Although she was diagnosed with A.L.S when she was 14-years old, Lauren “Lolo” Spencer chooses to live life as “best and authentically” as she can. Despite the limitations of being physically disabled, Lolo has achieved what any able-bodied individual could. Lolo has a bachelor’s degree in TV production and a passion for video editing as she produces her own Youtube videos on her successful channel, “Sitting Pretty.”
After being encouraged by others to share her story, Lolo was inspired to start her Youtube Channel to share her experiences living with a disability with the rest of the world. When she first began using the platform, she questioned how she would be able to tell her story with the skills she possessed. Having a degree in production, Lolo was able to grow her channel and obtain more advocacy work and opportunities to speak on panels about disability representation. Her genuine personality and authenticity allowed her to receive the opportunity to audition for and receive the lead role in Give Me Liberty where she portrayed Tracy, a young black woman with A.L.S.
As a woman of color with a disability, Lolo faces many challenges in her everyday life. “Being black, being a woman, and being disabled, to having that ‘trifecta,’ definitely there are societal walls…” says Lolo. “Some things I am aware of, things I become aware of after a certain experience…I understand and recognize that those are challenges, but...because it’s a challenge, I shouldn’t try to combat that,” she told Howl For Change.
Lolo did not incorporate social activism into her life until she started her Youtube Channel. After receiving positive responses from both able-bodied and fellow disabled people, Lolo willingly took on the social responsibility of representing the disabled community through storytelling. She discusses how as a disabled woman of color, people like her are not represented as much as other women with disabilities. “It is important as a woman of color to represent the ‘trifecta’ in anything that I do.”
By sharing her story on multiple platforms, Lolo reinforces the meaningfulness of storytelling stating, “Storytelling is easy in the sense because if you’re telling a story that’s authentic to you, that is personal...it’s a natural thing to become helpful to others when they see the final project and that’s what’s important for me.” As a storyteller herself, she advises others to share their own stories “because you never know how your final product can affect others.” It wasn’t until she started her Youtube Channel that Lolo realized that “other people can benefit through the things that I’ve gone through or the things that I’ve experienced...whether they have a disability or not.”
Lolo’s presence on Youtube has allowed her to use the platform as an educational resource to learn more about the disabled community, specifically how to address disabled individuals. “I really didn’t know a lot until people started educating me… and other fellow disabled youtubers were educating me about the proper terminology…As we’re continuing to have conversations like these, then other people can learn and be educated as well,” she states. “It’s okay to call disabled people disabled.” Lolo also utilizes her channel to support other Youtubers’ in the disability community where her viewers can learn about other content creators with disabilities of all kinds. “Youtube is my advocacy space where I learn alot and educate others.”
As Lolo was discussing her role as Tracy in Give Me Liberty, she disclosed that the directors were incredibly open to her experiences as they wanted to make sure the story was represented as accurately as possible. This experience allowed Lolo to look back at her past and realize the level of maturity and growth she’s achieved as she reflects on this opportunity to share the story of a woman with a disability from a new perspective and relate to a wide audience of able-bodied and disabled people. “That was the most important part, was making sure that she was relatable outside of her disability...so you see Tracy Holmes the woman and who just so happens to have a disability,” says Lolo.
Lolo continues to prioritize storytelling and positive change with her work. “It’s the number one priority” she states. “I’ve recognized that I have a purpose…it’s about remaining positive...we have to take some level of initiative to tell our stories in a positive light...people will be attracted to those stories and will want to know more, and learn more, and be more educated about it.”
When asked what she would say to those who haven’t been seen, expressed, or heard, Lolo stated, “Just do it...there are so many different platforms, you have to continue to create your content and then promote it...let go of the expectation that you want the entire world to see it...if [you] are okay with being patient...then before you know it, people will be flocking to the content that you create.”
Lolo has reason to be hopeful and is resilient for the future of the disability community. “ I’m hopeful for disability representation to get their time, their shine, their light…” She is also hopeful “that things are shifting in a way that is representative of all communities...and to be able to come together, work together, and collaborate on all things.”
Lolo’s ending statement provokes careful thought. “Disability or not, all we can do is be ourselves.” The simplicity of it is difficult to grasp “because we’re considering things that are out of our control...we can’t help how people are gonna judge us, what prejudices they may have, we can’t control that.” She concludes with what she started with, “All we can do is be ourselves and live our best and most authentic lives.”
Listen to or watch the full interview on https://www.howlforchange.org/speakerseries
Listen to her story on Soundcloud, YouTube, Sticher, iTunes, and Google Play.
Subscribe to Lolo’s Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/sittingprettyLOLO
To find out more about the movie and when it will be available to the public, visit http://www.givemelibertyproductions.com