Photography by: Kristen Honey
I met actress Teal Sherer in a voiceover class a few years back and was immediately taken with her beauty, strength, humor and style-on-wheels. I love the opportunity that Move has given me to learn more about the fascinating women in my life, and I’m head over heels about Teal’s story, the insights and advice she shares with me and with our readers below. Enjoy!
I’m always so inspired by women who take creativity into their own hands and really make something unique and personal, as you have. Tell us about how you came to create your successful web-series, My Gimpy Life.
I became a paraplegic when I was fourteen years old. I was in a car accident, broke my back, and suffered from a spinal cord injury. The way society interacted with me drastically changed: people stared, told me they’d pray for me, My Gimpy Life grew out of my want, almost need, to share my “gimpy” perspective.called me brave and inspirational for being out in public, and a random stranger asked me if I could have sex. My Gimpy Life grew out of my want, almost need, to share my “gimpy” perspective.
I learned a lot about web series through Felicia Day and my involvement in her web series The Guild, so when I had the idea for the show, I had a great community of peers to turn to. For example, a lot of our crew, like our amazing director Sean Becker, worked on The Guild. I could not do My Gimpy Life without writer/producer Gabe Uhr. Gabe and I are fans of comedy shows like Louie, Extras, Life’s Too Short, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and from the get-go wanted My Gimpy Life to be in that same vein. Since the show is loosely based on my life, we work closely together – starting with my real life stories, mix and matching them and sometimes elaborating.
We shot a pilot first, and from that got a full season sponsorship from Dracogen, a wonderful company founded by our Executive Producer, Steven Dengler. Dracogen’s mission is to make fun and awesome things happen, and they back a lot of wonderful things: tech companies, video games, web series and charities like Child’s Play.
You’re huge in the online community. The Guild is a cult hit and you play villain Venom. What was your journey to become part of the cast?
The role of Venom was written for me, which is one of the best feelings as an actor. Felicia Day, (who created, writes, and stars in The Guild), and I have been friends since 2004. We met working on the HBO film Warm Springs, written by the uber-talented Margaret Nagle. The film is about FDR and his behind-the-scenes struggle with polio, and Felicia and I play polio patients singing and dancing in antique wheelchairs.
Venom is very special to me. Playing her is one of the best experiences I’ve had as an actor. It’s so much fun having permission to be a bitch, and I love her kick-butt wardrobe and makeup. It’s an honor to be a part of such a groundbreaking, hit show.
You’re a founding member of a theater company for performers with disabilities, Blue Zone. Proof is one of my favorite plays, and last year you became the first actress with a disability to play the searing lead role of Catherine. How did Blue Zone and Proof come to be?
I founded Blue Zone with two other performers with disabilities, Danny Murphy and Ann Stocking, because we wanted to create more acting opportunities for ourselves and other actors with disabilities. We produced two plays – The History of Bowling by disabled playwright Mike Ervin and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. David Auburn’s Proof is my favorite play and I’ve always wanted to play the lead role of Catherine. I knew I’d probably never get a chance to unless I produced it myself, so I did. I raised money for it by reaching out to family and friends for donations. It’s such an intense role and play, and I grew as an actor, producer, and person by going on that journey. It was an incredible experience.
How would you describe your style and what role does fashion play in your life? Does it come with any unique challenges for you?
Black boots! I’m obsessed with them. I have short ones, tall ones, casual ones, and dressy ones. I love the stylish, tough, sexy quality that black boots possess. They’re also easy for me to wear. Shoes that are slip on, like sandals, flats, etc., continually fall off of my feet.
Clothing-wise, I have to consider what looks good sitting down, what’s easy to push in, and what won’t get caught in my wheels. For example, I can’t do anything too poofy because it will billow out and rub against my wheels. I actually bought a poofy wedding dress. I was determined to make it work. I had a seamstress take out several layers of the skirt material and she put a tie in the back (it was hidden with me sitting in my chair) that held the dress in perfectly. My wedding shoes were sparkly Converse.
My favorite things to wear besides black boots of course, are jeans, short dresses with black leggings, and tops with color: blues, (yes teal), reds, and purples. For me, fashion is about feeling good and being comfortable.
Your beautiful dog Bre is a huge part of your life. Tell us a little about your relationship with her.
Just reading this question makes me smile. Bre is so special to me. She’s a German Shepherd and my husband and I got her when she was ten weeks old. She’s now a little over a year. Bre has the best temperament: she’s smart, loyal, loving, and fun. We’re training her as a mobility-assistance companion for me and we’ve had her in classes since she was a puppy, so we are able to take her everywhere with us – on airplanes, to hotels, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. It’s incredible how much she’s enhanced our lives.
You’re also a newlywed! How did you meet your husband? Do you feel marriage has changed you in any way?
My husband Ali and I met surfing. I adaptive-surf with an organization called Life Rolls On and Ali is one of their My husband Ali and I met surfing. volunteers who helps people with disabilities to surf.
I love being married. I feel grounded and strong. Ali has such a caring, fun spirit and has taught me to not always take things so seriously. We laugh a lot. Being married has made me a lot less selfish. It’s not just about me anymore – it’s about us, and what’s best for our family.
Do you plan to have kids in the future? If so, do you already have some thoughts of how you’ll balance everything?
My husband and I definitely plan to have kids. It’s actually a subject we’ve been discussing quite frequently lately. My body has been through a lot, (numerous surgeries and complications due to my paralysis), and we don’t want to put it though a pregnancy, so we’ve been researching gestational surrogacy and adoption.
My sister has a sixteen-month-old son and is pregnant with her second child. She’s an amazing mother and I’ve learned a lot watching her balance everything, for example, it’s ok to ask for help. My sister has a great support system around her, such as our parents, friends, and daycare, to watch her son when she’s at work, needs to run errands, or just needs a little time for herself. My sister is also very clear about what her priorities are and how to organize them. I’ve learned that at the end of the day, you just have to try your best – learn from your mistakes, don’t be too hard on yourself, and most importantly, focus on love.
What do you consider to be your hardest won or most treasured life lesson?
Not until faced with becoming a paraplegic, did I truly learn how resilient and adaptable we are as humans. It has to be the life lessons I learned after becoming a paraplegic. It taught me to be thankful: thankful to be alive, to have great medical care, and to have such a wonderful family and friends. I learned not to take things for granted because you never know when they’ll be taken away. Becoming a paraplegic changed my perspective and forced me to think differently, to be a problem solver, to think outside of the box. People tell me that they don’t think they could have gone through what I did and have such a great attitude, and I don’t agree with them. Never in million years did I think this would happen to me. Not until faced with it, did I truly learn how resilient and adaptable we are as humans.
You’re a really wonderful advocate for your community. How did you become so empowered and how would you describe your mission?
Thank you. I’m humbled by you calling me empowered because in all honesty, I feel like I’m just doing what’s right. My parents taught me that. It’s crazy to me that there are still lots of places that aren’t physically accessible to people with disabilities – acting classes, casting offices, restaurants, stores, (you name it!), If I had to describe my mission, it would be inclusion and access.that we don’t have access to because they are upstairs with no elevator. It’s frustrating when you’re treated unfairly and not given the same opportunities because people think you are broken and need to be fixed, that your life is sad and that you’re a liability. It’s disheartening these are things that I have to advocate for because they shouldn’t even be issues in the first place. I think it’s one of the reasons I created My Gimpy Life – deep down I hope that it will somehow help change these things. I think it’s important for people with disabilities to be seen more on TV and in film. Society takes a lot of cues from what they see in the media, so the more people with disabilities that are shown authentically – playing mothers, teachers, lawyers, etc.–the better. If I had to describe my mission, it would be: Inclusion and Access.
Giving back seems to be a major focus in your life. How did you get involved with the charitable programs where you donate your time and expertise?
I like working with charitable organizations that I have a personal connection to. I discovered Wheels for Humanity when searching for an organization that I could donate a wheelchair to. When I learned about what they did, supplying wheelchairs and other medical equipment to people in third world counties that don’t have access to them, I was amazed. I couldn’t imagine not having a wheelchair, which gives me independence; the fact that people in other countries don’t is heartbreaking. If they want to go somewhere they are forced to crawl on the ground, or be carried. Thankfully, Wheels for Humanity is helping change that.
Another organization near and dear to me is Shane’s Inspiration. They create inclusive playgrounds and programs that unite children of all abilities. What’s great about their playgrounds is they not only provide access for children with disabilities but parents with disabilities can also play with their children there.
How would you like to see the culture change for future generations of women, and for people living with disabilities?
I want to see more people with disabilities in the media – acting, singing, hosting, and reporting. I’d also like to see more disabled directors, producers, writers, CEOs, governors, etc. I have this same hope for women. I want to see more Rachel Maddows, Tina Feys, and Hilary Clintons. Inclusion and Access for all!
Girl Friday is a phrase more common to the 1940s and 50s, defined as “a female employee who has a wide range of duties,” and is most recognizable from the film His Girl Friday. Here at Move LifeStyle, we’re resurrecting its saucy vibe for the title of our last column of the week which profiles inspiring women in the workforce.If you like this series, click here for more Girl Friday Interviews.