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Advocate Profile: Ashley Eakin

Image of Ashley directing on the set of her latest film SINGLE.

What is your favorite memory/ moment that brought you lots of joy? I have two - one is this past Fall 2019 working on a film in Europe (Riga and Italy) and my fiancee getting to travel along and shoot behind the scenes photos and video. And the second is my time in Malaysia and Singapore working on Crazy Rich Asians and getting to watch all the success that has transpire for the cast. It opened my eyes to how important representation in tv and film truly is - and made me look at my own community.

What is something people generally don’t know about you? One of my favorite films is Weekend at Bernie's haha - A family friend's video store was closing and we randomly ended up with the VHS, so I would watch it every night when I was younger. It's the most ridiculous movie - but very nostalgic for me.

Who is Ashley Eakin? Ashley Eakin is a filmmaker based in Los Angeles who has a physical disability (a rare bone disease - Olliers and Maffucci Syndrome) and is passionate about disrupting the narrative for disability and creating more accurate representation.

What gets your fired up about the disability movement? The lack of diverse representation for people with disabilities, in front of and behind the camera.

What is your advocacy platform? I advocate through my social media on Instagram and through the films I make. I am not as active on social media as I probably should be from a business perspective, but I also think it's a slippery slope with social media and can have a negative impact on your mindset, without us realizing thats the reason for our negativity. So I try not to focus to much on building a brand in that medium, but instead - keep my head down and focused on my film projects, while also occasionally sharing updates in my life.

What barriers or challenges do you face in this movement? A challenge I find with making films is finding funding for the projects I want to pursue.

What do you want those who do not identify with disability to know? For people who may have a difference, but don't identify with the word - I think it's important to look at the true reason WHY you don't identify with a disability. Sometimes we have our own unconscious bias against the word and community because of the way its been represented in our society - but that's not our fault or makes us a "bad person". It took me almost 30 years to embrace the word and community and I feel like it's life-changing. This community has brought so much fulfillment to my life by meeting some truly bada** people (including Sarah and Nikki) and sharing our experiences - which are usually so similar, even though our disabilities vary. I now feel proud to be a member of the disability community.

What areas are you still growing/hope to grow? Personally? Professionally? I want to grow as a writer. It's the area I originally started my college education with, but realized I don't love the process. I think most writers feel this way though- "they hate writing but love having written". I also would love to meet more people with diverse disabilities to gain a 360 perspective of my community.

Who was the person/role model who inspired you to look into disability advocacy? Why/how did they inspire you? It was actually a girl younger than me - Audrina Peterson. She has the same bone disease as myself, and I came across her photo for the first time in 2015 on Facebook and it inspired me to be a positive role model, instead of continually hide my disability. The younger generation really needs us - and hopefully one day, the word "disability" will evoke a different association that will be positive.

When people look at you/up to you, what do you hope they see? I hope they see someone who is trying their best at wanting to make a positive difference in the world - a resilient, but incredibly flawed human.

What are your next steps?

We got awarded Special Jury Recognition at SXSW for my short film SINGLE which led to getting signed by UTA! SINGLE has had great reviews and press. I am now having general meetings with studios and production companies and developing a TV series about online dating. I am also working on my feature film which is a coming-of-age dramedy similar to Lady Bird and 8th Grade. 

How do we follow you?! Instagram: @asheakin

Twitter: @asheakin

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