We had the honor to interview the admirable Lele, questions written by Tara. She discussed navigating life full of stigmas and mis-education while being born with only one arm, as well as how her lifestyle differs from those who have lost a limb at some point after being born.
Question one: Lele, when you’d first brought up the topic of this discussion to me I was immediately intrigued. If you so please, give us a brief description of how you navigate life after being born with one arm.
Being born with one arm is definitely easier to navigate than when you lose an arm, i get lots of similar questions and i just say that i’m used to it, i never knew how it is like living with both arms so i have my own ways of dealing with things and doing stuff with one arm. but sometimes the slightest things to me seem impossible, but my family helped a lot cause they didnt make me feel like i was helpless or useless at all as a kid, so that made a huge part of accepting myself and how i look. it also helped my family and I to accept and understand people who have disabilities. I grew up hiding my arm in pictures and hiding it from people and trying my best to not make my prosthetic arm look artificial or not real or whatever you know? I never wanted to wear t shirts or take my prosthetic arm off when I was outside. I had to go to therapy occasionally, I started feeling safe and normal taking my prosthetic arm off in front of patients like me at the hospital. I started wearing t-shirts more often and eventually I started to feel like I really Don’t need a prosthetic arm and actually arm usually prevents me from doing small things like holding down a paper to stop it from moving while I write, but I always find help. Now I don’t feel ashamed of telling People that I was born with one arm, it’s the opposite! I am so proud, it makes me unique and different.
Question two: As you’ve mentioned, you were scheduled to receive a prosthetic arm back in February. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 this has been delayed. Something that fascinated me despite all this, is your ability to persist in making incredible art. I recall you telling me about your lifelong love for sketching and digital art. Explain how it’s come about as a coping mechanism for you.
i have been drawing for as long as i can remember. it has been a very big part of my life and my biggest hobby ever since i was a kid. It allows me to get creative and to draw out my feelings when I don't feel like I want to speak. I got into digital art a couple of years ago only cause i was curious and was so amazed by digital artists, i felt like digital art is my thing and i was thinking why i haven’t discovered this earlier, you know? i have improved and decided to stick with digital art. i would say art is my way out of all the negativity in life.
Question three: I can only imagine how much strength and perseverance you’ve gained as a teenager maneuvering through a word of stigmas and misunderstanding. What would you like to share to anyone who might not be able to fathom being put into your shoes? And how does your experience differ from those who have lost a limb at some point in their life?
If anyone were to be put in my shoes I would tell them it would be hard mentally most of the time than it would be physically. My experience is so not different cause both of us can find many ways to do certain things. If I can speak for myself I would say I don’t need a prosthetic arm to help me do things, but when someone loses a limb I think a prosthetic arm or a leg would help them a lot.
Question four: “It’s my normal, [you know].” This is something you’d said in introducing your circumstances. Could you elaborate on this statement?
I always tell People that I do this everyday so this is my reality, this is my normal. I didn't always accept myself, I had so many days of anger and pain and tears and frustrations and I still have moments when I am like this is hard and this is really frustrating, it hasn't always been like that for people who lost limb at some point so I guess this is what mean.
Question five: Thanks again for wanting to do this Lele! I’m sure your story is incredibly inspiring to others. Was there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
I just wanna say thank you for allowing me to talk about this, I hope that whoever is reading this knows that they’re worthy and beautiful and enough and that they are so perfect the way they are, please love and take care of your body.