I recently had the pleasure to attend the Kroger’s Wellness Your Way Festival (WYWF). I had the opportunity of interviewing Chelsie Hill, Community Leader, Trailblazer, Entrepreneur and Founder of the Rollettes Dance Team. Chelsie has dedicated her life to dance and encouraging others to pursue their passions despite the physical obstacles they face and the tribulations of life. At the age of seventeen, Chelsie, a senior in high school, was involved in a drunk driving accident which caused irreversible damage to her spinal cord and left her unable to walk. Even though adapting to paralysis has altered every aspect of her life, most devastatingly was the impact it had on her ability to dance. While recovering, Chelsie decided she would not submit to her disability and chooses to live her life daily with a no-limits attitude.
Thank you so much for joining us Chelsie. This festival is about “Wellness Your Way”. What does the term “Wellness Your Way” mean to you?
I had to learn wellness in a different way after my accident. Wellness your way is what works for my body because what works for my body isn’t going to work for the person next to me. I had to cut out certain types of meats because of my injury. I had to eat more greens than I thought I would ever have to because of my injury. Wellness your way for me is about what I put into my body and also the mindset that I go into every day with.
I know I have to do to make sure that I’m fully myself going into the day and the best version of myself. I have my little rituals that I do every morning. I always have to have a cup of coffee and listen to music that gets me into the mood of the day. I always have to have food before I do anything. Those are my three things that I have to do daily. I also have to wake up with enough time to make sure that I can be my complete independent self with this injury. Being able to complete all those things ensures that I have the most productive day possible.
Was there a story that inspired you to get involved with WYWF?
I actually heard about it through my friend Nick. He was a judge at our Boundless Talent Showcase for Women with Disabilities. I looked into it and one thing led to another and now I’m here! I’m gonna be teaching a dance class. I’m so excited!
As I experience the festival, there’s literally everything wellness here. I’ve never seen an event that incorporates so many facets of health and wellbeing. I’m very honored to be a part of it.
Can you tell me about a wellness challenge you’ve had and overcome?
My journey started when I was 17. I was a senior in high school. I was out at a party with friends drinking. One thing led to another and someone was like “Hey do you need a ride.” And I was like “Yeah!” and got into the car. Not realizing how much the driver had been drinking at the time. Knowing that he was drinking but me being 17 years old I was like nothing’s going to happen to me in this small town. You know bad things only happen in big cities. Little did I know that we weren’t going to make it back into town.
My driver was drunk. We ended up hitting a tree head on and I broke my back. I have an irreversible spinal cord injury. Having the doctor come in and tell me that I was disabled and that I was never going to walk again at 17, I was like “I don’t just walk I dance!”. I danced my entire life and that’s all I knew.
I really had to figure out what my journey was going to be. Luckily I have my family and they’re my number one fan and my rock. My dad and mom always told me that I can do anything I set my mind to so it was instilled in my being at the time of the accident. I believe that I could literally do anything I wanted to. I began by proving to everyone that I wasn’t disabled.
That may sound weird because obviously I use a wheelchair but I was on a mission to prove to everyone that I was normal and that my wheelchair is the way I get around, it’s not who I am. That led to me dancing again and starting an all women’s wheelchair dance team called The Rollettes. We’ve expanded to offer the Rolettes Experience which is an empowerment weekend for women and children that use a wheelchair. It’s the largest one in the world. I had no idea that this tragic situation was going to ever lead to all this. It’s such a beautiful journey that I’ve been on and I’m very thankful for the mindset that I was given at such an early diagnosis.
What’s your current wellness mantra or life quote?
My life quote is dance is dance whether you’re walking or you’re rolling. Very early on into this injury I said that in an interview on a news station. So since then I’ve always said that dance is dance whether you’re walking or rolling; and you don’t have to be a dancer. You can be anyone. Just dance through life and enjoy, it’s just whatever that means to you.
What’s one wellness product/routine you can’t live without right now?
I had to figure out what products work for me with my diagnosis and not being able to feel half my body. When things go wrong I can’t necessarily feel it like you would. One thing that I love are Ellura cranberry pills because I suffer with a lot of urinary tract infections due to having to use a catheter. But there’s a lot of people out there that suffer from urinary tract infections too. You’ve got to be really careful because they can become serious. So be mindful when you use the restroom! Sorry if that’s TMI.
What projects are you currently working on?
My next project is our Rolettes Experience. For the past seven years after I started the dance team we’d have a yearly reunion and dance party. It started because I wanted friends that understood what I was going through. We could roll into a room and I wasn’t the only one using a wheelchair. The event began to grow and grow because like me this was something women and girls yearned for. So in 2017 we had thirty two girls and four kids. In 2018 we had one hundred and fifteen attendees from ten countries. And this last August we had one hundred and seventy five women and kids from ten countries come for a 4 day camp.
It was incredible. We rented out the Sheraton Hotel right by L.A.X. and had this huge ballroom and it was everything that I ever dreamed of to be able to create a space where women in chairs feel like they can roll into a room and feel like themselves and feel like everyone is at eye level. Now it’s the largest women’s empowerment weekend for women that use wheelchairs.
Our next project is planning for 2020’s event. So far we have dance classes from top choreographers in Los Angeles. We have a PJ party, our Be Boundless Summit which is where we award and honor influencers in our community. There’s also the Boundless Talent Showcase which is our talent show and a pool party all in the works.
Thank you for joining us. You are such an inspiration!
Stay connected with Chelsie on Instagram at @chelsiehill