Fight For Your Right to Carpet
I am one of those people who has always dreamt of waltzing down the red carpet at an awards show. My first red carpet memory was Cher in her Bob Mackey gown at the 1988 Academy Awards. I decided at that moment that some day, that would be me. When I grew up, my dream became a reality and I quickly realized red carpets are super disabled unfriendly. I am well aware that this is a gratuitous first world problem, but the struggle is real.
The first awards show I ever attended was the Daytime Emmy Awards; the Oscars of Soap Operas. I wasn’t nominated. I wasn’t even invited. I was a seat filler and seat fillers do not get to walk the red carpet. Our job was to fill any empty seat in the audience so if a camera panned to a star being nominated, there was never an empty spot in the house. The key to being a great seat filler is the ability to move fast through a row of evening gowns without knocking people’s knees out. I was very bad at this job. The late great Dick Clark once yelled at me during a commercial break to “move faster.” He had no way of knowing that I was disabled, so I don’t blame him. Also he made the announcement over the PA system so there’s a strong possibility he wasn’t talking about me. In my mind, he totally was and it is one of my fondest memories.
My first official red carpet was when I appeared in Adam Sandler’s “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.” It was held at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre so it was basically red carpet baptism by fire. I have Cerebral Palsy which manifests itself differently in everyone who is lucky enough to have it. In my case, I shake all the time. I can walk, run in heels, and dance but I can’t stand. I topple over almost immediately. Red carpets are all about standing. You stand in line to wait your turn to walk and then you have to stand to get your picture taken. My first red carpet, I didn’t know the rules so when it was my turn, I made a mad dash to the end of the carpet so I would not be forced to stand. Nobody was able to catch a picture of me and I learned my lesson for the next carpet. I developed a strategy so I could stand just long enough for Getty to get an image. Unfortunately, I had underestimated the effect the flashing lights would have on my damaged brain. Cerebral Palsy is a neurological disorder and for many of us flashing lights are severely disorienting and somewhat painful to process. My second red carpet, I managed to stand long enough for the paparazzi to snap my picture, but the flashing lights stunned me. I looked like Bambi in headlights.
I refused to give up on my red carpet quest. I learned to soften my gaze so that the flashing lights wouldn’t kill me. I also discovered that striking a pose was much easier if I glued myself to my more famous friends. They could hold me up so I wouldn’t have to stand and I got a lot more pictures of me published than I usually do living my life on the Z-List. My dream became a nightmare when I got to share a red carpet with one of the greatest comedians of all time, Amy Poehler. When it was my turn to step in front of the step and repeat with Amy, the photographer shoved me into the frame and knocked me to the ground. I stood up, mascara running down my face like a lost Kardashian, and I never got to introduce myself to my comedy idol.
Finally I was like, “Screw you guys, I’m sitting down.” When I walked the red carpet at UCP of NYC’s Women Who Care Luncheon with daytime diva, Susan Lucci, I brought my own stool and sat on it in every picture. I am currently in the process of developing a comedy series and have already begun to strategize for my first Emmys. I’ll be ready for my close up. I’m going to rent the gold tiger that Katy Perry rode in to Super Bowl XLIX on. I have no doubt that once “If I Cancan” is on TV, I will win an Emmy. Disabilities always win awards, so it’s about time Hollywood made red carpets accessible.