Kiera Brinkley lost her arms and legs at age 2. Now at 16, this dynamic young lady talks about how she's never allowed her disability to stand in her way.
KIERA BRINKLEY: Life hasn't been completely easy. There are different things I've had to go through to try to make it easier, but going to school and growing up has been fun for me. I want people to know that I'm happy that I have my life and I appreciate every part of it.
ESSENCE.COM: What about dancing do you love?
BRINKLEY: I love the reactions! Not a lot of people expect me to just jump out of my wheelchair and sometimes it really surprises people. No one expects me to dance, do cartwheels and handstands. When I choreograph a dance I see myself with arms and legs and just picture the dance moves. I like showing people that I'm not just this girl sitting in a wheelchair.
ESSENCE.COM: How long have you been dreaming about dancing at Julliard?
BRINKLEY: I've wanted to go ever since I saw the movie, "Save the Last Dance." It's the biggest dance school ever and getting the opportunity to go there was just unbelievable. It's a memory that will never leave me. I was able to tour the campus, observe classes and then I danced with other students and taught them my choreography. I think they were pretty excited.
ESSENCE.COM: What are some things people would be surprised that you are able to do on your own?
BRINKLEY: I text a lot. There's a bone in my arm that I use. It's the same way I use a key board. I can type 60 words a minute. I can also get dressed on my own.
ESSENCE.COM: Have you ever considered getting prosthetic arms and legs?
BRINKLEY: I've had prosthetics before and they're a lot of fun because I love shoes and painting my toenails. Sooner or later, I'll have to get fitted again. I just recently found out I have to have surgery this December on my legs to saw down the bone because it's growing into a pencil point. I also had a prosthetic left arm but it was messing up my handwriting. I ended up having to just rewrite with my stubs. Since I want to go into nursing, I'll get another one so I have some length to my arm.
ESSENCE.COM: Why do you want to go into nursing?
BRINKLEY: I've been in the hospital so many times before. So many people have helped me and this is my way of giving back and helping others.
ESSENCE.COM: Do you ever think of yourself as having a disability?
BRINKLEY: No, it never really crosses my mind. Everyone has different problems. The things that I'm able to do now and how I portray myself never really shows that I think of myself in that way. Also, my family has never treated me that way.
ESSENCE.COM: What do you do when people stop and stare at you?
BRINKLEY: No one wants to come up and just ask me what happened and that irritates me. Sometimes I make up stories like I got bitten by a shark. [Laughs] But even though it's a long story, I really do prefer people to know the truth than be curious all the time.
ESSENCE.COM: To what do you attribute your strength and resilience?
BRINKLEY: My mom and just anyone who has never babied me. My family has always pushed me to do the best I can and live life to the fullest. Without them, I would probably just stay in my wheelchair and try to remain hidden.