By Jintana Panyaarvudh
SHE WAS born without legs and abandoned by her parents but Thai-born Kanya Sesser neither curses her destiny nor lets her disability stop her from living life her own way.
The 26-year-old celebrity is determined to lead an ordinary life. Instead of a wheelchair, Sesser, whose motto is “No Legs, No Limits”, uses a skateboard to get around and also walks on her hands. Her talents include sports, acting, modelling and serving as a motivational speaker.
She is a professional skateboarder and surfer and has appeared in “Hawaii Five-0”, “Walking Dead” and “The Fear of The Walking Dead.” Oh, and she also models lingerie and sportswear.
Kanya Sesser uses skateboarding to get around and is delighted to demonstrate her skills in front of an audience at Indoor Stadium Hua Mark.
Sesser was born in Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchsima province and left on steps of a Buddhist temple when she was only one week old. The monks at the temple took care of her before she was transferred to a hospital then the child adoption centre, Holt Sahathai Foundation.
She lived with foster parents – she refers to them as her grandparents – for a few years and at the age of five was adopted by American couple and taken to Portland, Oregon.
Today Sesser lives in Los Angeles and is currently spending her vacation in Thailand. This is her second visit to her hometown – the first was last year. Apart from visiting the nurses who took care of her when she was a baby and her foster parents, she also donned her motivational speaker hat and shared her inspiration and love of life with Thai disabled athletes at a recent event organised by US embassy.
A visually impaired participant asked her whether she has ever blamed God for being born disabled. “I’ve been asked this question many times and the answer is no. Everything grows differently. Flowers grow differently. And this is life.”
Sesser also took time out from her busy schedule to share her story with The Nation and explain how she manages her disability to live life to the fullest.
HOW HARD WAS IT BEING FIVE YEARS OLD AND ARRIVING IN THE US FOR THE FIRST TIME?
It was hard at first because I didn’t know English or any people. It’s like I had to adapt to whole new environment and new people who I had never seen before.
WHAT HELPED YOU GET THROUGH IT?
My amazing family, the love and support around me, and the amazing friends I have met since living in America. It’s been wonderful. I’m so glad that I’m American and also Thai. These connect together to make the person I am today.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO LIVE WITHOUT LEGS?
I keep saying that everybody is different. I don’t have legs but I still have my arms and I still use my bottom or skateboard to get around. My arms are pretty strong. I still use my chair, for instance to go shopping. My lifestyle has created who I am today. And all the nurses, my adopted family, the friends around me, and people who I’ve met or who are just like me and understand me as well as the foundation have encouraged and helped me too.
WHAT WAS YOUR BEST MOMENT IN YOUR LIFE?
My best moment would have to be winning so many first place medals in Track and Field events at the junior Olympics and Paralympics. That started when I was 15 and continued until I turned 20. So together those would be my best golden year.
I feel like when I was younger everything that happened was exciting. I got to meet everybody and everyone.
Sesser poses with a group of disabled athletes.
WHAT ABOUT THE WORST MOMENT?
Probably in my mid twenties. I kind of lost myself in a way and I did not know what to do with my life. I guess reality hit and I wanted to give up.
But then maybe God played his hand. I never expected I would become a motivational speaker. I certainly never expected to become an actress. I think in life we have to go through the bad to get to the good. That’s just the way it is.
AND THAT WAS WHY YOU WERE ABLE TO GET BACK TO YOUR LIFE?
Yes. I’m the kind of person who can just go on. Because I have so much stability in life, I can do whatever. That’s why I never stop. Sometimes I doubt myself and have negative feelings but I try to dismiss them. And I learn from that.
HOW DID YOU DISCOVER YOURSELF OR REALISE WHAT YOU WANTED TO DO OR BECOME?
Ever since I was young, my parents have said that I know what I want, what I expect to have and that I never listen to people. And it’s true. I’m my own boss. So, it’s my stubbornness. As a child, I felt free and very adventurous.
As a kid, you try to find yourself but when you reach your mid-twenties you learn from what you do or you struggle. Now I’m 26, I’ve learned how to be calmer, more chilled out.
Sesser chats with disabled athletes.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU GIVE TO MOTIVATE DISABLED PEOPLE?
I like to say I’m just like them. We are all together and you are not alone. When people stare at you, just know that another 500,000 people like you are being stared at too every day.
But don’t let any negatives influence you in a way that makes you want to give up on yourself and don’t let anybody talk you down. There are so many opportunities in life. There are people around who know people who can help you too.
And when we are together in wheelchairs or whatever, that’s a family. It’s nice to be comfortable with people who are around us because they understand us.
Our body is just the house but our soul connects us together. Even though we are different physically or mentally we all can connect and we are actually not alone.
I walk through obstacles and challenges in my own way. And I’m pretty sure all of you guys, whether able-bodied, physically disabled or mentally disabled, have your own ways of living your lives.
YOU HAVE SEVERAL ROLES – ATHLETE, ACTRESS, AND MODEL. WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE?
I don’t have a favourite. I couldn’t choose one of them. Everything I have done is for a purpose. I love them all because they all give me such amazing experiences.
I love being an athlete because I can stay fit and healthy. I love being an actress because I can be in front of the screen and get to see how everything is done. And I love being a model or skater. Everything is real for me. I am just so fortunate that I get these opportunities. But even I didn’t have those opportunities, I believe that if there is the will, then there is a way.
HOW DO YOU MANAGE YOUR TIME SO YOU CAN DO ALL THESE ACTIVITIES?
I’m a busy woman. I feel like I keep doing everything that I can. So I just do a lot of stuff and I always find the time.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO OR BECOME NEXT?
I really want to travel more to different countries and be an advocate for the disabled and give them a chance to get equipment or accessibility. I also would like to be in a big movie, maybe a Thai movie. Who knows?
WHAT WILL BE YOUR NEXT ROLE IN THAILAND IF YOU VISIT THE KINGDOM AGAIN?
Maybe I can advocate for something in Thailand or work with agencies or industry here. That will be amazing. I hope to come back next summer.