Making Forward Strides
A little over a week ago, something significant happened in the Little Person Community. On September 20, 2015, Peter Dinklage won his second Emmy Award for his role in Game of Thrones. It was perfect timing as we move into October for Dwarfism Awareness Month.
Most of the time, when a little person is in the entertainment industry, they are usually typecast as something stereotypical, like an elf or mythological character. They seem to not be taken seriously and are often the butt of jokes. I completely understand why people accept these roles and I get it.
Finding honorable work in a place that values you like an average-sized human being isn’t always easy. I’ve had numerous occasions where I’ve been set up for failure in the work place, due to discrimination… Jobs that took bets among the staff, as to how long I would survive. One of my jobs required me to wrestle a 6’5”, 250 pound, naked, nonverbal, twenty-year-old, with autism, in order for him to take a shower. You can only imagine how that turned out. Discrimination is still alive and a real thing that most little people have to overcome. After so long, there comes a point of desperation when one needs to make a living and pay the bills, but no one will take them seriously. So why not settle and get the easy gigs? It’s not just anyone that can play the role of an angry elf or make some easy cash around the holidays.
I remember one year in high school, I was offered a gig working for a Little Person Entertainment Company. At the time I was so excited about someone wanting to hire me; instead of having to prove myself at a job, I was finally wanted. However, my mom didn’t let me do the gig, and looking back on it I couldn’t be more thankful for that decision. It was a gig working and modeling at a Batchelor Party, which involved a bunch of drunken men. As a 17 year old, I thought it was innocent and I would be seen for my talent. However, at that time I was naive to the many fetishes that exist out there for female little people. I had no idea that the experience could’ve been humiliating. I’m so thankful that the door to that lifestyle and type of work was shut in my face, which I know saved me from a lot of future heartache.
When one thinks of little people in the entertainment industry, usually visions of elves at Christmas time come to mind, or the endless amount of reality shows that the world seems to be obsessed with. There are at least 7 reality shows on little people that first come to mind, 3 of which are current. And yes, the reality shows are supposed to portray “real life,” but do they really? Maybe they do, but for me they don’t. Yes, there are struggles and some of those are real, but in my life there is also a lot of overcoming, a huge amount of hope, an excitement for the future, and not a lot of drama.
In 2011, Peter Dinklage won his first Emmy for his role in Game of Thrones, and in 2012 he won a Golden Globe. In his 2012 speech, he made reference to a gentlemen by the name of Martin Henderson in England, who was in the hospital after being outside a pub when he was picked up and thrown. Recent “Dwarf-Tossing” events in the area were seen as the inspiration leading up to Martin’s accident. Things like that still happen today and the struggle is real. Some little people will then settle to get dehumanizing jobs, which can sometimes create a stigma, making it difficult for other little people to be taken seriously. Little people minding their own business, get tossed outside of a bar, just because society somewhere has come along and said that’s ok. However, the one thing I admire about Peter is he doesn’t settle. He refuses degrading roles and roles that only a little person can play. Instead he knows the calling and destiny on his life, to shift the minds of those around him where he works. He’s confident enough that he doesn’t have to overcompensate in any job he takes. He is seen as Peter, and plays roles suited for any other person. He just refuses to be seen as only a little person.
In Peter’s most recent win, there wasn’t a single acknowledgment to him being a little person. There was no awkward handoff of the award, uncertain whether it was too heavy for him to hold, and the microphone discreetly got to his level. His size was not acknowledged and instead he was seen on the same level as many other incredible actors. I think this is what most little people strive for. Yes, we may have to fight harder to accomplish the things we want in life, but for the entertainment industry to recognize the value in a person, not just their size is huge. They have the platforms to spread awareness, to cure naivety, and to now pave the way for other little people to really go after what they want, whether it be acting, modeling, accounting, public speaking, or even parenting.
So with all that said, thank you Peter for paving the way. Thank you for sticking to your heart and never settling for less than what you desire or deserve. Thank you for your determination that inspires many around the world, that you probably don’t even know you inspire. I’m so thankful for the influence that you have had in the entertainment industry. I pray that if my son or daughter one day wants to be in that industry, that your ceiling will be their floor; they won’t have to struggle to play the roles they really want… that people will take them seriously and they will be seen as above average… all because you stuck to your guns. So from me and any other little person that can relate, Thank You!