31 Days of SMA: I Chose to Follow My Dream to Be Like Walt Disney

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From left, Antoine and Janelle. (Photo courtesy of Janelle Fiesta)

Day 7 of 31

This is Janelle Fiesta’s story:

When I was in elementary school, I knew that I was physically different from my peers. Besides being the only student in a power wheelchair, I wasn’t capable of participating in physical activities. I felt envious and bitter that I was born different, but I couldn’t let that stop me from living my life. I’m grateful that my parents encouraged me to find joy in the things that I could do. By doing so, I would find a dream worth working toward.

I grew up watching Disney movies, and I was captivated by the characters and stories that Walt Disney created. He was an ordinary man who created art that reached the entire world. The most memorable scene for me was in “Beauty and the Beast,” where Belle and the Beast danced in an enormous ballroom and fell in love. I was instilled with the idea that I, too, wanted to be able to create art that could reach and inspire others.

Despite living with SMA type 2, my hands and arms were strong enough to move and scribble lines onto paper. I discovered a passion for drawing cartoons.

In middle school, I became ill and was hospitalized for two weeks. I found comfort and happiness by binge-watching my hospital’s DVD collection of Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks films. When I fully recovered, my desire to create art that would make others happy during the most challenging times was reignited.

I continued drawing in high school and studied the basics of digital media at my community college. After receiving my associate’s degree and struggling to find meaningful employment, I fell back on my dream of creating my own art. I drew digital illustrations and shared them on social media.

In 2017, my good friend from college invited me to a small anime convention. She insisted that if I sold my cute cartoons, people would love them. I was doubtful of my capabilities, but I took a leap of faith. I now run my own small art business called Cute Loot Arts. My dream is to share cute and original characters that can inspire and spread happiness to others.

I dare to dream big because, despite my SMA, I want to be my own version of Walt Disney.

SMA News Today’s 31 Days of SMA campaign will publish one story per day for SMA Awareness Month in August. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #31DaysofSMA, or read the full series.

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