Athlete, Actress, Model, Student, AND Disabled: I Am Cheyenne
Welcome to my first blog post! Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Cheyenne Leonard. I am a 24-year-old Latina woman from Las Vegas, Nevada, and I am in a wheelchair. I was born with a broken back due to what doctors think was a freak accident stroke in utero. Where many have viewed my disability as a hindrance, I view it as an opportunity. An opportunity to inspire disabled people, educate able-bodied people, and to make a change in this world. I have two bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and psychology and I am halfway through a two-year master’s degree program in Media, Culture, and Communication from NYU. My passion has always been disability and media representation. Being a disabled person my whole life, I had to constantly fight for my own rights to be seen, heard, and treated equally. I started traveling around the United States competing in track and field in the Jr. Paralympics when I was six years old and continued for 12 years until I was 18. When I was a sophomore in high school, I tried out for my high school track team as a way to have a steady place to train for the Jr. Paralympics but was refused because I was a “safety hazard to the runners”. Given that I had already been competing on a larger scale for ten years and had competed alongside runners before, for me to be turned away when trying out for this team was insulting. To say that I was the problem, not a system that denied a student the right to try out for their high school track team, a right that every other student had, because of her disability, was discriminatory. So I fought it, along with my coaches for the Jr. Paralympics and my mom, we changed laws in my school district to allow disabled students to be on and score points for their high school track teams. This showed me to not give up when told no, to fight for what I believe is right, and that I do have the power to make change. This attracted a lot of media attention from local news stations and newspapers and even just the attendees of the track meets I would compete in who had never seen a person in a wheelchair compete in track before. It allowed me a platform to educate and lead by example while just living my life and doing something I loved doing. Many of the things I love doing allow me to educate people and change things a little at a time. Modeling, acting, or even just going to school or to the grocery store can change a person’s outlook on disability. If you love what you do, it makes it easier to achieve your goals. My passion is disability and media representation because I live it every day. I never got to see myself represented in the media growing up so now I want to be that representation and/or help create that representation for disabled kids, especially young Latina girls in wheelchairs. That being said, for every success I’ve had, there’s been a lot of mistakes and failures. Through my posts, I hope to give you some insight into my experiences, how I set goals and achieve them, and the journey along the way. I hope you stay tuned!