In the words of Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, “disabled folks are the most brilliant folks we know, both in the ways we navigate an ableist colonial reality and the ways in which we create beautiful new worlds and forms of resistance.” Through these interview series, we hope to bear witness to the rich wisdom from the disabled young adults community, that often goes unheard, unwitnessed.
We are in conversation with Darshana Ramgiri, as our first of the interview series with young people with disabilities. Darshana is a 19-year old and is studying bachelors of arts in economics. She’s ambitious and driven and loves exploring new things. She likes meeting people and making friends. She has great love for fashion and creation and so, she ran her own YouTube channel on lifestyle, does Instagram fashion blogging and also writes articles on WordPress. For her, family and friends come first. Darshana has cerebral palsy. For her future, she hopes to pursue Masters in Economics and keep working on her hobbies like digital creation. In this interview, she particularly talks about her recent video content on Instagram and her experience with it.
Yashna: Can you tell us a bit about your recent content on Instagram? It looks super fun and people have been engaging with it. What is the content all about?
Darshana: I create Lifestyle and fashion content. In Lifestyle side there is lots of travel, food, I try to speak up on topics which needs to be speak but never got. In fashion, I try to keep it simple and relatable but yet something new and beautiful.
Yashna: How did the idea come into being? What were some of your early thoughts on it?
Darshana: From my childhood I wanted to be fashion designer, I got to know I can’t because of my disability. But I always wanted, want fashion to big part in My life, more than my wardrobe. I came on Instagram in 2015, I didn’t knew about blogging but I really enjoyed post on it. And then I got to know about blogging and YouTube, I want to create fashion content on YouTube but realized it was very hard, economically, so I decided to go into lifestyle, and started My channel by a travel vlogs. And went on with fashion on insta. And here I’m having lifestyle YouTube channel, Lifestyle and fashion Instagram page/blog and WordPress site of articles where I speak and write my heart out.
Yashna: What are some of the ways in which people have responded to it? Is there a specific story of someone’s response that is close to your heart?
Darshana: I don’t have a huge big following as such, it’s all my friends family and people who know me, and they all are very happy and proud and do enjoy my content. I do get 3 4 messages or comments saying I’m inspiring, beautiful, bold, and yes they do make me feel happy. All followers and theirs comments, messages are equally lovely and special to me.
Yashna: Were there some initial apprehensions about posting some of this content, because of putting yourself out in the videos and the trolling culture?
Darshana: My picture doesn’t show my disability and my video does. When I decided to post video as my content, I remember my friend confirming with me, made me realize that it’s all going to be out there, well as I always say that I don’t really think about my disability or physical appearance so much, I just put out myself with lots of confidence and positivity.
Yashna: You said once how there’s no persons with disability creating content online similar to you and you’ve been looking for one. For a young woman with disability, what does it mean for you to have this sort of visibility to your content?
Darshana: Yes, I mean there are many disabled creators but not similar to me, there is no one in fashion and lifestyle side to whom I could look up to… Come to second part, I don’t mind of my visibility as a disabled woman, in this all year, and still every day I just give my best to carry myself with lots of elegance. And it’s me, myself I am supposed to be like me, the way God made me and it nothing about worrying on my physical appearance, and stop doing what I want or love to do.
Yashna: What are some of the challenges that you’ve experienced in navigating through social media?
Darshana: I have never face as such “challenges”, but sometimes it’s overwhelming, you question yourself about putting yourself out there to world in way in which people start calling you “influencer” or people just come back to your feed to get something they looking for. And sometimes it becomes very stressful, well I’m not a professional influencer, nor I want to be… But still I want to be good at it which sometimes turns into overthinking or stressing.
Yashna: What difference do you think it will make for young women with disabilities seeing you visible online in the way you have been? In what ways will this visibility be important for their own lives?
Darshana: I really can’t say any strong statement in behalf of anyone, not even my viewers. But I really want them to be confident in their own skin, I want them to be themselves, celebrate themselves, I want to say that we all are beautiful in own way, there is no particular definition of beauty and if you find it then it’s totally false.
Yashna: What is your hope for the further content? Are there some things that you want to hold on to, in your journey ahead?
Darshana: I believe in hardwork, and aim for development, I want My quality of content to rise up in every way possible. I always try to bring something new on table, something which is only mine, and I love that process. I just want to hold the happiness which I just by creating something new it could be a video, blog, vlogs or anything else for that matter.
Yashna: Thank you very much, Darshana!
Yashna Vishwanathan is a Mental Health Worker at Ummeed Child Development Center and she works with children and young adults experiencing or at risk of disabilities and their families.