When Chelsie was just a teenager she became a T-10 Paraplegic, but that wasn't going to stop her from doing what she loved - which is dancing. Chelsie took the opportunity to not only continue with her passion, but to also help and inspire others. Soon to be 25 years old, Chelsie has achieved some extraordinary things at such a young age, from being in a Kelly Clarkson music video to starting her own non-profit organization and Wheelchair Dance Team. Read her full interview below to learn more about this truly inspiring #MISSBISH.
You've always had a passion for dance, what's one of your earliest or fondest memories of dancing?
Some of the earliest memories I have are competing in Las Vegas when I was very young, and winning first place. I remember one year we did a tribute to Michael and Janet Jackson!
What do you love about dance?
What I love about dance is that there is no wrong way to do it. Of course there's choreography and team dances, but the general aspect of dance is just moving to a rhythm, and we all have different rhythms and hear different beats. What I love most is that everyone can dance, no matter what their disability or their "limitation" is.
After your accident, you became a T-10 Paraplegic. Can you tell us about that moment you knew you weren’t going to let that stop you from pursuing your dreams as a dancer?
For me, there wasn't really a moment… I think it was a process of coming to realize that I wasn't going to be able to walk or dance the way I used to. It was over a period of time where I tried to dance, and then when I got to the point I'm at now, I realized that if I can still dance then my life is still complete. It doesn't matter if it's with or without the use of my legs.
Where did that strength to keep dancing and your “never give up” attitude come from?
I believe I have always had this attitude, but hearing that I was "disabled" at the age of seventeen made me grow up a lot faster. It made me strong. I had to be strong. Surrounding myself with other people in chairs has shown me that helping people makes you stronger. I want to do everything I can to help my community, and I want to be strong to show others with different abilities that they are strong too.
You've inspired many with your talks and non-profit organization. What has been the most surreal moment for you?
There have been a lot of moments where I think... “dang, this is my life,” and I just smile. I’ve had the opportunity to be in a Kelly Clarkson music video and a T.J. Max commercial, and I’ve joined an able-bodied dance team. I've been able to conquer a lot of different aspects in life, but of course I still have big dreams and still have a very long bucket list of goals I want to achieve. What pushes me the most is my family and my incredible group of friends that always motivate me to keep pushing.
You started a Wheelchair Dance Team. How did this come about, and can you tell us more about it?
After my accident, I was skeptical to start dancing again. I was adamant that I wouldn’t dance without using my legs. While still in the hospital, my dad showed me a video of a wheelchair dance team, which opened my mind to the possibility of doing what I love in a different way. I eventually ended up dancing with that dance team. In 2012, I branched off and started my own. I’ve met these girls from all over the world and I’ve had the opportunity to change their lives through dance. It’s not just a dance team, it’s a sisterhood. You can see more information on RollettesDance.com.
“I realized that if I can still dance then my life is still complete. It doesn't matter if it's with or without the use of my legs."
What do you hope to achieve in the next few years?
I hope to be hosting dance intensives in the next few years, and for The EPIC Project to be a national nonprofit. I can't wait until the day that wheelchair dancing is shown on a bigger level!
What are some of your favorite songs to dance to at the moment?
Some of my favorite songs are The Greatest, I Don't Want to Live Forever, I Got You and Let It Go.
What does your perfect day look like?
My perfect day would be getting brunch at a spot on the beach, going to a dance class and coming home to spend time with my family.
What are three hidden gems in LA?
The Broad, Kinza sushi, Malibu Wine Safaris.
What does MISSBISH mean to you?
To me, MISSBISH means fighting like a girl. There are so many incredible women out there doing extraordinary things despite in any physical or emotional challenges, and doing their best to create a perfect world for them.
Who's your MISSBISH? Tell us who she is and why she's an inspiration to you.
My MISSBISH would be my best friend Steph Aiello. Despite a C5-7 spinal cord injury and losing the use of her hand, she has been able to find herself and become a makeup artist. She motivates me to push myself further and further.
Photos by: Christina Choi