MEET Zoe Zora
Let’s welcome this month’s guest Zoe Zora! Not only is she a full-time programme manager for the inclusive sports club, Runninghour, but Zoe is also a disabilities & mental health advocate, a model and influencer at the age of 25!
She decided to become an advocate for mental health and disabilities after a life changing car accident that left Zora paralysed from neck down. She says she always knew the importance of spreading awareness of mental health but didn’t realize how bad the lack of awareness and representation of people with disabilities affects the way PWDs are treated in society.
“For 20 years I have lived in an able-body, I knew what a privilege that was. When I suddenly became disabled, everything changed, I got to experience all the difficulties people with disabilities face first hand. I also realized people of different race, colour, body types were being represented in mainstream media, but not people with disabilities. This is why I decided to use my voice, my story and my experience in a bid to fight for better representation for people with disabilities. I didn’t want anyone to be treated the way I was treated when I first became disabled, it was a really heartbreaking feeling as nobody saw me for me, I was instantly only defined by my wheelchair.”
When she started advocating for mental health & disabled people, Zora received a good response from the community she was supporting. But she also received a lot of hate and still does till this day.
“People called me an attention seeker, people assume I do what I do for pity or to get likes. But all I’m doing is trying to spread awareness so nobody is treated the way I was when I became disabled. I advocate so no one will feel alone(...) ”
For Zora, her legs are her biggest insecurity because she has muscle atrophy. People online have made fun of her saying she skips leg days when she posts videos of her working out. These comments affect her mentally and she tries to take breaks every now and then from using social media to prevent her from looking at the hate.
Despite ignoring the hate, she’s still affected by all the negative comments, as she’s only human. But she also tries to remind herself of all the lives she touches by sharing her experiences, the difference she makes by advocating, and focusing on the support.
“I’m definitely also blessed because I have received a lot of support and encouragement from strangers all over the world and that keeps me going.”
As we always do, we asked for some words of wisdom from Zora for people who want to follow her steps using their voice for a cause + a quote that inspires her to keep going.
My advice would be to tell anyone to not constantly chase society's unrealistic expectations and beauty standards. Go easy on yourself, be extremely kind and loving to yourself because you don’t just go from struggling and hating yourself to loving yourself overnight. Take one day at a time and everytime you look at yourself in the mirror, remind yourself that you made it so far because you never gave up. On social media we often glamorize self-love but most of the process is hard, gritty and painful and that’s real and that’s okay and constantly remind yourself of that.
Zora's favorite quote:
“I rise up my voice- not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard”
- Malala Yousafzai