Being an angel is a life’s work that calls for diligence, fearlessness where others fear to tread, physical stamina, and a deep-seated sweetness. Add candor and a sense of humor and you get the actress, dancer, choreographer and singer Auti Angel whose energetic (understatement) body of work you may already know. She is motion itself. Glee and intelligence roll right along with her through life. She smiles as she says she does not mind sharing her age, even in Hollywood, and then laughs out loud as she says, “I worked really hard to get to this age. And look like this!” She sweeps a graceful hand down through the air that surrounds her and pauses just a beat to let that sink in. She is, after all, a choreographer and knows the value of timing.
She was a child when she discovered, from singing and telling stories into a tape recorder that was a gift from her grandmother, that she liked the sound of her own voice. She was intrigued. It was her first foray into writing, producing and acting. She knew then that she was going to do something significant creatively, spiritually, and emotionally.
That spiritually and emotionally core showed itself early as she faced frightening abuse at home and somehow came to realize that because her father was merely 16 when he got together with her mother, he was not mature enough to have the tools to deal with stresses, and took it out on her and her mother. Devastating and frightening as it was, she found a way early on to overcome the fear. “When you are little,” she says, “you do think the brutality is your fault. My grandmother introduced me to Jesus Christ. That gave me a faith-based foundation. I still follow Christianity but do not neglect other religions.” And, she knows first hand the woe of intolerance. Her maternal grandparents of English German ancestry were prejudiced against Mexican Peruvian father right up until Auti was born when gratitude for their beautiful granddaughter altered their intolerance.
Auti left home at 18 and was finally was free to apply her talents. She found a roommate, took an apartment. She was done with negativity and ready to start her career.
She began auditioning, met a friend at a club, JJ, who liked her moves and invited her to go to an audition. She was, as always, fearless, bold, and in her words, “Some say bossy, but really it was confidence.”
Then came the day of the car accident. She snapped her back, severed her spinal cord and was lying in the middle of the street facing traffic on the freeway having strong images of God and angels blocking the cars from hitting her again. She blacked out, felt strong hands grab her shoulders and grab her out of her body. As she hovered looking at her lifeless body, she was aware of not having said her goodbyes yet and knew she had to come back. When she opened her eyes, the paramedics said, “Welcome back.” She believes she is still here to teach and she says, “There is a miracle in everything, even in the loss of something.” And, here is how the next chapter of her life went.
At some point after her car accident, Auti made it her mission to go back to the hospital and encourage other newly injured patients to know that, in her words, life still goes on beyond the walls of the hospital. She says, “When you are there you think will this be my life, my life is over. When you get out into the world you see this is not so bad and that you can still live and rock your life-style as you please.” From there it was on to the television show Push Girls with Angela Rockwood, Mia Schaikewitz, and Tiphany Adams.
About Push Girls, the reality-show that focuses on the day to day lives of four women who have been paralyzed. Auti says, “Let’s start with the commonality of wheelchairs and show women they can live with any obstacles – “divorce, losing a loved one, anything.” The history of Push Girls itself is a drama of its own with romance, devotion, courage, humor, challenges, glamour and enthusiasm for living life to the fullest.
Auti, ever ready to show the beauty of overcoming challenges, with her husband went to marriage counseling on camera for the world to see. Was it helpful to her? Absolutely. Therapy gave them tools they needed, helped their marriage. She says, “It was a struggle in the beginning like with all couples in therapy. We were hesitant to share certain things, but I told him and we agreed, we are going to be able to help other couples. So many people came up to us afterwards and said, ‘We thought we were the only ones.’” Auti acknowledges the special challenge for couples with one who is, as she calls it, “differently abled and one able bodied,” a phrase she prefers for obvious reasons of being able to do so many things but do them differently.
Patience and compassion always two of her driving forces, when people ask her how she can be a dancer if she uses a wheelchair, she does not mind being the sort of teacher who takes the time to show others that all things are possible. Hers remains a world filled with motion and she incorporates able-bodied dancers into her choreography.
Her chair? Very chic with dollar signs as rims. She says, again with laughter backed by the light of pure fun in her eyes, “I am dancing with all these rap artists, I need something awesome. Never miss an opportunity to accessorize.” Yes, she needed something awesome because, simply enough, she is something awesome.
She wants the world to know that she is sponsored by Colors Wheelchairs that started with a man who happened to be in a wheelchair and wanted to cater to individual needs such as Auti’s dance career. She says, with more of that definite twinkle in her eyes, “I happen to be fancy. I like a little bling.” Fancy is an understatement!
Her love letter? She did not miss a beat. It will be to her mother who passed away a year after Auti’s accident. She wants to tell her mother that she loves her and misses her. Just for the joy and depth of her, listen to what Auti, in love and compassion, tells about her life and has to say to her mother who died a year after Auti’s car accident.
Auti will be able to have the joy of telling her mother about her debut album, her life appreciation workshops, festival of human abilities and a few other things. It is a good guess that as Auti’s life progresses she will have more good news to tell her mother because Auti Angel will most certainly always be doing something significant creatively, spiritually, and emotionally just as she knew she would be as a child when her grandmother gave her that tape recorder.