She’s the first hip-hop wheelchair singer and dancer… And next month, the oh-so-inspirational Auti Angel will be adding reality television star to her resume.
The Latina multi-hyphenate will be starring in the Sundance Channel’s new original non-fiction series Push Girls, which offers an uncensored look at what it means to be sexy, ambitious and living with paralysis in Hollywood.
“It’s an honor to have such a platform of this magnitude that we can reach out to so many people and change the stereotypes, the way people think,” says the San Diego-born Angel in a recent interview with The ONE Campaign.
Angel who was raised in Torrance, California, left home at the age of 18 to launch a professional dancing career. She would go on to perform with several renowned hip-hop artists like N.W.A. and Kid ‘n Play, and even branch out into choreography and music.
“I was J.Lo before J.Lo,” Auti told Disaboom. “I danced with LL Cool J. I went on tour with rap artists and I was about to sign a record deal as part of an all-Latin female hip-hop group. Then, the tragic car accident happened, severing my spinal cord and leaving me wheelchair bound. That was May 3, 1992, a day I will never forget. The record company wasn’t willing to wait, but I told them, ‘I’m still me!’ The group tried to replace me, but they couldn’t and fell apart. I was saddened they didn’t move forward because they still needed to follow their dreams.”
After a difficult seven years that included the tragic loss of her mother to cancer, depression, drug abuse and jail time, Angel rededicated her life to God and began the process of rebuilding her life. She returned to dancing, becoming the first hip-hop dancer to continue her professional career in a wheelchair. She started a hip-hop wheelchair dance group, Colours ‘n’ Motion. In 2003, she performed in Ludacris’ hit video “Stand Up,” and then reprised her work by choreographing a piece, that included her dance partner, for a performance with Ludacris on the Vibe Music Awards.
Along with dancing, Angel is pursuing careers in music and acting. She and her husband of four years, producer/DJ Eric “Stretch Boogie” Rivera, are working on an album together. And, she co-starred in Susan Seidelman’s film Musical Chairs.
But Angel isn’t just pursuing her Hollywood dreams… She established her own mentor-based program, Save a Soul Foundation, to help at-risk youth and young adults by using performing arts as a tool.
“It’s a grassroots mentor-based program for at risk youth. My ultimate goal is to have a youth center that will provide resources, tutoring, while teaching different trades that will apply to their goals in life. It will include at risk kids who are able-bodied and disabled,” said Angel. “Save a Soul grew out of my own experience when I was asked to speak at the Los Angeles Central Juvenile Center. It seemed to set them free to hear me and hear my story. I was moved to reach out to our at risk youth. I could hear God’s voice saying, ‘Save A Soul. Once you save one soul, that soul saves another soul, so it repeats itself.'”
And now you’ll have the chance to witness Angel’s inspirational journey on The Sundance Channel’s Push Girls, which premieres on Monday, June 4 at 10:00 pm ET.