SCI Superstar of the Week: Auti Angel

1 Comment

By: Tiffiny | May 30th, 2012 @ 6:25 pm | SCI Superstars |

Armed with washboard abs, chrome wheels, fly hip-hop moves and more sass than a dozen Punky Brewsters, Auti Angel is possibly the coolest paraplegic in the universe.

It was in 1992 when Auti confronted the reality of no longer being able to walk, let alone dance – the true love of her life. She grew up in the self-described “hood” of Torrance, California where she learned to dance, and went to NYC at age 18 to dance for LL Cool J. But when she was 22, everything changed when a car cut her off while she was behind the wheel.

Why she’s fearless

After waking up a T12 paraplegic and going through a few rough years after her injury (we’ve all been there. I know I have), Auti found the confidence to re-train herself, and modify the dance moves she could still do; even finding new moves that took advantage of her wheelchair.

After getting her dance moves figured out (which is so not easy when you can’t stand), Auti competed in the World Championship of Performing Arts in 2002 (an invitation-only yearly competition for actors, dancers and singers), where she won Gold for Dancing. She’s been known as the “world’s first wheelchair hip-hop dancer” since, and for good reason. If you have not seen her dance before, this video is a must see. Auti has no fear and will rock her chair, hop out of it….anything for effect and to show the world that you really can dance from a wheelchair.

After winning at the World Championship of Performing Arts, Auti has been all over the wheelchair dance scene. She made a few music videos, including the video ‘Move Yo Body,’ she founded the wheelchair hip-hop dance group Colours’n Motion Dancers and even danced/performed with Ludacris at the 2003 Vibe Awards. She’s so incredibly cool that her moves even caught the attention of Hollywood, where he was cast in Musical Chairs (recently premiered), that shows the world of wheelchair ballroom dancing (I gotta see this!).

What’s next?

There’s even bigger news on Auti’s horizon. She, along with four other inspiring women with paralysis, will be on the highly anticipated reality series premiering next week, Push Girls (Sundance Channel). This show has been on my radar for awhile and from the sneak peak of Episode One, it is definitely going to change a lot of perceptions, and fingers-crossed – may be the sleeper hit of the summer (!)

Have you created any amazing dance moves in your wheelchair? Post a video on SPINALpedia and tell us about it! How as Auti Angel inspired you? 

Watch the videos!

- Auti and Chelsie (who’s new to wheelchair-dancing) practice a routine and discover a cool new dance move!

- Auti teaching a dance class at the Abilities Expo in L.A.

- Watch a 3 minute preview of Push Girls featuring Auti

Quadriplegic moves robotic arm via thought, touches girlfriend’s hand

0 Comment

By: Tiffiny | May 25th, 2012 @ 5:22 pm | Feature stories |

“What does it feel like to be paralyzed?” That is the question people put into Google search hundreds of times a day (I have proof; I’ve checked my site stats).

It feels “trapped,” “cut off”…and for high quads like Tim Hemmes who can’t move anything from the neck down, he could teach a class on it (he broke his neck in a motorcycle accident seven years ago and recently founded the Pittsburgh Pitbull Rescue foundation). But he’s also about to be an expert in something much cooler – moving robotic prosthesis (via his thoughts!).

Tim was a media darling last October when the news was finally announced that Duke University neuroengineers had done it – they figured out how to wire brain to robotics and get it to move. The world of Battlestar Glactica may actually happen! Just please, don’t be mean to the Cylons this time around.

Tim (who after a minor surgical procedure to get the electrodes implanted) was able to OMG yes – move a robotic arm (and touch his girlfriend’s hand by his own volition) for the first time since his injury.  I really believe him when he says there are no words to describe the joy he felt the first time he moved the robotic arm.

Still young and passionate (he’s only 30), Tim has kept his drive for life – and he’s still very cool-kid stylish. The scene where they show him touching his girlfriend’s hand for the first time (with the neuroengineers being surprised it was so emotional for them) is incredibly cool to watch

Duke researchers say that while this awesome technology isn’t ready to be used in everyday life yet, it could happen in a few years.  They’re even getting close to restoring the sense of touch.  Can you imagine that?  So excited!

Watch the video

Tim Hemmes moves a robotic arm and touches his girlfriend’s hand