hour in Los Angeles and cocktails are on the way as four glamorous
women discuss sex, overcoming breakups and toasting lifeall
while being filmed for their own reality TV series called Push
Girls. Sound familiar? Not exactly, for this is not a reality
spin on Sex and the City, nor does it mimic the unseemly catfights
of the Real Housewives. Instead, it pushes beyond. The Sundance
Channels new hit show Push Girls offers a refreshing
perspective on women who defy stereotypes and celebrate their deep
connection with each other. The series, which premiered in June, invites
viewers to roll through the everyday lives of this fierce foursome
of BFFs who endure trials and tribulations with family, friends, lovers
and life, but with ample amounts of spunk and humor.
Reality-TV pioneersAngela Rockwood, Tiphany Adams, Auti Angel
and Mia Schaikewitz join ABILITY Magazines David Zimmerman
and Chet Cooper for an interview. Angela is a model, actress, producer
and an ambassador with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.
She is described as Buddha-like and is the Mother
Earth of the foursome. Tiphany, the blond bombshell of the group,
has an uncensored mouth and an open, honest nature. She loves sex
with her partnerman or womanand doesnt like labels,
unless theyre on a new outfit. Auti is a firecracker. She heads
her own dance team, Colours n Motion, as well as the Save
a Soul Foundation. She appeared in the film Musical Chairs
and has danced alongside artists such as, L.L. Cool J. Mia is a down-to-earth
beauty and an account manager in a marketing firm. Shes also
a competitive swimmer and a proud, independent woman who is looking
for a man to share her life. She tries to teach through both words
and actionsand now, of course, reality TV.
David: Why a reality TV show about the four of you?
Angela: Why not? First of all, the name started with the Sundance
Channel. Its an amazing name, especially since it represents
who we are and how we overcome everything that gets thrown into our
path. We just push through it, push the limits and the boundaries.
Mia: Since we have lived in LA, a lot of us have gone on auditions
for certain wheelchair roles that never seem to fit, and I think its
because theyve always continued to play on these stereotypes
that arent necessarily true. So, this is the perfect platform
to be able to break those stereotypes. Its about us. Its
about reality, about our real lives, and thats how people are
going to connect with us most naturally.
Tiphany: Whats funny is, I was just talking to my little niece,
whos four, and she said, Titi, why is the camera in your
face? Why is it following you? And I said, You know, your
Titis in a wheelchair, and a lot of people dont understand
why Titis in a wheelchair. You know how she drives her car and
you know how she goes swimming and you know how she does those things?
Well, some people dont understand and dont think its
possible. The show is totally about opening peoples eyes
and letting them see that we live life just like they do, only we
do it sitting, which is a different perspective. I call us chicks
Angela: I had the beautiful honor and blessing of meeting Gay Rosenthal
[Push Girls executive producer] through a mutual friend named
David Horowitz. Basically, when she asked me what I wanted from the
show, I said it wasnt about me. It was about my girlfriends.
Being friends with these three women has been a blessing. Its
been so powerful in many ways and on many levels. I shared with Gay
the importance of getting this out there and showing the world what
its about, and not just to educate but also to remind others
what life is truly about. We want to inspire people to do their best
and push through anything.
Chet: So, were you all in acting class? How did Push Girls come together?
Angela: At my first Christopher & Dana Reeve
Foundation benefit, in Laguna Beach, CA, I met this wonderful man,
Mr. Tobias Forrest, who was actually being awarded the Reeve Foundation
scholarship. He turned to me and asked, So, what do you do?
I said, I used to model and act. And he said, What
do you mean, used to? You can still model and act. He had a
facility that he worked at where they hire people in wheelchairs to
act; theyre not just able-bodied people pretending to be in
wheelchairs. So anyway, I was introduced to David Zimmerman. I rolled
in, took his class. And that was seven years ago.
Chet: Has anything changed since the airing of the showanything
from old friends contacting you to Youre the girl on that
new reality show!
Angela: I am married to Dustin Nguyen from 21 Jump Street,
so Im used to people coming up to him. When I was in New York,
we were leaving a club and this girl came running after me. Excuse
me, excuse me! I turned around and she says, Youre
on that show Push Girls! Youre the model! And I
said, Yeah. With excitement she said, Can I get
a picture with you? Then I turned to the camera and in my head
Im thinking, Wow, all over the world, women in wheelchairs
are probably going to be getting stopped and asked, Are you
on that show Push Girls? (laughs)
One reporter asked, So, are you guys prepared for fame?
Without a beat I leaned into the mic and said, Were we prepared
for paralysis? Bruce Lee said it very well. He said, Superstar,
that word is an illusion. We were doing this before, but because
of the show, were able to share our story and able to touch
and inspire on a bigger platform and actually reach more people.
Chet: Where did you do the screening of your first show?
Angela: The Push Girls screening was held at the White House.
The amount of press they had us doing was ridiculous. I did some of
my interviews from my hotel bed. Tiph was in the car for one, the
park for another, and another time I think she was in H&M. We
did Good Morning America, came back to the hotel, changed and went
to a Christopher & Dana Reeve luncheon. Then, we ran off to Jane
Fondas red carpet event, went back to the hotel, changed and
finally ended up going to our premiere. The hotel concierge was probably
thinking, Oh my gosh, these girls just dont stop!
Chet: Can each of you explain your injuries?
Angela: I am a quadriplegic. I was planning my wedding in San Francisco
with my maid of honor. I was coming back to LA after Labor Day weekend.
I was sitting in the back seat. My girlfriend lost control of the
car, because we were going around a turn on I-5. She tried to correct
and she overcorrected. The car spun out of control, and the impact
pushed me forward. I shattered my C4-C5 vertebrae and severed the
spinal cord. The car proceeded to flip four or five times and I was
catapulted out of the little triangle window. I flew about 30 to 32
feet, where they found me lying on the side of the road, face down.
When I woke up in the hospital, the doctors told my fiancé
and dad that I had a three to five percent chance of moving or feeling
anything from the neck down. I was rendered a complete quadriplegic
for the rest of my life.
Of course, I didnt take that diagnosis. I didnt believe
in it. I knew I was going to push forward and just try to heal as
quickly as I possibly could, so I went in that direction and never
looked back. I had stem cell surgery three years later. My accident
was one week before 9/11. The stem cell surgery was right before 2004.
Bush was running the country, and he wasnt allowing stem cell
surgery here, so I went to Lisbon, Portugal, and Dr. Carlos Lima performed
the surgery. I was the third American to have it done, and the 11th
patient. At the time, I was in a power chair, and Im now in
a manual chair. I dont have full sensation, but a lot of sensation
came back. I became stronger. If I could do that surgery all over
again, I would.
Tiphany: I was a senior in high school and I decided to go to a wakeboarding
event that eventually turned into a party. There were thousands of
people there. When I left that event
Chet: Where are you from?
Tiphany: Northern California, born and raised. This was in Lodi, California.
I was leaving that event and there was a two-lane highway, Highway
12, which does not have a median in the middle. One of the girls who
was at the event earlier in the evening had gotten a ride home because
she was too intoxicated to drive, but when she got home, she then
got into her car and drove back to the event. Meanwhile, we were traveling
eastbound on the way home, and she was traveling westbound, when she
passed a semitruck. She passed the semitruck over the double yellow
lines, came into our lane and hit us head on at a 130-mile-an-hour
impact. The license plates were completely melted together. There
were no skid marks.
An off-duty paramedic had driven by and was on the scene. He noticed
I made a slight sound and thought that my pinky moved, so they got
the Jaws of Life to cut me out of the car, and took me to the nearest
hospital. I was bleeding internally, and in a coma for three weeks.
They told my father and family that I had a five percent chance of
survival by the end of that week. I was flown to Santa Clara Valley
Medical Center in San Jose, where they did the rest of my surgery,
so I had over 24 hours of surgery. The accident happened on October
15, 2000. I woke up in November with a feeding tube and all that fun
stuff. I left the hospital December 21 and went back to school in
February. I graduated with my class in June and started college in
Chet: What degree did you pursue?
Tiphany: I love children, so I was going into liberal studies, child
development and psychology. I earned enough units to start teaching
preschool and working as a teaching assistant in classrooms. I did
that up until I moved to Los Angeles. I havent done that in
LA, but I would love to do it more. I love working with kids. Thats
Mia: I was 15 when I got paralyzed. I was completely fine one day.
Then I had a stomachache and it got bad enough so that I had to go
to the hospital. At the hospital, they thought it was appendicitis.
It wasnt until I was getting X-rays taken that I realized my
legs felt really heavy. They continued to do tests and couldnt
find anything wrong with me, and they said, You must be nervous
about your swim team physical, so it is probably psychosomatic.
And it wasnt until the next morning, when they did an MRI, that
they found out there was a vein in my spinal cord that had ruptured,
causing paralysis. Nerves dont regenerate, and there was damage
to the nerves, resulting in a spinal cord injury. So, from that point
Chet: I know there is a medical term for that kind of occurrence.
What is it called?
Mia: Its called arteriovenous malformationAVM. An AVM
is similar to an aneurysm, but it was in my spinal cord where the
blood vessel ruptured, leaving me paralyzed. Im a T6.
Tiphany: My vertebra was fractured at T10, but the nerves were more
affected at L3, so my sensory is L3my movement and stuff.
Auti: I was 22 years old, and I had my accident in 1992. A car clipped
the front end of my car and went spinning out of control; then, we
hit the center divider head on. I snapped my back and severed my spinal
cord at a T10 level. So Im T10-T12complete, paralyzed
from the waist down.
Chet: The accident, did it cause that metal thing to stick into your
Auti: Yep, scrap metal fell onto my tongue. [laughter] No,
I got my tongue pierced about six or eight years ago.
Chet: When you heard that Angela elected to have stem cell surgery,
did any of you think, or have you thought since, about doing some
Auti: I love what it did for her, and if she wanted to continue down
that road, I would support her. For me personally, if somebody offered
me a million dollars to go get a study done and even if they said
that I would have a 99 percent chance of walking again, I would use
that million dollars to help somebody else out instead, whether in
Third World countries, or our country, with accessibility or things
that they might need or want.
Chet: What about two million?
Auti: I would still help others. For me, walking is overrated and
Im comfortable where I am in my life. I love who I am. I love
that this is a vehicle and a tool that can touch so many lives, and
I know I would not have touched as many lives if Id never had
the accident and been paralyzed. Ive lived in a chair for people
to see: Wow, shes overcoming, she goes shopping, she drives.
Mia: We talk about quality of life, and that is a huge, huge aspect
to independence as well as just giving back. With Ang, the stem cell
surgery has been a blessing. Just to gain back anything that is going
to help her quality of lifeI definitely encourage it in those
situations. For me personally, I dont feel like it would enhance
my quality of life, to be able to walk. So I dont think about
wanting to walk. In fact, I feel like its much more of a gift
to be able to inspire other people from afar. People that I dont
even have to talk to or have a conversation withthey may just
see me on the street and be affected by it. Thats something
I dont think we can necessarily do if we were back in the position
that we were in before.
Tiphany: I have always been interested in stem cell research, but
financially its costly. I am very blessed and happy with the
fact that I have so much mobility and consider my level of injury
to be quite low. I look at it as an adventure and a challenge, something
to work for. Of course, Id love to walk again. I loved jumping.
I loved doing handstands and handsprings and crazy little jumps. Whats
wild is I actually crossed paths with a very close friend of Dr. Limas
when I first moved to LA. That was about four years ago. Two years
later, I crossed paths with his associate who bought me dinner. And
then, two years later again, I ran into him at Panera Bread. He gave
me the card again, so I thought, Wow, when the time is right
and if something becomes perfected in the stem cell surgery realm,
Im open to it, but theres so many different things
going on with it right now. When its meant to be, it will be.
Auti: Stem cell doesnt have to be about walking again. It can
be about taking the pain away and adding to our quality of life. I
think we were more or less thinking that we have quality of life.
We dont need to enhance.
David: So, how did the four of you become friends?
Angela: I met Auti two or three days after I arrived at the rehab
facility in Downey, CA, Los Amigos. She was visiting injured patients
and I happened to be one of them that day, and she and I connected
instantly. And Mia I met four years after my accident. I started this
wonderful acting class at my house with this amazing man named David
Zimmerman, and Mia decided to take the class, and thats where
I met her. And then Tiph, I met four years ago, two days after she
arrived in Los Angeles to be the Marilyn Monroe on wheels. We met
on my backyard porch, and there we made a soul-to-soul connection.
Tiphany: And I met all the girls that night.
Chet: Outside of now living your lives in front of cameras, what do
you four do?
Angela: Im a brain on wheels, Chet! [laughter]
Mia: Im a project manager for a graphic-design branding firm.
Chet: And what do you do, Auti?
Auti: Im an all-around entertainer extraordinaireactress,
dancer, singer, rapper, producer of music. My husband and I are working
on an album right now. Hes a DJ and producer, and we both produce
and write music together.
Chet: I noticed you have a pimped-out chair.
Auti: (laughs) I do have a pimped-out chair, provided by Colours
Wheelchairs. Tiphany, Mia and I are all spokesmodels for Colours Wheelchairs.
Thank God for that. Thank God for new technology.
David: Angela. You talk a lot about manifestations. In fact, I
happen to know your nickname has become the Manifestor. What does
that word mean to you?
When did you start manifesting?
Angela: The word manifestation, or being a manifestor,
as you call me, its very powerful. I do believe in the law of
attraction, but not just the law of attraction. With me, it started
when I was a little girl. I realized that whatever I perceived in
my mind, I could achieve. Then, just growing up, I realized that anything
that I thought of, even if I thought of an outcome negatively, it
would happen that way. If I thought of it positively, I would execute
it, and 90 percent of the time it would be positive. So immediately
when I got into the car accident, when I woke up in the hospital,
I knew for myself, that I needed to go down that positive road. I
had to take that route instead of going down the negative path, because
if I went down that negative path, or even thought it, there was no
one that was going to be able to bring me back.
David: Tiphany, you mention in the description of yourself no
labels. Why no labels?
Tiphany: Oh, wow. I feel that the world is very comfortable putting
everything in a category or in a box and labeling it just to make
everyone else feel comfortable. The worlds beyond that. Were
in 2012 now, and weve evolved. Thats the one thing in
life thats guaranteed: change. Its constant. Theres
an amazing quote I just came across a few days ago by Deepak Chopra:
Equality is the first step toward acceptance. Totallyconnecting
on a soul-to-soul level and taking away the superficial and just knowing
that when this is all gone, were spirit, were connecting
spirit-to-spirit. Its all an energy exchange. When you cross
paths with somebody whos mad and angry, youre going to
feel those vibrations, and youve got to make sure that you dont
take that along.
David: Youre also very health conscious. You eat wonderfully.
You take care of yourself. You exercise. Why is maintaining a healthy
lifestyle so important to you?
Tiphany: Im a little bit obsessed with working out and eating
healthy foods, because I know how it makes me feel. It makes my body
feel well, and it responds well. I know if Im going to eat a
big slice of greasy pizza that its going to really make me feel
kind of groggy in an hour or the next day. So, I try to eat as cleanly
as possible; and working out definitely gets my adrenals going. It
just feels so euphoric, because it also makes me completely free,
knowing that its something I used to love doing when I was walking.
Its a huge part of my life.
David: Watching you do it is having an effect on me. I eat seaweed
every day now.
Tiphany: No way!
David: (laughs) I do! I buy it at Costco!
Tiphany: Seaweedoh my gosh. Its just so many things! Before,
I didnt used to like some of the things I now eat and indulge
in all the time. Now my mind knows, That has iodine in it. Thats
going to benefit my body in this way. Or whatever the nutrients,
I know how its going to affect my cells. Its just crazy.
Its like retraining everything. You can retrain your taste buds.
I never ate onions and tomatoes until I turned 19 or 20. Why? Because
my father never ate them, so those were the two foods I never had
to eat. But other than that, when I was younger, my mom made me try
everything. Im talking alligator, ostrich, buffalo and snake.
I had to eat everything. Those [onions and tomatoes] were the two
things I didnt have to eat until I got out on my own and I had
my own place and I started cooking myself, and I realized those do
enhance food. So now Im very open to different foods.
Angela: How can you not love her?
David: I tell you, you could turn a gay man straight. [laughter]
Mia, Push Girls fans have watched you get yourself back into swimming
on the show. What is it about swimming that makes your soul sing?
Mia: Thats a good question. Ever since I was young, I was always
attracted to water. It just made me feel peaceful. Water is very fluid;
it always adapts. It adapts.....
in ABILITY Magazine
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from the Push
Billie Jean King Bouncing
Accenture and Prudential
Exposing the World
Push Girls Living Large
Williams Hes the Man
Joint Replacement Hard as a Bone
Geri Jewell Paper or Plastic
in the Push Girls Issue; Senator Harkin Working for Jobs; Ashley
Fiolek Switched at Conan; Paralympics Better Than the
Olympics?; ABILITY Award Accenture and Prudential; DRLC
Affordable Health Care Act Benefits; Billie Jean King Bouncing
Back; Joint Replacement Hard as a Bone; Tourettes
A Friendly Film; Geri Jewell Paper or Plastic; China
Exposing the World; Push Girls Living Large; Marathon
Global Heros; John Williams Hes the Man; ABILITY's Crossword
Puzzle; Events and Conferences...