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Arts and Entertainment

Hot Wheels: Meet the Barrier-Breaking Babes of TV's "Push Girls"

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Sundance Channel’s new show, “Push Girls,” premiered on Monday to rave reviews. The show follows four women who have been confined to wheelchairs, either because of accidents or illness, and have gone on to live exuberant, full lives, complete with the very same challenges that plague all of us: breakups, money problems, and family crises.

Tiphany, Mia, Angela and Auti all live in Los Angeles, where the show takes place. They were friends years before “Push Girls” was even a gleam in Sundance’s eye, setting the series apart from other reality shows that shove a group of ladies together and hope for a catfight. We caught up with 36-year-old Angela, the only woman on the show who is quadriplegic following a car accident; and 28-year-old Tiphany, who lost the use of her legs after a head-on collision with a drunk driver, to find out how the show is going, and what their lives are like here in the City of Angels.

How long have you known the rest of the girls?
Angela: It’s a real friendship, a true real friendship - we weren’t cast - and it’s been a blessing. I’ve know Auti the longest. I met her about two or three days after I arrived at the rehab facility, Rancho los Amigos, which is where I went after my paralysis, just after 9/11.

I met Mia at my house eight years ago. She came to attend an acting class. And I met Tiphany, who is my housemate now, four years ago when she arrived to Los Angeles. I met her through a mutual friend.

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Tiphany: When I moved to Los Angeles, I happened to go to an abilities expo where people with special needs and physical challenges can get equipment. I met a girl there who invited me to Angela’s house for lunch, and later that evening Angela invited me to the Rainbow Room and The Roxy and that’s where I met the other girls.

How did this show come to be?
Angela: I was sharing with Gay Rosenthal, the show’s executive producer, about my journey since I’ve been paralyzed. It’s been 11 years, and since I’ve been on this journey, I’ve met a lot of individuals who have dealt with paralysis or losing a loved one, and the lot of individuals lose themselves completely, or they let themselves go, or they give up.

I was explaining to Gay that the one thing that I’m about is really, truly finding who you are inside, not just spiritually but as an individual, as a person, and allowing that to carry you through any obstacle, any instance in your life, anything you’re going through. That’s what the girls and I share, is that spirit, and it’s very powerful. She loved it and said, “how can we not do a show?”

What do you do for work?
Angela: I am an ambassador for the Reeve Foundation, and I do act and model - I like to get my hands on everything. We just finished shooting 14 episodes [of "Push Girls"], now I’m on the PR tour, and once I get home I’m gonna sit down - well, I’m already sitting down - but I’ll start my next adventures. One is possibly starting my own agency.

Tiphany: I pursue acting and modeling, but I’m training to be a fitness instructor. I don’t have the certification so I’m working on that. I also speak publicly in regards to the effects of drinking and driving, and awareness of living with spinal cord injury.

Do you feel like you encounter discrimination in L.A. because of your disabilities, or do you find it to be more accepting than other places?
Angela: Well, L.A. definitely is a body-conscious city and it is all about appearance because of the industry. I would say since I’ve been in a wheelchair, it’s kind of been a blessing to me to basically sift through the people who are superficial and shallow to find the people who are real and grounded. It’s been a blessing. Before my accident I wanted to blow away all fairweather friends in my life and find down-to-earth human beings, and when I got injured, we found out who our true friends are.

Those who couldn’t deal with the thing faded away, whereas those who are real stepped forward and helped us with my injuries.

Tiphany: I’m from Northern California, the Lodi/Stockton area, and I love Lodai but Los Angeles is so much more culturally diverse and people are more accepting, and it’s not as segregated, like smaller towns can be.

What do you hope people take away from the show?
Angela: I hope that when individuals watch our show, they take something away that’s positive and allows them to realize what life is truly about: Live in the moment, don’t focus so much on the past and on the future, and be happy in the moment and do the best that you can with any situation, and just enjoy life.

Tiphany: My goal is to bring awareness, and let people take off the façade and the superficial and see us for people and the genuine human beings that we are, breaking and shattering stereotypes. We could all get so much further in life if we connected on a level of love instead of judgment. It’s so easy to be put into a box and categorized and labeled, and one thing I hope people see in watching us is no matter what tragedy has come into your life, you can get through that.

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One of my mottos is that through tragedy you can triumph. I believe that we have the chance to give hope to those who feel lost and despair.