Paulo was born with Osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a genetic disorder in which bones fracture (break) easily, but this has never stopped him or defined him. He is passionate about creating awareness about what living with disabilities is like; and showing the importance of being able to move freely and have the same rights as any other person in the world.
Over his life, he has had more than 50 fractures and over 30 surgeries. He considers himself a restless person that loves his scars; he loves himself just the way he is. He firmly believes that we become stronger each time that we reconstruct ourselves. We can become stronger and learn from the lessons learned in life.
As a public speaker and disabilities inclusion activist, he has participated in important events like the first parliament for people living with disabilities, and he has made his own TEDTalk. As an actor, he participated in a Disney+ series that will be out in 2023 called “Lucha: despierta tu naturaleza.” Finally, Paulo just participated in the “All Inclusive Runway 2022” as a model.
Paulo in the first parliament for people living with disabilities
The “All Inclusive Runway” took place on October 15, 2022, and there were 25 models, of which 15 live with disabilities. These 25 models got dressed by renowned Mexican designers such as Sereno del Sordo, Iann Dey, and Armando Takeda.
Motion Composites: Hello Paulo, thank you for meeting with us! We want to start this interview by asking you: Why do you think it is important to create awareness campaigns to eliminate stigmas about people with disabilities?
Paulo Silva: The first thing I would like to say is that the difference between the Mexican and the Canadian or United States culture and awareness about people with disabilities is huge. In 2008, Mexico signed the convention with the UN for the rights of people with disabilities, but not much has changed. In Canada and the United States there is a lot more understanding regarding the needs of people with disabilities, which makes my work in Mexico so much more important.
I believe that it is imperative that we, as people with disabilities, fight to be recognized as people that HAVE rights. If we don’t do it, then who will?
Having more infrastructure is not enough; we need to change how people think about disabilities, especially here in Mexico. People need to understand that we want to be a part of society and be treated like everybody else. We want to be independent and have the same rights. We do not want to be seen as incapable. We lack accessibility to some of the most basic rights, like attending school. I had a hard time finding a university that would accept me because they were not accessible, and that is a huge problem for a country where 20.8 million people live with a disability.
Paulo celebrating Pride
MC: You travel, go to concerts, and are super active. What would you recommend to other wheelchair users afraid of getting out there and experiencing things?
PS: Listen, the world is so beautiful, and we should not withhold the possibility of seeing it just because we are afraid it would not be accessible. I firmly believe that if we are not putting ourselves into uncomfortable situations and going places, we cannot ask for accessibility from them.
Going somewhere is being political about it. It is being present and demanding your right to enter somewhere. It’s important for people that have disabilities to go out. We want people to realize that we travel, go out with friends, and go to concerts; it says to the world, “We are here, and we are here to stay.”
MC: How did you learn about the Apex C of Motion Composites?
PS: The first time someone talked to me about Motion Composites was a person that was distributing different brands of wheelchairs. It was time for me to change wheelchairs and she introduced me to this relatively new wheelchair brand that was doing cool wheelchairs. I started doing my own research, and that’s how I contacted “Seat and Move," an official distributor of Motion Composites wheelchairs in Guadalajara. They helped me to find the best wheelchair from Motion Composites, according to my needs. My parents supported me in buying it. I know that I am super privileged in that sense because is not everyone can get a wheelchair the Apex Carbon, especially here in Mexico.
When I first saw the Apex C, I knew it was made for me! Because of my osteogenesis imperfecta, I need a super lightweight wheelchair that is rigid and safe at the same time. Safety is a MUST for me; if I fall, I get fractures. The Apex Carbon is the perfect marriage between safety and an ultralightweight wheelchair frame. We especially loved the quality of it, and the fact that the carbon fiber frame has a lifetime warranty was a great plus!
MC: What’s your favorite feature of the Apex C?
PS: I am a big fan of its modern design! It’s the main thing that attracted me at first. I feel like I am using a work of art!
A wheelchair is an extension of my body, and as a person that loves fashion, I wanted a wheelchair that would look good and match the aesthetics that I was looking for. I LOVE that the design aesthetics are important for Motion Composites. As wheelchair users, we are not just looking for performance or materials, but that the chair reflects our personality and that we feel proud about it.
MC: Let’s talk about the “All Inclusive Runway.” How did you learn about this casting and why did you decide to participate?
PS: I am a part of an agency called “Cambiando Modelos”. They are specialize in including disabled people in publicity, fashion and communications. They try to change the world's stigma over people with disabilities through representation.
They offered me to be a part of a four month long casting that included people from all Latin America. I was super happy when they called me back and I learned that I would have the opportunity to be one of the 25 models that would be dressed by some of the most prominent Mexican fashion designers!
I wanted to participate because it is a unique event in the world! They try to organize this runway the same way as other “Haut-couture” runways, such as Valentino or Gucci. I have always loved fashion, and each piece tells a story in each collection, but it is also for the representation. When I was little, I watched this type of runway, and the people in them never looked like me. I want a little kid that uses a wheelchair and loves fashion as much as I do to see this and think, “If he can do it, I can too!”
MC: How did you feel when you were modeling on the runway?
PS: I was SOOO NERVOUS! But at the same time, I was very emotional, thinking, “This is it!!” but at the same time, I was trying to stay serious and prove to people that I can model just like any other model in “Haute-couture” so that in the future there are more people like me in fashion runways!
MC: How did you feel when working with Sereno del Sordo?
PS: It was out of this world! Sereno del Sordo’s designer, Gilberto Brizuela, based the collection that he designed for this event on fungi; he called it “Fungi World.” He made an analogy between the fungi and the diversity that exists in it, with the diversity that exists with people with disabilities. He took the time to get to know us and made each suit specifically for us.
In my case, Gilberto told me, “Your suit was inspired by a specific type of fungus that reconstructs itself, that is super resilient. That made me think of you.” That made me feel so special; it was incredible!
MC: Do you have any other plans you would like to share with us?
PS: I really want to finish my bachelor’s degree, but outside of that, I don’t have any big plans yet. I would love to go and live abroad, continue with my acting career, and consult with some other businesses on how to be accessible.
MC: Any last comments?
PS: I love that Motion Composites is trying to give a voice to the people that use their products, so I want to thank you for that! It’s really important for us to see the lifestyle that other wheelchair users have.
We want to thank Paulo for the time that he took to chat with us and all the effort he puts to continue to break stereotypes and barriers to make the world more accessible, not just for him but for other people with disabilities as well.
We are looking forward to seeing Paulo in more fashion shows, and who knows, maybe in 5 years, we will see him in Paris Fashion Week! In the meantime, make sure to follow him on Instagram and TikTok.