Meet Akii, Halla & Anastasia - three amazing young people pushing the boundaries of representation, equity & embracing the fullness of their identities.
Find out more about them and their journeys, in their own words - it's SG BY ME.
Ensuring people are valued, included, and represented. I want everyone to feel that their uniqueness is not a weakness but a strength. That your differences are your power, and your personal challenges can be a source of strength, hope and resilience, for yourself and your community. Your lived experiences and who you are make you special and you should not invalidate those experiences or how you got through them! People need to know that can be and create the change they want the world to have.
As a complex chronically ill, disabled, neurodivergent (Autistic and ADHD), Queer, LGBTIQA+, trans non-binary person of colour from a refugee background…for most of my life I’ve been underrepresented, mistreated, and undervalued because of my multiple marginalised backgrounds. I also have prominent surgical scars across my tummy from a life-saving surgery when I was an infant and told my whole life (from my family members, parents etc) since I was a child that I was ugly, would never be good, pretty enough and could never wear a bikini as a result. I was also relentlessly teased for being Asian and having ‘small squinty’ eyes.
Therefore, I am particularly passionate about non-tokenistic, intersectional representation in all aspects of our community, but especially fashion, beauty and media. I want people to feel like they belong. I want young people like me to feel valued, loved and included because when I was younger and growing up, I was taught to assimilate, be ashamed of myself, hide my illnesses, disabilities, and my heritage. This is why I am so passionate about making the world and the communities I represent better by leading the way and creating a path. I want better support. Better respect. Better understanding. Better Awareness. Better acceptance. More opportunities. More love.
What do you wish people understood about people living with disability?
That we are not all the same and everyone’s experiences and needs are different. And these needs can and do change at any moment. To never make assumptions about people and their needs, based on appearance or age. There are so many chronic illnesses and disabilities that are hidden or non-obvious, so don’t assume someone can do something or are not in pain even though they may not seem like it or are “too young” to be experiencing it. People with disabilities are not a monolith and we don’t have a hive mind, we are all individuals with our own hopes, goals, dreams, hobbies, and things that make us happy. We deserve respect, autonomy, access and to be included in all aspects of our society without having to go through numerous hoops, especially ones that non-disabled people don’t have to. Also, just communicate with us like you would anyone else: respect us, acknowledge us and treat us with dignity, kindness and respect.
How can we support people living with disability? Obvious or hidden?
I’ve created a document of 10 things you can do today to better support the disability community and that can be found here! Feel free to use and share it with your networks.
The best way to support people with living with disability is not make assumptions about what their needs are and who they are. Everyone is different and each of us has our own story and our own access needs. Also support us, whether it be in public when someone has done something ableist towards us, or a place is actively inaccessible or in online settings when people are making negative bigoted comments about us due to their lack of understanding of our needs and challenges. Let us know you care about us and are willing to be our ally. Support us to feel less alone and help reduce the mental burden and labour off us.
Employ us! Employ and support people with disability to have meaningful employment or paid opportunities through their lived experience or other expertise. And ensure your workplaces are accessible, respectful, supportive, and non-judgemental.
You are the definition of a survivor. How do you find your strength and what advice would you give people on days when they feel less powerful or like giving up?
Firstly, thank you! I know I have survived through *a lot* but being labelled a survivor is a really nice acknowledgement and I appreciate that greatly ❤️. I find strength in the activities and people who bring me joy, support and love. I have dealt with so much trauma my entire life, whether it be from moving out of home at 15 due to family violence, being survivor-advocate of intimate partner violence or being severely chronically unwell since birth…often, I have carried on because sometimes there has been no other choice.
But my biggest reminder/mantra for myself to keep going and believing in myself is that “this too, shall pass” I remind myself that no matter how painful it is, how sad I am feeling and how hurt I am, that it will eventually pass. Yes, it may take time, but I can get through it. I’ve survived 100% of the times I thought I wouldn’t so far! And I when I do, I can support and help others, I can aim for what I want and need and fight for opportunities I never knew I could have!
I know what it’s like to want to constantly give up, especially when I am really unwell in hospital and struggling while doctors are dismissing me, but I know that there is lots waiting for me on the other side: my doggies (rescue long hair sausage dogs named Ponyo and Jojo!, they are the furry loves of my life), my partner of 10+ years, my hobbies (especially travelling and exploring the world), my friends (especially the ones who have experienced similar things to me) and opportunities that I haven’t even come across/ know exist yet!
What mark do you wish to leave on the world?
Knowing that I made a difference. That people remember me for my kindness, laughter, quirkiness, fierceness, and joy I brought others. That they remember my love for the community and how much I truly wanted to create change, especially to all the marginalised communities I am part of and represent. I want to be remembered as the person who had so many odds against them but lived their life to the fullest, and made the most of it, all while trying to support others/make a difference, no matter how hard or challenging it was!
Want more from Akii? Follow them on Instagram here.
Growing up you struggled with finding role models you could relate to or that represented you – how did that feel?
Growing up it was disappointing to not have role models that represented POC or my culture, this lack of portrayal almost pushed me to shy away from my own differences, and instead of embracing them I was hiding them in a sense of conformity.
You’re now a passionate representation advocate – what changed?
Representation started to become more vocal in Australian media. As I grew I also began to realise how lovingly my parents embraced every bit of our culture. They were bold and beautiful about the way their traditions and heritage defined them. After my dad passed away when I was 13, I really placed such importance in upholding all of the history and differences that made us all unique. Now I embrace and love every single aspect of myself.
What’s it like having a BFF like Halla? What does she bring out in you?
Having a BFF like Halla is absolutely out of this world. She brings out the best in everyone around her. Such a selfless and incredibly strong individual. Her personality preaches kindness, intelligence, confidence and an energy that’s always ready to have fun and dance. I’m so lucky and grateful to know someone like her.
What advice would you give to people who feel under represented and feel like they can’t be themselves?
My advice would be to stop comparing yourself and start being yourself. Once you let go of “standards” and what other people think you should be, then you’re free to live your life and love everything about you. The only person that should truly have an opinion about you is yourself, so forget about what you see and start being and embracing everything you want to be!
Want more from Anastasia? Follow her on Instagram here.
Tell us about an experience that defined who you are as a person and made you proud to be you?
Back in 2006, an incident occurred in South Sudan where I witnessed people being shot at and killed. Being among the survivors helped me today to define myself as a survivor and a strong woman. It also helped me to be proud that I'm here today, able to accomplish much more than I ever thought I could've done.
How do you express your creativity?
My own definition of creativity would be diving into my own little world of imagination, which is filled with vibrant colours. It enables me to communicate and express myself to the world in away that words can't.
What’s it like having a BFF like Anastasia? What does she bring out in you?
Having a BFF like Anastasia who's vibrant, caring, funny, patient, calm, understanding and supportive is honestly a blessing. When I'm around her she brings out the best in me with her positive energy. I tend to loosen up and laugh more, because the key to happiness is laughter. Also, as she listens to me she helps me to remember my accomplishments, the strong woman that I am, and helps me to be proud of myself.
What mark do you wish to make on the world?
I wish to touch people with my story and journey. I went through so many obstacles throughout my journey to a point where I felt like it was the end for me. But I was mistaken, because my journey made me stronger and shaped me to be the woman that I am today.
I would love for people to learn about me, especially young women, so they can relate to me when their journey gets tough, but then remind themselves that everything is possible and they're stronger than they think.