The beautiful thing about social media is how it allows us to connect with each other. Just through the platforms that are ever so available to us, we can share our stories with the world. Melissa DiVietri has found the same beauty in this, so she created a full-blown social media agency that manages profiles for other people to share their wisdom and experiences. With her own pain and struggles as someone with sacral agenesis, she has been using social media platforms to inspire other people.
I have Melissa DiVietri here with me. She is a wonderful woman, event coordinator and magician. She does so many different things. I am very much looking forward to knowing her story of not only all of the above but also how she has overcome disability through the years. Thank you, Melissa. It’s an honor to have you here.
Thank you. I like to go by Meli. It’s a blessing to be here and be able to share my story.
Let’s start with what I’m inspired about. I’m inspired by your drive and dedication. What is it about the word social media and marketing that drew you in?
I started my social media journey when I was fifteen. I created my space profiles for people. I liked the idea that you could connect the dots with someone from all around the world using a platform. When I started this young journey, I realized I was good at it. I started to share my story, talk to people about who I am and what makes me tick. That’s what unfolded me into starting an agency. I created a full-blown social media agency. We’re an all ladies-based agency, DI Techno. We manage profiles for other peoples so that we can give them a platform like ours to share their stories.
The fact that you were able to do that at a young age, it takes a lot of dedication in just thinking of how everything works. You are in that generation that it was easy to be able to pick up on that. You’re using that platform not only to share your story but also helping other people. For us, I find that because of our knowledge that would be stealing of social media and unlisted of how it works, being able to quickly adapt and see where things are going. I believe that these people successfully be able to help your foresight to make these things happen.
Since that time, I’ve been able to put my story on platforms like TikTok, YouTube and my own blog. I’m finding people through the rabbit hole that see my story. Someone from South Africa messaged me on Instagram. She said, “I have the same condition as you. I have these questions about relationships and starting a family. Can you give me some guidance on what you know as far as what to prepare for?” I tell them a personal thing so that we can connect and share trust but then I give them information on my blog so that they can physically hear me speaking about it. It’s about sharing. If you don’t know, you need to ask someone that has your condition. My disease is called sacral agenesis. I’m using forearm crutches to move full-time. I was wheelchair-bound for half of my life. To me, this is independence, even though I also call them my curse. They’re my chains that you can see but I don’t let it limit me.
If anything, it defines me with people like this woman on Instagram. She’s one of a dozen stories that find me each week through social media. If I didn’t find this avenue when I was a younger person to be able to build connections and find the excitement of reaching people online. I’m almost inspiring them in a way like, “You don’t have to use this disability as a crutch. You can use it as an opportunity for people to remember you because you’re so different.” We look different. All of us that have this condition, most of us don’t have bodies below our ribs. We’re in a wheelchair and have very small feet. I have a full-form body but I’m smaller. You can recognize me. That’s a lot of anxiety. I’m using social media to be like, “This is what it is. There’s nothing you can change about it. You’re going to have to accept me and embrace me for who I am.” That’s how people are like, “How do you stay confident?” I’m like, “You’re the one that’s fueling my energy to be happy. If it wasn’t for you, there wouldn’t be me.”
I relate to that. I’ve had that too in the past. Someone will contact me and ask me questions. She was asking, “How did you remain so positive?” It’s because it becomes part of our nature. We don’t think about the negativity of it. Never take no for an answer. How do we keep getting to the gist into what questions you ask? What things you are able to follow-up and get what you want? I’m taken back by that to be able to talk to someone in that capacity who understands that. It’s not that other people don’t understand it. It becomes our second nature which is easy for us in that energy, in that vibe that leads in that awareness about other people to see that when they talk something about yourself, “Look at that. It’s amazing.” That leads to my next question. You were in a wheelchair first. When is the transition period of how you’ve improved? How did you get to that point that you realize, “I can be out of the wheelchair and begin to do crutches?” Did you saw that was going to be a positive change?
As a young person with this disease, they didn’t exactly have any research on us. The other name of sacral agenesis is called Caudal Regression Syndrome. I was the guinea pig. It wasn’t until I was thirteen years old that they could identify this rare spine disease. The spine condition is you’re missing your sacral. The whole back piece is missing. My spine is very twisting. It’s like multiple sclerosis. It’s 40,000 plus. It’s intense. My hips are not in their sockets. When you look at me and you see me, you would never know that there’s so much going on internally because I hold it well. I’ve always been able to hold myself well. If you want to have a unique lifestyle, your psychology has to be strong. I was going through these battles with my own body like, “You’re never going to be able to walk. You’re never going to be able to do those things that you want to do.”
When you start to grow, other people try to flip your wings.
That was like a fire that taught me like, “I don’t think so. If I work at it every day and I’m doing physical therapy, then there’s got to be a breakthrough.” I did all of these surgeries, these testing and research. Finally, I was like, “No more surgeries.” I had fourteen surgeries. I stopped doing surgeries when I was 21. I was like, “I’m going to try to do this on my own. I’m going to build my body myself.” That’s when I was able to be full-time independent on crutches. I have a very wonderful support team. One person in my life, her name is Skylar. She’s my product designer. She redesigned me a 3D printed crutch. It’s super sexy. It’s got fun things on it. When you look at something like this, even though it’s covered in paint, I’m an artist. There are little things that make me feel like a medical device.
I know that I can be like a beacon or a token of positivity for our industry if I’m the one that’s carrying all the way of the story. I use that as like, “This is your energy. This is your hustle.” I’m working in an industry that’s very show-show-facey. I work in the music entertainment business. Specifically, techno music is what you look like, who you know, who your picture with. I’m the complete opposite. I’m a Michigander. We’re Midwest. We don’t care about that stuff. That’s why I think this is the perfect career for me. Even if people tried to gas me up, they only know me by my profile picture. When they meet me and see that I have a full-blown condition, they’re like, “I had no idea.” I’m like, “It’s because I choose to tell you when I want you to know.” They’re like, “You know it.”
I own a CrossFit gym. I talk to a lot of my clients. Initially, we’ll be getting a new lead that comes in. I always send them a text right away. “How did you hear about us?” I make conversation, chitchat. I get them into the gym. They have no idea that I’m deaf. They couldn’t even tell that I have two hearing aids. You can’t see them but I might sound different but that’s okay. I was taught how to speak by my parents. My parents told me that it had been a traumatic experience when they found out about my hearing loss but they took it upon themselves to say, “What can we do to ease Jordan?” Don’t take this runway as normal as possible. I’m almost an adult but things have changed. Normal is not even normal anymore. There is no normal. I always say each of us is our own unique individual. We each have the power to accomplish that and become the best version of ourselves that we can be.
During the pandemic, I walked into my disability suits. I never wanted to share my story or let people know about private information. I was a TEDx closing speaker in Detroit. That was the first time I ever talked to an audience about it. That resonated with me. During the pandemic when everything was coming down, the world was new and you have to adapt quickly, I realized I had to be dependent on myself. I started using my disability as leverage so people could find me and understand what my story is so they could support me. In a lot of the events that I’m hosting with art and music festivals, there’s a mission behind self-empowerment. A magazine published an interview that I had. They said that I’m breaking the barriers for people with limited mobility.
I’m making our events completely ADA-compliant with ramps in entrances and the proper bathrooms. I’m creating this playbook of how events should be properly crafted for all bodies, for inclusivity, not exclusivity which is what my industry is mainly about. It’s exclusivity. I like to disrupt. I don’t know if it’s because at heart I’m a Detroiter and we like to have that physical ha-ha. That’s our attitude. I also want people to understand that if you’re not educated and you don’t know that this is a problem, I’m going to show you that this is a problem. With our last event in Detroit, we had an ADA platform, entrances, all accessible bathroom. People came up to me and say, “You did everything perfectly organized.” I’m like, “Yes because this is an everyday struggle. If I’m showing you how to do it right then you’re going to be taking it back and say the other people should be doing it this way too.” It was a huge interview for me because now I can take that, show it to other events and say, “Do you want people like us there?” We’re the ones that are the most interesting in a way. We’re unique and it’s the new normal.
You did a way for these other people so that when they taking it, “I got to go to bathroom. I got to go to X, Y, Z,” It was easy. They didn’t have to think or worry about it. That’s when you go to understand is that all disabilities and people to help everyone. That’s one of the things that I’m trying to do to help bring out the awareness. For me, I have to think about it. I’m going to a restaurant, for example. My wife knows that if I sit at the side of the table, I’m not going to have a good time but if I sit or stayed at the end of the table, I can see everybody. I can be there and I can get all the competition. Those are little things that I didn’t even think about through the years. She began to recognize. That type of stuff of awareness, understanding and letting other people know it’s okay to hear other stuff you can take to make that happen.
She compliments you very well. My friends specifically sometimes put me through a little game to see like, “Melissa can do it.” I’m like, “No. Pick me up. Let’s go.” They want me to feel as normal as them. We went to the Bitcoin conferences in Miami. It started to rain. We got trapped under an awning. Other people were trying to navigate themselves to get out of the rain. I’m sure they don’t see me. No one’s paying attention to me. They’re all bumping into me. My friend was like, “Don’t make the girl on crutches move. What’s wrong with you?” He’s like, “I didn’t even see her.” They act like I’m not standing there. It’s those situations where I’m glad I had someone say something for me because that makes me feel nice but also it’s a socially awkward feeling. “I’m trying to be out like you. Why are you making more attention to it?” It’s also a personal battle where I have to let it go. I’m sure you feel that way too. Other people let it go.
That’s 1 of the 10 good habits that I have to follow through the years. That’s part of us is something about us but we got to act fast and that negativity pushes it out the other side because we have a more important thing to do. We don’t have the time, the month or capacity. We do but we don’t have the time to be adding up all the negative things that are going on. We’ll never get anything done.
We share the same schedule in the day. I have a disability. I have to work with advocates, disability rights, caseworkers, Senate’s office and the governor’s offices. Sometimes I find myself half the day going back and forth with different advocates because I have pre-existing conditions. I’m trying to find resources for myself that should be readily available for people like us. It’s almost a fight to say, “This condition is never going away.” I haven’t been in the hospital in years. I’m holistic. I moved to Indonesia when I was 26 and I became holistic. Everything was about mind, body and soul. I don’t take any medication for my pain. I use a lot of CBD for my shoulders and that’s it. That’s a huge win in our disability. I know people that have had 40 plus surgeries and they’re still in a lot of chronic pain. I made my mind realize that pain is temporary. Emotion isn’t forever. If you hold onto that emotion and you bring awareness to the pain, it’s going to affect you.
When people give me their problems, I’m like, “I got other things going on up here that I need to be focused on versus what you have to tell me.” I’m organized. I delegate. My team is motivational and it starts at the top. Even though I have a condition, they see that as my warrior shield. They’re like, “She’s a champion. She’s going to bat for us all the time.” I have this strength in managing pain. I also have this strength in managing people’s psychology. I don’t let the small things get to me. I don’t stress about a lot of things anymore because I realized there’s nothing that you can do at that moment in time. That’s not going to change anything. I’m like, “Why do I have to worry about it?” Now I have a legal team. I have three lawyers that work for us and I love them. I should have done this a long time ago.
When you start to grow, other people try to flip your wings. Because I have a physical disability that should be limiting me on everything, I’m doing more than the average person. I’m like, “My life is a lot shorter than the normal person’s lifespan. It’s what it is. My body is not as strong as you. My bones are weak. My hands are torn. I’m going to live it to the absolute maximum. That’s how I plan my day. I listen to motivational shows in the morning, Denzel Washington, Les Brown, a bunch of other people that get me ready and fired up. I make my lists and then I go at it. I’ll start at 6:30 in the morning and sometimes ends almost midnight because I’m so entrapped in this world online. It’s intense.
My brain goes 1 million miles an hour. I’m also ADHD. That doesn’t help too. I love everything that you’re talking about because you are 100% right. Someone who put in the fitness industry pretty much my entire life, I have seen the effects of keeping your body healthy. When your body is healthy, everything stays properly, talking about the holistic approach of healing your body. I have Crohn’s and colitis. I have found that without proper working out, proper nutrition, all of that has such a juice profound effect on the body and the path that you were able to do it. When do you do this, you need to focus on yourself and very few people do that yet alone understand what that means. I enable that. That’s a powerful thing.
It was that scary to go all across the world and not know anyone. I had a job offer with a major magazine in Detroit. I said, “I need to go to Bali for two weeks. I’ve got to do something for myself. I’ll see you in two weeks.” I get over to Bali and I’m like, “This could be a huge breakthrough for me as far as becoming healthy.” I did not accept the job offer. I lived in the paddies. I rebuilt myself with coconuts and massages. I trained my mind every day. When you start to feel like this is pain, put your mind into something else. I’m an artist. The paintings that are all over my wall are mine. When I feel like that moment is coming, I pull out my creative touch. I’ve been painting since I was five. I have four art galleries around the world. I have a street painting in Miami. I make art festivals. I try to tell people, “You need a release. If you are feeling like there’s a struggle or something is going on in your life, go do your release. Put it inside that thing.” That’s why my paintings are pretty nice because I’m putting everything in them and then I never want to think about it again. If I had problems with the bank or with my caseworker, I put it in there and I’m like, “Done. The name of it is overdraft.”
If there’s art in the room, it makes you feel better sometimes.
My lovely wife is an artist. If you were to come into our house, there’s got to be these 30 different pieces of art all over the entire house. She’s the same way. If she’s feeling down or something doesn’t go right, she did that. She paints for hours at a time. I can’t talk to her until she’s done. I’ll send you some of the stuff. This stuff is good. Get more involved. I would stop and she’s more low-key. I don’t want to deal with anything else.
I started to build my network of people around me as artists. When you are passionate about something, you should have other people that you can talk to about that thing. I created group channels, weekly Zoom chats and Facebook groups. I’m throwing all of my friends of Detroit into these pieces and then Miami. We’re back and forth sharing each other our art, Instagram and lives. I’m building an ecosystem of people that are like me because they know that we’re going to continue making these events. These will be opportunities for us to sell our work, to make money off of our passion. There is a method behind all of my madness and people see it. They’re like, “I see what she’s doing. She’s thinking future and long-term.” It’s not going to happen in three weeks. It’s going to happen in three months or beyond.
A lot of the facilitation of our events throughout the pandemic took us nine months to orchestrate the last festival. We were the first event that Detroit has seen in a year. It was intense. A lot of people were telling us we were crazy. We shouldn’t be doing this. When it happened, when we saw all the people together, we had twenty live painters, 44 DJs, 4,000 people come through in two days and all this news coverage. This is how you connected with me. If I didn’t start those platforms years ago, it wouldn’t have turned out so beautifully. I’m trying to continue growing that art network because I think there’s something to say about art. If there’s art in the room, it makes you feel better sometimes.
I grew up where my parents are very colorful. Their art pops color. My wife comes along. She has this painting stuff and I think it’s beyond beautiful. I liked that aspect. We’ll share some of that stuff. Let’s talk about music. What is it about music that’s pleasing to your work and your personal life?
Our motto for the agency is, “Music is the answer.” I’ve traveled to 38 countries in eight years. Every time I’m traveling, I’m hosting showcases in countries where I can speak the language like Colombia or Barcelona. As I’m doing this, putting all the marketing together and facilitating lineups with Techno, I’m realizing that all of us are connected by the beats or by the dance, even though we can’t understand each other which I did a social case for myself. Half of the time I meet someone in Columbia, more or less they don’t have any English. I’m the first person that they’ve spoken to that’s an American. We don’t have that. We’re working on that language barrier. Once we start putting music on, people all of a sudden become your best friend, “Where are you from?”
I was like, “This is my niche. I’m going to continue hosting these showcases around the world, Colombia or Venezuela. I’ve traveled all over Central America. They’re like, “You came here by yourself? You did this on your own?” I was like, “Yes, I orchestrated this entire envision online with all of the people through WhatsApp. I show up and make the event.” “How is it done?” It’s done because I’m focused on what I want to do. I can see the entire event unfolding. I can execute. We have a team. My team has been super great. They’re helping with communication, all the stuff that takes a long time, going back and forth and things should be easier. I’m working on the business development pieces like getting sponsorships and finding the right space. It depends on the space. You want to make sure that there isn’t a barrier for folks like myself. That’s the first contingency.
It’s like, “Is there an elevator? What’s the parking situation like? What do the bathrooms look like? If those three things look okay, now you can show me the warehouse.” I like to host my events in warehouses. That’s my style. I’ve had an art gallery in Detroit at the Russell Industrial Center which is this multimillion square foot warehouse. In the middle of my space, there were two tracks. That was what the cars went on. I always felt like I was a part of some history in Detroit which makes me take that same history and apply it to all my future events. Our next event that we’re hosting in Miami will be in a warehouse. We’re pending a warehouse space in Detroit. The vibration that we want is underground. We don’t want mainstream. We don’t care if everyone has to be there. We want the right people to be there because we’re building a community of an ecosystem.
I love the path that you’re taking this thought. You reverse engineering how you’re doing it. You have three requirements that you have to have that are non-negotiable. The reason for that is it’s not just for you but for everybody else. It makes all the event planners, everybody out there that’s you’re working with realized that in order to make something successful to catered to all abilities, we need to be able to do that. That’s a phenomenal treat to have and positive to be able to do that. Not everyone can do it as well as you can.
I know you don’t know my education but that’s what I went to school for was engineering. You nailed it. You were like, “I see what you’re doing.” That was exactly how I was taught to take a thing, take it apart, reinvent it and make it better. It’s always difficult when you’re challenged with a physical disability. Getting in and out of a building for me is hard. Sometimes I’m like, “Why am I even going out?” My personality needs to be out there. I have to be surrounded by people. I have to pour myself into others. I do get that anxiety when I am out there, everyone’s watching me, they’re taking my pictures sometimes right in front of me like deer in a headlight, “I can see you. I am a person. Can you do it more discretely or waved to me?” I know those little things that are rude. It’s unnecessary. They should be like, “I’m interested in taking your picture.” Not just click but I have to brush those things off because I am working in an industry where there’s going to be a lot of people surrounding me.
I have to use that power as an opportunity. With our last event that we hosted, Still Loading, the mission behind it is you’re still loading into yourself after being away with the pandemic. We receive all this news coverage. People from all over Detroit came down to my event and said, “I came here because I saw that you were disabled. My son is a quadriplegic. My aunt is blind.” They gave me a story about it. It made me think, “This is a powerful move if I do it properly. In a positive position, I could use this as leverage so more people could talk about awareness. Can we change how disability rights are negotiated? Can we do simple things like having a button on the door so that it’s easier for us to get in?” I have video camera people who follow me around here and there. I’m like, “I want you to see the day-to-day columns that I have. I can’t even get to the meeting without being exhausted because of the challenges.” I take that with grace. If it’s not me, it’s somebody else. I would prefer for it to be me because I think that I can mentally handle the challenge.
You’re speaking my language. We talk about this. There are so many things that other people take for granted. I subconsciously sometimes don’t even think about these things. You do these things but other people look at us and go, “How did you even come up with that?” We don’t think about it. We do what we can do without letting it bother us. It might take you twenty minutes to get to a meeting but it takes me three to get to a meeting. You got into all these different steps. What have you got to do to get there? You feel exhausted. I understand that because at the end of the day, not only am I trying to listen to what you’re saying but I’m reading your lips. My senses are much more aware. I believe yours are too.
I have a story similar to yours. The card that I was holding up. He’s a venture capitalist and a quad. I met him at a Bitcoin conference. We started talking at the after-hours which is like an after-party. He was trying to show me something in his satchel. I wasn’t clicking. I should have clicked but he can’t move his hands that well. He was pointing to something. I was looking around and he’s like, “I want you to grab that card.” I should have immediately known what he was trying to tell me that he was being independent and also being sweet. Even myself, a person that has challenges with my crutches, I don’t always see it right away. After we finished talking, a flood of people walked over to him and started talking to him. It was one of those letting people know we’re normal. It’s like, “Don’t be awkward. We’re like you.” It was amazing because I saw one person specifically chatting him up for 45 minutes. I was like, “We did that.”
People saw me trying to figure out what he wanted and then turned into everyone watching us. It’s fine. That’s the awareness. I didn’t know if he wanted me to do that. He was being sweet about delivering it. Maybe I can also deliver more nicely too. I get to the point of I’m fed up. It’d be nicer but I’m working on it. I’m sure you can relate. Other people take things for granted. I look at people especially during the pandemic. Not to get political or anything but they’re collecting unemployment. They don’t want to go back to work. They have this lazy mentality.
I’m thinking, “I don’t have a choice. I have no options. I have to continue the business. I have people that depend on me. We can’t collect unemployment. We can’t close our doors. We have to adapt to the new world, what that looks like as far as technology and what people want and COVID policies.” I’m not allowed to take those easy outlets. I’ve changed my entire circle around me. Everybody around me is different. I’m only allowing people that want to support me, go up with me and elevate with me. When they’d call me and talk to me, it’s positive. It’s wonderful. Before I would let everybody in and take my energy but now I’m like, “I see what you’ve done off of the pandemic and it wasn’t successful. We can’t be friends anymore. I’m sorry. It’s you, not me.”
Building takes a village.
You are being to the point where you recognized. You know exactly what you need to do for you. If that other person can help you with it then move on. That’s just okay. You can’t expect to be friends with anybody. I learned that the hard way through the years of being friends with people with big connections but you learn who to associate yourself with. Once you figure that out, the sky is the limit when it comes to that. You’re very fortunate to have the foresight, have that support system and allowing that support system to help you achieve where you want to go. That’s been the biggest thing that I potentially learned through the years. Doctors and specialists report that I would never be able to speak, that I might have physical disabilities and not be able to hear. I have 90% hearing loss which means I have 10% residual hearing with the hearing aids. I’ve been told no so many times. I’m sure you have too but no to my eyes means yes.
I would have never guessed that about you. Thank you for sharing. I would have not known that your hearing was at that percentage. The way I speak is fast. I feel like you already know what I’m thinking. Maybe that’s our psychology. We have something that we have to grow into and empower. We don’t have a choice. I’m not sure. Maybe if we can talk a little bit about this. The relationships in my life are extremely minimal. I don’t trust everyone like I used to because my story is private. I used to let everybody in to try to help me but then I realized they were trying to gain from me. They weren’t there to be my friend. They were there to earn the same things that were coming at me. My business has always been successful because I don’t take no for an answer either. I don’t leave options. That’s what my team says. My team is like, “We love working with you because you don’t leave any options for them.” I’m like, “It has to be me that delivers it like that. I deliver it in a way that shows that we’re in this together. This is not just me in my agency. This is my team’s agency.”
I have been sharing more with the team because I also want to have not just the hustler lifestyle. I feel like I wake up every day and work. After I’ve taken a week off from the festival ending, I like the life of spending some time to enjoy it and working on myself. I want to work on having better relationships. You’re married and you love your wife’s artwork. Me specifically, it’s more difficult for me to find somebody that is strong enough to be next to me because of my physical difference, people are always watching us. The attention is always on us. I have to find that person, that light that’s okay with everyone always paying attention to us. Even though everyone’s watching us, the only person he’s focused on is me. It’s been very difficult. I haven’t had a relationship in over a year because of this. It’s not the awkwardness. It’s more of like, “I’m a strong woman. You need to be a strong person to be next to me as well.” That’s it. It has nothing to do with other people watching us. We work in the entertainment business. It’s always going to be like this.
I could relate and understand that. For me, we’ve been married for years. It has not been easy. We’ve had multiple competitions for me. When you talk about keeping everything private and trying to do business with people, they do opening up a little bit more. I would assume both because, with the pandemic, I started back in December of 2020. I started doing shows and getting myself out there more. Before I was out there but I wasn’t out there in terms of truly sharing my story like we are now. I’m finding that more therapeutic in a smaller sense. It’s allowing me to dig deeper into what I’m all about. It’s allowing me to share that out with other people. When I’m interviewing people on the show and I’m knowing new stories, it makes me feel about it because we all are thinking and feeling the same thing in that aspect. There are so many people that are in that capacity that can truly understand that. Going back to your point of having the support system, which is phenomenal but when you want someone to be on your level, next to you being able to do that is hard to find.
It was so strange. I manifested sometimes. You came into my life because I wanted people to relate to these thoughts and feelings. I met somebody at the Bitcoin conference. He’s the first person I met. We kept running into each other. We finally sat down and started chatting. I was sharing with him, “I’m feeling hot. Everyone’s checking us.” His name is Mike. He says to me, “I’ve never had a friend that’s had a physical disability but I can only imagine what you have to go through on a daily basis.” The fact that he came to my level for that day, giving me praise, got off his phone and started talking to me like a person made me have hope that the world can be good.
When you find that those are the types of people helping in your life that can lead you where you are regardless of what’s going on, that’s what makes any type of business supposed to do a successful thing.
Also as far as relationships, my body is not a normal body. I try to help other people that have sacral agenesis with the same confidence issue. We don’t usually go out and wear shorts. You don’t see us in our bathing suits. We’re unique. We have to grow into that when we’re ready. I’m an adult and I’ve never worn shorts. My parents made me wear shorts when I was a child like 6, 7 or 8. I’m like, “Why is everyone staring at me?” My parents would instill in me, “It’s because you’re beautiful.” When you’re young, you go with it but then as I got older, I was like, “I’m not comfortable with it yet.” I want to find someone or people that I can be myself, look at how I want to look. I’m projecting into the world. The art community is more open-minded. We’re weird.
We talk about stereotypes. In reality, the key to any type of stereotype is you can never allow it. I talk about some of my inspirational speeches, “You cannot judge a book by its cover at all.” You have to get to know that person in order to develop any type of relationship when it comes to an end.
I also think that because we have this difference in these conditions that it attracts others like us. You were attracted to my mind and vice versa and now we’ll be able to grow with each other. Once people see this series, they see that even though you have some form of a difference, you can still do your very best to make a lifestyle. I choose to be single because I’m in super career mode and it’s because I’m building a community of other people like me. That to me is important. Everybody has values that are important.
For me, building takes a village. That’s the quote. I want my village to be there so that I can share later or maybe someone else will compliment me. Love is important to me. I come from a good family of values. I have seven siblings. I’m the only one with a disability. I was the only person in my town that had a condition. Growing up was quite difficult because people would tease me but it was teasing that made my mind strong. When people come at me a certain way, I’m like, “It’s a reflection of something that you’re feeling and that’s okay.” The way that they make it sounds. I defer them to my account directors. I have six ladies that work for me. If somebody is giving me a hassle, I’m like, “You need to talk to her in order to get to me.” It’s like a gatekeeper. It’s powerful to me. I’ve never had that. I’m like, “Sorry, I’m busy. Go here.”
I can relate to that. The example that I’ve used in the past is I wouldn’t say this is very likely but I’m fortunate that I can’t hear because I’m sure there were people who made fun of me maybe from my speech but I never heard it so it never bothered me. I have my friends who I grew up with and I’m still friends with them. They would tell me, “Put a few pieces where someone who might have bullied you or made fun of you.” It never bothered me. That was my nature of strong and always be my own unique individual. That’s what I think everybody needs to learn from both of us by anybody else who has any type of what I call utilizing your workability versus disability.
You’re shining a story that’s going to inspire a lot of people.
That’s exactly what I’m doing, what I teach and sharing these stories. My second to the last question is what do you do to decompress? How do you stay the same?
My friends like to say that you can always find me in the after-hours. On the weekends, I go dancing from 11:00 to 6:00 in the morning, no phone, just me. I became sober so I don’t drink. I don’t take anything. My mind has completely changed. I see people differently now when I’m going out. I see how people act and react. When I’m dancing in these after-hours and I see people’s levels, I’m like, “Why was I doing that for so long?” Dancing is my release. Even though I’m disabled and I walk on crutches, I put my crutches behind the DJ booth. I can physically hold myself up. Techno has saved my life. People say that on multiple levels but techno has.
You don’t have to run around when you’re dancing, you can be in one spot and move your body. I put my crutches down. I’m on the dance floor to the end of the night. I grabbed crutches and people are like, “You’re amazing.” I’m like, “This is my cardio. This is how I’ve taught myself how to hold my body up. My whole life and my body were for it. I’d have to hold my crutches like this. I have to sit in a wheelchair but dancing has taught me how to position my body up.” I want a major Techno column to write about that because that would be a story of itself showing inclusivity in the clubs. Even though it was a pain in the ass to get in here with all the obstacles, I’m still in here having the time of my life. My release is dancing.
I’m proud of you. The fact that you were able to figure that out for yourself and able to do that, that’s phenomenal. That’s quite impressive that you’re able to train and teach yourself to be able to do that, utilizing that or recognizing that to draw away or keeping yourself feel comfortable then you feel good. That’s a form of moving meditation. That keeps you going. I love it. What brings you joy? What makes you the happiest outside of dancing, music and production?
I like to say that I’m heaven-sent. There are some moments in my life where I realized that it’s not just me that’s doing it. I’m surrounded by 20,000 angels. If it weren’t for these things that I can see, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing. My life is to pour myself into other people. I’ve accepted that the people that see me in my true form are special. What I want to continue doing whether it is profitable or not is to be able to pour into people and bring out that confidence that they need.
- Melissa DiVietri
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ABOUT MELISSA DIVIETRI
Melissa DiVietri is an abstract artist originally from Michigan but lives in Miami. DiVietri (32) was born with sacral agenesis, a rare condition characterized by the absence of part or all of the sacrum and lower spine who has had 14 surgeries but is able to move around with the use of arm crutches. She has spent half of her life in a wheelchair before independently moving on forearm crutches.
She has been advancing progressively with mobility from dancing and creating art. She owns multiple art galleries featuring abstract art and street paintings. DiVietri operates an agency that creates art and music experiences but consulting for the cannabis industry; which is her passion. Her mission is to pour her aspirations thru her stories and art by reflecting positive mindsets.