this idea. But at the same time, we want to show that it’s still part of her character. She is still disabled, even if she doesn’t always look like it all the time. She can walk around, but it’s still a part of her.
MWC: And we love that she’s become an icon for this community. It’s a community that we really want to serve. We’re going to do so to our greatest ability, without necessarily creating a different character entirely in our book. We can’t have her running and jumping through, I don’t know, ventilation shafts of whatever in one book, and then in our book have her be a representation of someone with different mobility skills. It’s just a continuity issue.
That said, I’ve got a past in working with people who have mobility challenges. And, like Becky said, it doesn’t always present in a way that becomes central to a character, and it shouldn’t be. It should be that the central thing going on here is this awesome character and her great personality, and then if we can also show her physical norm is different from maybe your physical norm, then great. And if it’s something that people can identify with and feel empowered by, we would love that.
BC: Yeah, and that’s what we’re really here to do. When we first got asked to work on Batgirls, one of the things we pushed for was, “Hey, we want to show Babs in a chair again, but she’s just going to have some days where she needs to use it, you know?” It’s such an integral part of her.
The writers also preemptively responded to criticism that the representation will be “half-assed.”
MWC: And we don’t want to make it feel like, “Oh, here’s like a half-assed representation of something.” Or, “Here’s an afterthought of what this particular modality can look like.” It’s really coming from the most genuine place that we have. It’s coming from a place of fandom of the character, her various iterations, and also of our great love for the fact that people have seen something there that looks like them. That feels like their life on a comic book page. We want to maintain that. We want to strengthen that moving forward.
BC: We don’t want to think that we’ve taken something away from people. We’re here to make people feel good, and we want to make a book that makes people feel good. And that’s a big part of it.
Batgirls #1 is out on December 14th. Read a preview below.
Click here to read the full article on Bleeding Cool.
Last month, a Wall Street Journal article titled “Teen Girls Are Developing Tics. Doctors Say TikTok Could Be a Factor” went viral on social media.
The piece reported a rise in young women presenting with symptoms of Tourette syndrome, a widely misunderstood neurological disorder that impacts roughly 0.6 percent of children and causes people to experience tics — involuntary and repetitive movements or sounds.
The Journal cited “a spate of recent medical journal articles,” in which doctors claim many girls with unexplained tics “had been watching videos of TikTok influencers who said they had Tourette syndrome.” The piece, which featured two teenage girls who linked their tics to TikTok, said that pediatric movement-disorder centers across the U.S. had reported “an influx of teen girls with similar tics.”
“PEOPLE automatically think we’re doing things for ATTENTION, or that there’s NO WAY that Tourette syndrome can be REAL.”
The article acknowledged that the “TikTok tics” epidemic was anecdotal and even quoted an academic who cast doubt on TikTok being the root cause of this phenomenon. “There are some kids who watch social media and develop tics and some who don’t have any access to social media and develop tics,” Dr. Joseph McGuire of Johns Hopkins University Tourette’s Center told the paper. “I think there are a lot of contributing factors, including anxiety, depression, and stress.”
But the headline was damaging enough. And it was worsened by subsequent coverage: Buzzfeed, the New York Post, People, and Business Insider ran with the story — all without any input from the Tourette’s community itself, which has been horrified by the press frenzy.
Ben Brown, host of the Tourette’s Podcast, has been deeply perturbed, as have his listeners. “There’s a lot of frustration. Some people are just livid,” says Brown, who is 41 and based in North Carolina. He was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome at the age of five, but lived a “closeted” life with the condition while he worked as a photojournalist. Brown “came out” with Tourette’s when he launched his podcast in 2018.
“Now we have scientists who are saying things we know from experience are just not safe,” Brown says. He and many others living with Tourette syndrome fear the current rhetoric around TikTok tics could further stigmatize Tourette’s, especially for young women.
Britney Wolf is a 31-year-old Tourette’s campaigner from Ohio. “People automatically think we’re doing things for attention, or that there’s no way that Tourette syndrome can be real,” says Wolf, who was diagnosed with Tourette’s at the age of seven. She interviews people with the condition on her YouTube channel in a bid to challenge stereotypes. “There’s already so many of these people trying to tear us down,” she says, “and articles like this give them more fuel to start claiming that all advocates are faking it.”
Jaleesa Jenkins, a 24-year-old Tourette’s YouTuber from California, is most frustrated by the suggestion that Tourette-like symptoms can be “caught” through platforms like TikTok. “The idea is really oversimplified and really stigmatizing,” she says. “It’s just not true. It makes people afraid, suspicious, or scared to be around us.”
It seems that the recent press attention has undone years of campaigning. “People with Tourette syndrome have worked hard for a very long time to feel understood — particularly for people to understand that tics aren’t voluntary or done for attention,” says Dr. Christine Conelea. The clinical practitioner and researcher is an assistant professor of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Minnesota and has worked with Tourette’s patients for 15 years. “I worry that those who are doing advocacy on social media spaces will be questioned and targeted.”
Wolf finds the situation heartbreaking. “So many people have told me how much they have learned about Tourette’s because of people online,” she says. “It felt like we were finally getting somewhere. Now it feels like we’re being pulled back.”
The Unwind is Yahoo Life’s well-being series in which experts, influencers and celebrities share their approaches to wellness and mental health, from self-care rituals to setting healthy boundaries to the mantras that keep them afloat.
On-screen, Boris Kodjoe is saving lives as a firefighter on the ABC action-drama Station 19. Off-screen, he’s hoping to do the same by amplifying a new Men’s Health Awareness Month campaign highlighting the risks of prostate cancer, particularly for Black men like him, who are 75 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the disease and twice as likely to die from it.
In a video interview with Yahoo Life, the Austrian-born actor stresses the importance of looking after one’s physical and mental health. In terms of the former, he’s partnering with Depend and the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) for the return of the Stand Strong for Men’s Health initiative to destigmatize male incontinence and offer support to those being treated for prostate cancer; Depend will donate up to $350,000 to the cause.
Kodjoe calls the cause a “very personal” one, as he saw a close friend and mentor undergo his own battle with prostate cancer.
“It reminded me that I needed to take care of myself,” he says. “And the first step to do that is to talk about health issues, to talk about everything that concerns us — spiritual, mental and physical health — to be vulnerable, to be open and not to consider it as a weakness to talk about these things. And as Black men, we are facing a lot of things every single day. There’s a lot of weight on our shoulders, but in order to take care of others, we’ve got to take care of ourselves first.”
The Soul Food actor hopes the initiative and breakthrough in cancer research will help draw attention and find solutions to the racial disparities present in access to quality health care. He also wants to spark conversations about other pressing health issues within the Black community, including obesity and the mental strain brought upon by the pandemic and social justice unrest.
Now 48 and a father of two — he and his actress wife Nicole Ari Parker share a daughter and son — Kodjoe is prioritizing his own health needs as he gets older.
“I’m getting to an age now where I’m the guy now holding the phone six feet away from my face so I can read what’s on the screen,” he jokes. “It’s undeniable that we’re all getting older and so we need just those constants… I’m the first one to admit that I didn’t do a great job always taking care of myself. I have a family and they depend on me, so I need to do that.”
That includes looking after his mental headspace, too.
“I practice what I preach and I take time every single day to just be with myself, whether it’s my morning prayer, meditation or laying down and stretching in my trailer when I have five or 10 minutes between shots,” he says. “There’s stuff that you can do that’s pretty simple to include in your daily routine that you could turn into a habit. And it’s important because we have so many habits that are detrimental to our health. We need to balance that out with habits that are actually good for ourselves — whether it’s mental health, spiritual health or our physical health — that will ensure that we’re here for a longer time.”
The Real Husbands of Hollywood star — who will soon make his directorial debut with the Lifetime movie Safe Space, in which he stars opposite his wife — says that his work can also be “therapeutic.”
“It’s a creative outlet,” he says. “It’s a way for me to represent who I am, to represent us [the Black community] in the most multi-dimensional way possible. Historically we’ve been sort of portrayed in one-dimensional ways. And I think that every role we take on, we try to make sure that you represent our culture in a way that shows how multi-dimensional we are. It’s an outlet that I’m really grateful to have.”
While that work is rewarding, Kodjoe is careful to maintain what he calls a “work-life list of priorities,” with his family at the top.
Click here to read the full article on Yahoo! Life.
The month of November is known as a time when we gather around the table with our friends and family to celebrate what we are thankful for. But for more than 3.4 million Americans the month of November means so much more. November is Epilepsy Awareness Month.
According to the National Epilepsy foundation 1 in 10 people will have a seizure and 1 in 26 will develop epilepsy during their lifetime.
Ellie Mclver, a 16 year old junior at Santa Anna High school, is 1 in 26.
For most teenagers their list of worries usually involves what they’re going to wear to winter formal, acne, sports, and narrowing down what college they will apply to. But for teenagers like Santa Anna junior Ellie, her list looks a little different. I had the opportunity to get to know Ellie and her mom Brandi as they both courageously shared with me what Ellie’s life has looked like since she was diagnosed with Epilepsy at the tender age of 8.
Ellie was in class her 3rd grade year when she had her first seizure. Tests performed after that seizure led to an epilepsy diagnosis. The epilepsy diagnosis was hard enough for the family but the news only got worse as they would later be told by doctors that Ellie’s seizures were considered irretractable. Ellie explained to me that this means medicine does not work to control her seizures.
Not even a year after her diagnosis Ellie went in for her first major brain surgery. This was a terrifying time for the entire Mclver family. They weren’t even sure this surgery was going to help but with medicine out of the question, this was their only option to try to stop the seizures.
After surgery Ellie’s family walked around cautiously but eventually a week passed, then a month, and before they knew it Ellie had been seizure free for 4 years.
Time went on and as most families do Ellie’s family gathered around the table for Thanksgiving in 2018 when family members noticed Ellie was “zoned out.” For any other teen this is a pretty normal occurrence but for Ellie this indicated a seizure. After 4 years Ellie was experiencing a focal seizure which meant she was no longer seizure free. Her seizures progressively got worse after this occurance. In September of 2019 Ellie’s family had a hard time pulling her out of a seizure and they had to call an ambulance. Once again Ellie had no choice but to undergo another brain surgery. This time the surgery was unsuccessful, she was still having seizures.
Ellie is 16 now and she knows she is facing more complex brain surgeries in hopes that one day she will be completely seizure free. Ellie is not fearful for what is ahead; she is ready to head into battle to do what she needs to do so she can have more freedom. With that, I asked her if there are things are she’s had to overcome because of epilepsy that other teens her age haven’t had to deal with. She said, “The hardest thing is that I can’t get my drivers license!” She also went on to say, “I miss a lot of school because after a seizure it can take a few hours or even days to recover so I feel like I’m always playing catch up.” I was amazed to learn that even though she is forced to play catch up Ellie’s resilience and urge to be great outweighs the task of that catch up. She told me she is the president of their FFA chapter, she plays clarinet in the high school band, and she takes dual credit classes. She did have to give up playing high school sports because the stress was more than her brain would physically allow her to handle.
Although Ellie has had to give some things up and she has a lot to manage and figure out, she still expressed little concern for herself and more concern for her friends. She shared with me that her friends have never seen her have a seizure and she hopes they never do. She said, “but they do see a lot of side effects from my medication. My medications can be hard to regulate so sometimes I seem “high”, and I have tons of “brain fog.” She said her teachers and friends are great at knowing when she isn’t doing okay, and they do all they can to help support her.
Ellie’s mom Brandi confirmed this by saying, “Ellie has a huge support group and so many people praying for her every day. She gets notes from people in our church, other churches, and several cards a month from a sweet group of ladies that don’t even live in our town.” Brandi went on to say that Ellie calls these things her ‘fan mail” and the encouragement makes a huge difference on this journey.
I asked Brandi what it has been like to watch her daughter battle epilepsy for more than half of her life and I was so inspired by her when she said, ‘Ellie has handled every obstacle in her path with grace and although it has been heart wrenching to watch her go through all that she has, Ellie has never lost faith, so how could I?”
Ellie continued to share her faith and confidence in God when she said “When things get tough, I cling to the verse 2 Timothy 1:7, which reads, “God hasn’t given us the spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind.”
It is without a doubt that even at such a young age with such a tough diagnosis Ellie has power, love, and a sound mind about her. People who don’t know Ellie would never know that she currently takes 3 medications that must be administered on a strict schedule, they don’t know how often her family must make the drive to Fort Worth to be seen and monitored by her neurosurgeon, and they don’t know that sometimes she suffers in pain and in a fog. Her radiant smile would surely tell you otherwise.
Click here to read the full article on Brown Wood News.
Today marks the start of National Epilepsy Awareness Month (NEAM) and the Epilepsy Foundation is leveraging its community’s strength to reduce the fear surrounding epilepsy and bring hope to those facing challenges.
Through a social media campaign called #RemoveTheFilter, the Epilepsy Foundation is asking everyone to “remove the filter” by empowering them to take action and make a difference for those affected by epilepsy.
“For many, epilepsy and seizures are not something that is openly discussed because they fear discrimination, bullying or simply because they don’t know how to explain it to others,” said Laura Thrall, president and CEO, Epilepsy Foundation. “The focus of this campaign is to break the silence surrounding epilepsy and bring awareness so that people with epilepsy feel safer in their communities.”
One in 10 people will have a seizure and 1 in 26 will develop epilepsy during their lifetime. Through a series of stories, #RemoveTheFilter encourages people affected by epilepsy to leverage the power of their eJourney to decrease fear, encourage conversations and inspire action. Those featured in the stories highlight the challenges of epilepsy, how they overcame barriers, and why they removed the filter.
As part of the campaign, the Epilepsy Foundation is encouraging everyone to get Seizure First Aid Ready to save a life. The Foundation, in partnership with SK Life Science Inc, recently introduced a 30-minute on-demand course for people to learn the basics of seizure first aid. The course is available online free of charge on the Foundation’s Epilepsy Learning Portal.
Other ways people can #RemoveTheFilter during November:
Share their epilepsy journey
Become an Epilepsy Awareness Ambassador
Participate in the Walk to END EPILEPSY®
Join Others in Fundraise Your Way
For more NEAM 2021 activities, please visit epilepsy.com/NEAM.
Click here to read the full article on PR News Wire.
Several school districts in central North Carolina are setting aside time for students and teachers to take a “mental health” break.
“Our mental health is declining at an unsustainable rate. Our administration and mental health specialists are trying their very hardest, yet we need more,” said Chapel Hill-Carboro City Student Body President, Madi Lin, during an Oct. 21 board meeting.
“Students need to hear from our district that it is acceptable and encouraged to take a mental health day. We need to know that it is normal and healthy to take a break,” she said. Lin is also in charge of a school organization focusing on students’ mental health, Bring Change 2 Mind, according to her mother.
Officials with the Wake County Public School System, Durham Public Schools and Cumberland County Schools also decided to designate Nov. 12 as a “mental health” day for students and staff. Employees are still asked by the district to work from home on that day.
Educators with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district are taking the mental health days a step further, and starting next year, hope to give students a break two times a week. On “Mindful Mondays” and “Wellness Wednesdays,” students would still come to school, but they would have a more relaxed schedule to reduce stress and anxiety.
Students will also get an extended Thanksgiving break and an additional day off in February, starting in 2022-23, officials said.
Dr. Amy Ursano, a child psychiatrist with UNC Health, said that the mental health days could add stress on parents due to child care concerns. She encourages those families to take the breaks together.
“We’ll be very generous to each other if we can just simply acknowledge that we don’t always know what we need to do, but we’re doing it together, and we’ll figure it out,” Ursano said. “I think those are gigantic messages for our children.”
One mom, Megan Stauffer, has two children in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district. She said that she is glad that the school is offering both students and their teachers a break.
“We can use these days to our advantage, to just recoup strength and then come back to school ready to go,” she said.
A coalition of the nation’s leading experts in pediatric health has issued an urgent warning declaring the mental health crisis among children so dire that it has become a national emergency.
The declaration was penned by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which together represent more than 77,000 physicians and 200 children’s hospitals.
In a letter released Tuesday, the groups say that rates of childhood mental health concerns were already steadily rising over the past decade. But the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the issue of racial inequality, they write, has exacerbated the challenges.
“This worsening crisis in child and adolescent mental health is inextricably tied to the stress brought on by COVID-19 and the ongoing struggle for racial justice and represents an acceleration of trends observed prior to 2020,” the declaration from the pediatric groups says.
When it comes to suicide in particular, the groups point to data showing that by 2018, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24.
Teenage girls have emerged particularly at risk. From February to March of this year, emergency department visits for suspected suicide attempts were up 51% for girls ages 12 to 17, compared with the same period in 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Overall, the data shows that in 2020, the percentage of emergency department visits for mental health emergencies rose by 24% for children between the ages of 5 and 11 and 31% for those 12 to 17, compared with 2019.
“Young people have endured so much throughout this pandemic and while much of the attention is often placed on its physical health consequences, we cannot overlook the escalating mental health crisis facing our patients,” the American Academy of Pediatrics’ president, Dr. Lee Savio Beers, said in a statement.
The crisis affects children of color even more
The declaration from the pediatric groups notes that the disruptions children and families have experienced during the pandemic have disproportionately affected children of color.
A recent study in the journal Pediatrics showed that 140,000 children have lost a parent or grandparent caregiver to COVID-19. A majority of those children were kids of color.
The study showed that, compared with white children, Native American children were 4.5 times more likely to have lost a primary caregiver. Black children were 2.4 times more likely, and Hispanic children nearly twice as likely.
“We are caring for young people with soaring rates of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness, and suicidality that will have lasting impacts on them, their families, their communities, and all of our futures,” said Dr. Gabrielle Carlson, president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Being a superhero wasn’t part of Lauren Ridloff’s plan. The Eternals star wanted to be a children’s book author before an American Sign Language tutoring gig for the director of Broadway’s Children of a Lesser God led to a starring role in the show’s revival.
Theater, she says, is a “much more natural and inviting medium for deaf actors,” and the production came fully staffed with a toolbox ready to support its deaf and hearing artists. But coming off that critically praised performance in 2018, Ridloff wasn’t sure she wanted to keep acting. TV and movies weren’t a place she had seen herself represented growing up, instilling the idea that it couldn’t be part of her dream.
Yet, after scoring The Walking Dead as her first TV role, Ridloff found herself in demand. Now, she’s set to star in the Chloé Zhao-directed Marvel movie that will take her and deaf representation to marvelous new heights when it releases on Nov. 5.
During her transition from stage to screen, Ridloff says she’s felt like she wanted to prove she’s easy to work with, something that has led to her not always advocating for what she needed as an actor. But being on this massive Marvel production full of A-listers who “know exactly what they want” helped change her outlook.
Ahead of The Eternals’ anticipated release, The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Ridloff about her journey from stage to screen, how working on a blockbuster as an emerging actor changed her perception of self-advocacy on set, and why the Eternals cast wasn’t sure what to expect in the final cut.
Your journey to acting was a bit of being in the right place at the right time. Before that Broadway break-out, what were your acting ambitions and how have those changed?
My goal growing up was to write a book. That’s why I studied English and creative writing in college, and that is a big reason I started teaching. I wanted to write children’s books. I felt that the best way to understand how a child thinks in their mind is to be with them all day. So I started teaching because of that. I didn’t dream of acting. I didn’t want to pursue acting. I had some acting experience — your basic high school play, or I was a part of a performance group in college, a dance group. I just didn’t see enough people on the screen like myself. Every once in a while, like maybe Marlee Matlin, I saw on the big screen, and then years went by, and you would see somebody appear on one episode of a TV show or another episode there. Acting on Broadway came so completely as a surprise to me. It wasn’t part of my plan.
And, yes, absolutely, my goals have changed since I’ve gotten into acting. When I was on Broadway, my manager was interested in pursuing and looking for other projects, and I told him to then I didn’t know if I wanted to continue acting. Maybe this was just a one-time thing. I wasn’t even sure if it was my thing. But then, when I saw the theater audience full night after night, and I saw the lines forming at the back door, I realized that my classroom just got a lot bigger. I made a bigger impact here. It seems like I can act, and I enjoy the opportunity to fully immerse myself in a character, which is very connected to reading and writing. When you write, you need to drop into that character and how it represents itself on the page. So I felt like it was a very natural leap into acting because of that.
Click here to read the full article on The Hollywood Reporter.
Strength training is associated with improvements in muscle strength, gait speed, balance, and gross motor function in children and adolescents with spastic cerebral palsy, according to study results published in Clinical Rehabilitation.
Prior research on the effects of physical training on improving functional mobility and gross motor skills has been mixed. For example, some studies have found that with muscle strengthening, muscle strength improves but not function. Other studies have reported improvement in motor activity and functions such as gait. The objective of the current study was to review the most recent data on the effect of strength training on function, activity, and participation in children and adolescents with cerebral palsy.
The meta-analysis included 27 randomized controlled trials which evaluated muscle strength training in children, adolescents, and young adults (age range, 3-22 years) with spastic cerebral palsy. In the pooled cohort of 873 patients, a total of 452 patients underwent strength training, while the remaining patients participated in a different physical therapy technique or were assigned to a control group with no physical therapy.
Researchers excluded 3 studies, yielding 24 studies in the meta-analysis. According to the researchers, there were significant standardized mean differences that were in favor of the strength training techniques vs other physical therapy techniques or control in terms of improvements in muscle strength at the knee flexors, muscle strength at the knee extensor, muscle strength at the plantar flexors, maximum resistance, balance, gait speed, Gross Motor Function Measure (global, D and E dimension), as well as spasticity.
A limitation of this meta-analysis, according to the researchers, was the high levels of moderate risk and high risk of bias among analyzed studies. Additionally, the studies in the meta-analysis did not assess the long-term effect of muscle strength training in this population. Given this limitation, the investigators noted that children with cerebral palsy should perform “high-intensity strength training regularly to maintain and ideally accumulate benefits over time.”
Click here to read the full article on Neurology Advisor.
If you were to read Amy Purdy’s medical history, you’d be introduced to a journey that, for many, could feel incredibly daunting.
If you were to check out her accomplishments as a snowboarding champion, a renowned motivational speaker, a dancer, an actress, a model, a podcaster, a New York Times bestselling author and a philanthropist, you’d be introduced to her toughness and will.
And if you watched her shredding the slopes on her way to medaling in the Paralympics or ball-rooming her way into America’s hearts on “Dancing with the Stars,” you’d start to see the big picture.
Purdy’s mantra? “Live beyond limits.”
“Live beyond limits became my mantra very organically. I personally never liked being told what I could or couldn’t do,” said Purdy, 41. “I always wanted to figure out what the possibilities were. Snowboarding, for example, felt impossible at first, and I could have just walked away but I got creative, made my own feet and figured out a way to not just do it again but to excel at it. I’m so grateful that I never gave up.”
The Fight of Her Life
Born in Las Vegas in 1979, Purdy was just 19 years old when she contracted bacterial meningitis. She was given a two percent chance to survive. She lost both of her legs below the knees, lost both of her kidneys and her spleen (she later received a kidney transplant from her father).
Purdy met the challenge head-on, weathering unthinkable surgeries and rehab, teaming with medical experts, designing her own prosthetic feet and legs (through trial and error, sometimes with chunks of wood) and never losing sight of her goals.
“There’s always going to be something preventing you from your goal, whether it’s a loss of legs or anything else, but you’ll never be happy if you surrender to circumstances,” she said.
Purdy’s immediate goal after her initial diagnosis was to snowboard again. After getting prosthetic legs, she achieved that. It turned out to be the start of big things.
Purdy eventually won a bronze medal in snowboarding at the 2014 Paralympics and a silver in 2018. She formed a non-profit organization — Adaptive Action Sports — along with her husband, Daniel Gale, who is also a competitive snowboarder, to get snowboarding included in the Paralympics. Adaptive Action Sports, a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, targets those with physical disabilities who want to get involved in action sports (snowboarding, skateboarding, surfing). Their organization, founded in 2005, also trains athletes with physical disabilities to qualify for the U. S. Snowboard Team. Purdy believes part of her mission is helping others with health challenges.
“It was an evolution from losing my legs, relearning to snowboard, helping others learn to snowboard and finally getting it into the Games.”
Purdy began snowboarding seven months after she received her prosthetic legs. About a year after her legs were amputated, she finished third in a snowboarding competition at Mammoth Mountain.
On Her Own Two Feet
In 2003, Purdy was recruited by the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) as a spokesperson. At the time, she didn’t live far from the CAF headquarters, as she and Daniel had moved back to San Diego to pursue surfing.
In San Diego, she continued her pre-amputee profession as a massage therapist. She also started working for Freedom Innovations, a prosthetic feet manufacturer, as its Amputee Advocate.
On top of all that, Purdy has numerous television and film credits. In 2012, Purdy and her now husband Daniel Gale participated on the 21st season of The Amazing Race.
After nearly winning the first leg of the race, they were the second team eliminated and finished in 10th place out of 11 teams.
In 2014, Purdy was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars.” Paired with five-time champion Derek Hough, Purdy was the first double amputee contestant to ever appear on the show. Hough was, at the time, fresh from winning his fifth Mirrorball trophy and did not plan on coming back to the show.
However, he changed his mind when Purdy joined the show as a contestant. Purdy wowed judges from the get-go, and kept improving. She never received a score lower than 8. She received her first perfect score (40 out of 40) for her eighth dance, the Argentine tango, after having an intense back injury the week prior. She eventually made it the finale, where she finished as a runner-up to Olympic gold medalist Meryl Davis.
In 2015, Purdy was featured in a Super Bowl advertisement for the Toyota Camry. The ad showed Purdy snowboarding, dancing and adjusting her prosthetic legs to a voiceover of Muhammad Ali’s “How Great I Am” speech.
Purdy has penned a memoir titled, On My Own Two Feet: From Losing My Legs to Learning the Dance of Life (HarperCollins), created a podcast (“Bouncing Forward”) and carved out a lucrative and inspirational career as a motivational speaker.
Among her accolades, along with two Paralympic medals, are being named one of ESPNW’s Impact 25 and one of Oprah’s SuperSoul 100 visionaries and influential leaders.
Purdy says that healing is never a linear process; it’s full of ups, downs, twists, turns, setbacks, victories.
And it’s lifelong.
After experiencing medical setbacks — including an injury to her popliteal artery — in 2019, Purdy has undergone 10 more surgeries, including amputation revisions on her left leg.
“Phase one of my journey was all the surgeries and trying to find stability with the injury and phase two is getting legs that I can live comfortably in,” she said of her latest plight. “Once they are comfortable, then I’ll be able to snowboard again.”
Meantime, she continues to move forward on myriad other projects. She continues, in other words, to live beyond limits.
“I’m currently excited to be planning the second season of my podcast “Bouncing Forward,” and I’m always looking for new ways to help others live their possibilities,” she said.
“I have a handful of projects I’m working on in TV that I can’t talk about yet and some that are online. With COVID, I went from doing many live speeches to doing virtual speeches, which has been fantastic, although I want to go to even a deeper and more immersive experience with my community.
I’ve been so grateful to connect with so many amazing people in real life and on social media that I’m really inspired to create ways to connect even deeper.
That’s what life is about: living, learning and growing, and helping others do the same.”
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