Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Actress & Comedian Santina Muha Is Helping To Change Our World
Growing up I rarely ever saw other wheelchair users on TV, and when I did it was some sort of “very special episode” where the whole point of the character was to teach the regular cast members some sort of lesson. My peers were watching these same shows, and it led them to look at me differently. Essentially TV taught us to be sad about disability. We need to normalize disability, so that there are more characters with disabilities just living their lives, as the friend, the parent, the neighbor, the spouse, the boss, etc.
Santina Muha is a speaker, writer, actor, storyteller, host, and avid Marshall’s shopper. She grew up in New Jersey, where she spoke at several schools from the elementary level through college, and at many adult functions as well. Most recently, Santina gave the commencement speech at Alverno Heights Academy. Santina became paralyzed at the age of five after an automobile accident. But that hasn’t stopped the writer, actress, comic, and diversity in media consultant from pursuing her dreams. In 2009, she was awarded Miss Wheelchair New Jersey.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
SANTINA: I grew up at the Jersey shore speaking with my Italian family, speaking both English and Sicilian throughout my days. Throughout school I was a cheerleader and in the theater. I graduated from Rutgers University and moved out to LA a few years later to continue pursuing my dreams of working in the entertainment industry.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
SANTINA: I’ve always loved making people laugh, and if people learn something in the meantime, or I help move the needle when it comes to disability and diversity in the media, then that’s just icing on the cake.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
SANTINA: Every year on March 9th, the anniversary of my car accident, I like to do something to celebrate the fact that I survived and am thriving. A few years ago I booked my first movie role with an Oscar award winning director and an A-list actor. My first scene happened to be shooting on March 9, so I got to spend my anniversary shooting a scene where I was dancing in the park with Joaquin Phoenix under the direction of Gus Van Sant for the film “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.” It was a very special moment for me, and felt like confirmation that I’m on the right path.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
SANTINA: I read an article once that said make it your goal to fail at least once a week. Then when you fail, you can celebrate it because that was the goal, and this practice is meant to help take the fear out of failure. And in trying to fail, you never know in what ways you will succeed. Failure is a part of this career — Each failure leads to your next success in some way. Embrace it.
What drives you to get up every day and work in TV and Film? What change do you want to see in the industry going forward?
SANTINA: There are still so many stories I want to tell, stories that have never been told from someone with my perspective. There is also, what I like to call, a wheelchair shaped hole in comedy. I have so many funny stories, as do so many of my peers in the disability community. I’d love to help fill in that gap and help people with disabilities feel represented in a more realistic way on screen.
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
SANTINA: Working on writing a film and a book, and have a few acting projects coming out soon. I hope to continue making art both behind and in front of the camera.
We are very interested in looking at diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture and our youth growing up today?
SANTINA: Growing up I rarely ever saw other wheelchair users on TV, and when I did it was some sort of “very special episode” where the whole point of the character was to teach the regular cast members some sort of lesson. My peers were watching these same shows, and it led them to look at me differently. Essentially TV taught us to be sad about disability. We need to normalize disability, so that there are more characters with disabilities just living their lives, as the friend, the parent, the neighbor, the spouse, the boss, etc.
Can you share with our readers any selfcare routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
SANTINA: “You can be the juiciest, ripest peach, and there will still be some people who don’t like peaches.” I’ve spent far too much time in my career trying to perfect things, so worried that not everyone would love it. But that’s really just a waste of time. Just do your best work and get it out there. Don’t worry too much about what everyone will think.
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
SANTINA: Normalize disability in TV and films!
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
SANTINA: @SantinaMuha (Instagram & Twitter)
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Actress & Comedian Santina Muha Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.