We’re back – with yet another great installment in our series of interviews with role models from the dwarfism community. This time we spoke to Vilissa Thompson – social worker, writer, and self-confessed “badass”. Check out what she had to say.
Please introduce yourself: who are you and where are you from?
I am Vilissa Thompson. I’m proudly Black, disabled, and known to be a troublemaker. I am 32 years old and I reside in Winnsboro, SC.
And what do you do?
I am a licensed social worker (LMSW) and my work is macro-based. This means I focus on the political, societal, and advocacy impact of marginalized communities, which, in this case, is disabled people. I created an organisation and blog called ‘Ramp Your Voice!’ in 2013, where I share an intersected view of the world through my lens as a Black disabled and social worker. In this position, I develop presentations, writings, and speak on the issues that matter to the disabled people through key stakeholders like helping professionals (like social workers, therapists, and counselors) and other professionals.
Do you enjoy it?
I do! I have found my passion and it’s wonderful to build something that is my own. This work has literally taken me places and meet people that I wouldn’t have imagined.
How did you end up doing it?
I wanted to use my experience as a social worker and the lived knowledge of being a disabled woman of color to strike up a conversation about the issues that matter to me and those that look like me.
If you were 21 again, would you do something different?
I wouldn’t – everything that I endured as an adult got me to where I am.
What’s the best thing about your job?
I get to meet people who want to learn how to become better allies/co-conspirators and practitioners, and be more aware about disability specific matters.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?
I never had a bad job (as far as the responsibilities for a position), but I have been in work environments where I experienced micro-aggressions due to the identities I have.
What are the best and worst aspects about being small?
Being able to position myself in the smallest of nooks and nap is a positive.
A negative: High shelves in stores are my nemesis, but I do try to find nice looking tall guys to reach what evades me.
But seriously, the ignorance surrounding little people is still an issue we encounter. I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta, which is a brittle bones condition. Some people identify as Little while others don’t; I chose to identify as Little because that’s what I am – I am small/little. So, as I get older, I see how people engage with those who are little and in wheelchairs than those who are little and not wheelchair users. As someone who is in the former group, I am treated differently and have noticed the treatment varies by mobility ability and usage of assistive devices.
If you could pass on one piece of advice to your teenage self what would that be?
You are a badass. As you get older, you’ll see the power you innately possess. Your love for writing will open up a career for you that is phenomenal.
And do know that men are clueless at any age; some never grow out of their immaturity (and leave that kind alone).
Which living person do you most admire and why?
I look up to Black powerful women like Oprah Winfrey. Oprah came from humbling beginnings and has created a legacy that will last for ages. Her willingness to give back, take control of her brand and image, and still hold true to her roots are what I aspire to as I go as a woman and leader.
How do you like to pass the time, outside of work?
I love to shop, read, color, and sleep. In 2018, I have made self-care a priority, and doing more of these activities matter in that (the shopping is done on a reasonable bases, due to adulting).
What’s your favourite book?
“A Light in August” by William Faulkner. I read it in high school and, as a Southerner, it captured the racial dynamics of the South and of a complex man like the protagonist Joe Christmas.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?
Being a known troublemaker and speaking my truth. I do not mince words and I do not take mistreatment from anyone who tries to belittle or silence me.
When your time comes, how would you like to be remembered?
As someone who was funny, giving, loved those who mattered to her fiercely, and always made you feel warm in her presence. Being remembered in such a way means more to me than any award or accolade I could receive.