In a reality television scene dominated by “Jersey Shore” and “The Bachelor,” Sundance’s new series “Push Girls” breaks the mold. The reality TV show follows four disabled friends as they navigate work, relationships, and everyday activities from the view of a wheelchair.
Model and actress Angela Rockwood is a quadriplegic who was paralyzed 10 years ago in a car accident. Tiphany Adams is a model and actress who was just 17 when a collision with a drunk driver paralyzed her from the waist down.
"On my journey with paralysis, I met a lot of women dealing with paralysis in a way that they were losing their womanhood," Rockwood says. "Between Tiphany, Mia [Schaikewitz], Auti [Angel], and I, that was something that the four of us definitely shared. We didn't lose that essence or spirit."
Rockwood was on a trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles on September 4, 2001 when the car she was riding in crashed. Her neck snapped, she was thrown from the vehicle, and she woke up in the hospital a C4-5 quadriplegic.
"I remember laying there on morphine, paralyzed from the neck down," Rockwood says of her recovery. "I was just so happy and grateful to be alive and breathing."
After her accident, Adams stayed in a coma for three weeks before she regained consciousness. In a recent interview, the model and actress says that she hopes to "shatter stereotypes and let the world know that through all the tragedies that fill you with despair you can triumph."
Auti Angel, who was well on her way to hip-hop stardom at the time of her accident, also lost function in her legs due to a car crash on May 3, 1992. After trouble with alcohol and drugs led her to become the first wheelchair-bound woman incarcerated at Twin Towers County Jail, the performer and choreographer found comfort in religion. "I developed a strong relationship with God and honestly, God put me back on the right road and back in the game."
Schaikewitz, a native Atlantan, was a talented high school swimmer who fell victim to a ruptured Arteriovenous Malformation, or AVM. The rupture paralyzed the 15-year-old from the waist down in just one evening. Schaikewtiz continued her education, graduated from the University of Florida, and moved to Los Angeles to work in graphic design. The four friends met in Los Angeles, and the show took off from there.
“Push Girls” emphasizes the determination of the four wheelchair-bound women to live happy, productive, and fun lives. Rockwood wants the show to embody the tough, empowered attitude that she and her fellow co-stars put on every day.
"For me, the message of Push Girls is that no matter what the catastrophic event may be, you just embrace who you are as an individual, and push through whatever it is that life hands you," Rockwood says. "You understand within yourself that you have the ability whether it's the choice to be stagnant or the choice to evolve and grow from it."