By Dani Bowman
A beauty queen, a lawyer, and an animator walked into a bar…
As it is with some friendships these days, Rachel, Haley, and I first learned about each other via social media. I had heard of Rachel Barcellona and the pageants she was involved in Florida, and I think that is how she first learned about me and my animation company. Before one of her trips to Los Angeles for a beauty pageant, she contacted me to see if we could meet in person. At that time, I was doing YouTube video episodes called “My World and the Positive Side of Autism.” It was a great opportunity to interview Rachel as one of the examples of the positive side of autism. We have been friends ever since.
Rachel and I began to combine our events. For example, Rachel was invited to speak and sing at the World Arts Film Festival in Jacksonville, Florida. One of my animated shorts was shown at the festival after it first premiered at San Diego Comic Con. Then, Rachel was one of assistants in Tampa at VSAFlorida’s Animation Gets Real, where I teach the basics of animation to individuals with autism.
However, because of the 2016 election, Rachel and I drifted apart because of our political differences, but it wasn’t long before we realized, we have to respect each other’s beliefs, and agree to disagree. We are so glad that we did not let hatred win.
Similarly, this how I first heard of Haley Moss through her law education. We first contacted, followed, and chatted with each other via social media in February 2015. At that time when I was entering University, she was one of my greatest inspirations because she was the first autistic person that I knew who graduated from University. Haley also graduated from law school. We finally met in person in 2017 when I was in Miami, Florida, teaching animation to autistic individuals at VSAFlorida’s Animation Gets Real.
Our differences are our political views, our locations, and our occupations.
I started my animation company when I was 14 years old, and working professionally in the animation industry for almost 10 years. My company’s goal is to employ people with disabilities, including autism, and to develop a platform to show that autistic people can do anything that they set their minds to, just like anyone else. Rachel’s and Haley’s goals are similar, except Rachel is a beauty queen and role model, and Haley is a lawyer.
We are all are inspiring others on the autism spectrum that anything is possible…even the impossible!
Our most important similarities are: we are autistic, we have a passion to challenge the stereotypes of autism, and we show the world that, despite our disabilities, we can go after our dreams.
Overall, we do not look at our differences anymore, or at least I don’t. I did at one point, but I realize that it’s okay to be different and instead focus on our similarities.
Why are our friendships unexpected?
It is believed that people on the autism spectrum rarely keep up friendships, let alone friendships across the country. Second, we have politically different views, and nowadays even neurotypicals don’t keep friendships with those who are not on same the political spectrum. Third, we come from different ethnic backgrounds. Fourth, our career backgrounds and goals are very different. I am an animator and business owner, Rachel is a beauty pageant queen wanting to go after a national title, and Haley is a lawyer.
We keep up on each other’s updates through social media. I am really thankful for their friendship, and I am so glad that I get to know them. They inspire me every day.
Dani Bowman founded her company, DaniMation Entertainment, at age 14. She has worked professionally in the animation industry since then, premiering 8 award-wining animated short films at San Diego Comic-Con each year. Her shorts feature the voices of Joe Mantegna, Tom Kenny (Sponge Bob), June Foray, Debi Derryberry, and Stella Ritter, among others. Dani uses her passions of public speaking, animation, illustration, fine and visual Arts, and teaching animation to demonstrate to others on the autism spectrum that anything is possible. Dani graduated Woodbury University with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts (BFA) in Animation in 2018–where she earned her WISE scholarship in Civic Engagement and Leadership, earned her Entrepreneurship Award, and took both her junior and senior thesis shorts to Comic-Con. She is currently working on getting a Master’s of Business Administration (MBA) at Woodbury. Discover more on her website and Facebook page.
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With Updates from Jacob Fuentes and Carly Fulgham at end of article
Big Question: What Advice Would You Give to Your Younger Self?
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