Before you create an image in your head of a disabled woman persuading hundreds others with her beautiful voice, it must be cleared that Gaelynn Lea is a woman with utmost talent, exceptional vocals and commendable confidence, who wishes to inspire others with her music rather than with the breaking off of the stigmatised notion of success despite of disability.
She would not choose to be seen as a disabled yet inspirational musician, but would love to be seen as flawless tremendously adroit musician primarily. Lea was born with a genetic condition known as Osteogenesis Imperfecta, in which complexity arises in the development of one’s bones and limbs.
Defying any such hindrance, Lea’s passion was inclined towards classical music since she was in fifth grade. However, Lea’s original plan was to study law and become a disability rights advocate, but she chose to follow her passion and success was all that followed after such a remarkable choice made by her. In 2016, she won the NPR’S Tiny Desk Music Contest and executed an outstanding winner performance. It was after this victory that all the avenues of success opened for her as she moved from being a Duluth-known musician to a nationally-known folk artist.
After gaining fame, Lea’s approach still remained the same. She principally wanted to be known for her musical skills rather than being called for as a disabled inspiration. Also, she never engaged in writing songs which talked about her disability or struggle, rather she wrote about elementary human experiences like beauty, love, loss, etc. Following her passion eventually landed her up in long musical tours and interaction with worldwide audience.
It was in her fourth album Learning How To Stay, that she finally expressed her feelings about disabilities by bringing up and advocating the concept of disability justice. In the song “I Wait”, Lea has opened about her anger against the society who never fails to discriminate against the disabled as well as the social activists who fail to address sufficient attention to the disabled.
Recently, Lea has started to promote a showcase which shall feature the talents of the disabled, and not end up being a specific disability event. She terms this showcase as a Disability Sneak Attack wherein the motto shall be to amaze the people by the real talents and skills of the disabled people and not gain any appreciation in lieu of their disabilities.
The journey of Lea is far-fetched, but her enduring and unbeatable spirit aims to secure disability justice for the whole of the disabled community. After all, she doesn’t picture herself to be appreciated as an inspirational musician, but a musician producing mesmerising and artistic music.