My open letter to all ABC Parent’s and Australians

Thank you to all the kindred spirits who have left beautiful and supportive comments, since I joined the Play School team as a new presenter. I feel super welcome. I read all your comments with a smile.

Let me answer some of the few questions that bubbled up…

Was I hired because of my dwarfism?

Interesting question. How does someone hire an actor without considering/accepting their body? All actors are employed for their bodies and minds. Our bodies are our work. We recontextualise them in different circumstances depending on the stories and role. We use our bodies to tell stories. I can’t leave my body at the stage door.

I can only assume I was hired for my talent and along with recognising my talent Play School has also accepted and embraced my body. They are inseparable.

This is true for all the presenters. They all bring their bodies to work. My body might be noticeably more ‘different’ but I am not doing anything the other Play School presenter aren’t already doing.

Sometimes I must adapt the ‘way’ I do an activity, like using steps in the kitchen but this is incidental. Every disabled person already understands this process of adaption. Our bodies require practical adjustments to be made, not just changes in social attitude.

Now, I have a question for you…

‘How do you hire me ‘not for my dwarfism’? What would be proof of this?’

How were the other presenters not hired for their appearances? What is proof of that being the case?

What I think

I think these are impossible questions to answer.

If you only see my short stature and fail to see that I am also a woman, Australian, a sister, married, part of a family, a traveller, a tap dancer, an actress with a great CV … etc then that isn’t my limitation. It is yours.

I embrace my short stature, but I will not be defined solely by it. It is not my ‘whole’ story.

No matter what role I play I can't leave my body offstage... it travels with me. Like every actor, our bodies are undeniably part of our work and can't be ignored. Being a person of short stature doesn't have a 'meaning' built into it. A person with dwarfism can be born to any family, any class, any set of circumstances and in any time. Just like an average height person can exist or be born into any set of circumstances.

This goes for all different sorts of bodies too. Understand that all bodies can tell all kinds of stories. It isn’t just the enabled non-disabled actor who has a right to be on our stages and screens. We all have limitless tales to tell. We all deserve to access the arts and be part of our society and culture.

Sometimes it is hard to recognise talent when it is packaged differently because we aren't used to diversity on our screens and stages.

Where is my name from?

I am named after a Swedish town, ‘Kiruna’. It is famous for iron ore mining. My parents backpacked around the world together before they got married. They liked the name of the town, saw the Northern lights there and decided they would name their first child, me, Kiruna.

I am not Swedish, but I have travelled there many times.

A comment on the cruel & dehumanising comments peppering the online threads:

I want to show gratitude to the people who have posted ignorant comments and attempted to deny my human-ness. This revelation and open sharing of their small-mindedness is a very important truth. I am grateful to them for revealing this truth so publicly, so that it might educate others who are often unaware of this kind of prevailing prejudice.

This truth makes my quest for diversity on our screens ever more apparent. If these people didn’t leave dehumanising comments, some people might wonder what all the fuss was about. The fact my body still challenges some people - to the point that they don’t see me as human and feel free to publicly share this belief - shows you how important it is to have humanising and truthful representation of difference on our screens for the health and adaptability of our society.

I want all people to see and understand this limited and cruel thinking for what it is... It is an inner ugliness, prejudice and ignorance. Sometimes driven by fear and sometimes it is an attempt to re-establish their self-esteem. But this ‘ableism’ exists, and it is experienced by disabled people and people who are recognisably different within our society. So, the ‘normalisation’ of difference through genuine truthful representation, that is incidental on our screens is even more important.

For the individuals who feel different, seeing difference truthfully present and represented shows them they are embraced and accepted, within our society.

For those who live somewhere in the middle ground of society’s parabola, it is important that they see difference and recognise how ‘normal’ it is. That it exists. It isn’t scary, metaphorical or tragic. It isn’t a ‘plot device’. It just ‘is’.

We are all human and we can, and should all live alongside one another, enabled by our communities to achieve our personal bests.

Your friend,
Kiruna Stamell

For further information about dwarfism please visit Understanding Dwarfism or Little People of America