“Don’t be a bully, be a bestie!”
AN INTERVIEW WITH KENNEDY JEAN GARCIA
BTCF: What drew you to become an actor, dancer, and model?
KENNEDY: Dance – I always loved to dance even before I could walk. My mom said that when I was a toddler and dancers would come on TV, I would point and say “that!” After I finished chemotherapy and spine fusion surgery, I started my first ballet class and I’ve been dancing ever since. I started modeling when I was 5 or 6 for small shops on Instagram and loved it! And was on my first movie set when I was 5. I knew then that I wanted to do more!
BTCF: For those who aren’t familiar with Down Syndrome, what can you please share about this for a better understanding and well as what makes a person with Down Syndrome unique?
KENNEDY: Down syndrome is an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. You get 23 from your mom and 23 from your dad and people with Down syndrome have one extra. It’s part of your body. You can’t catch Down syndrome from someone who has it and you can’t take it away. I’ll have Down syndrome forever.
People with Down syndrome are unique because we have physical characteristics that identify us. Some of these are almond shaped eyes, a flat bridge on our nose, smaller mouths and ears, short stature and sometimes a single crease across our palm. Not everyone with Down syndrome has every physical characteristic, but it’s cool because we can identify each other when we are out. It’s like being part of a cool club!
BTCF: Your personality creates an instant smile for those who meet you. What makes Kennedy Garcia unique?
KENNEDY: I am unique because I am me! I am an actress, a dancer, and a public speaker who has Down syndrome but mostly I am a teenager who likes to have fun and eat ice cream! I love my life!
BTCF: There are a variety of health problems including leukemia that you have had to overcome and have dealt with both doctors and others who said you would not ever have a good quality of life. Who has been your support team through it all? Anything else you would like to share about this that is important to you?
KENNEDY: My family is my support team. My mom never gave up on me and pushed me to be the very best ME I could be. She never listened to anyone who said I can’t… and now I don’t either.
BTCF: As an influencer with a big following, you are so fun and energetic on your tik tok and always manage to leave your viewers with an uplifting feeling, what motivates you when creating your tik tok posts?
KENNEDY: I just love to dance, and I love to collab with other people and have fun too! It really just makes me happy when people want to dance with me.
BTCF: Speaking of tik tok – you were on our BTCF Team at the LA NEDA Walk in April and being a dancer, you taught our board member/celebrity ambassador Courtney Hope a dance which was so fun! How do you think this creates community with your viewers?
KENNEDY: I hope it makes them happy! I think it’s so fun to dance with people I’ve admired for a long time and especially when I get to teach them dances. It’s so fun! I hope my viewers love it too!
BTCF: Being a motivational speaker, can you share a little bit about the stigma surrounding Down Syndrome and ways that you break down the barriers when giving insight to youth and how creating more awareness can build bridges?
KENNEDY: I go into schools all over and speak about Down syndrome and how to be friends with people with disabilities. Because really, I am just a pretty typical teenager just like them and I want them to not be scared of people like me. It’s easy to be friends with people with disabilities. Just go over and say hello. It could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
BTCF: When did you start modeling and what was your first experience like? Was that the moment you knew the entertainment industry was for you?
KENNEDY: I started modeling on IG when I was 5 for small shops. They would send clothes and we would send back photos. It was so fun! Then American Girl booked me for my first big job in LA and I had a blast! I wanted to do it forever!
BTCF: What are 3 positive messages you can share with youth when it comes to social media working toward self-acceptance and self-compassion?
- Be Who You Are! Who you are is awesome and enough!
- Kindness matters. Be kind to yourself and to everyone you meet.
- Don’t be a bully, be a bestie! Spreading hate only makes you feel bad about yourself. Be a friend to everyone!
BTCF: As a very young girl, you had to wear what was called a “halo” on your head for six months, can you share its purpose and how it helped your body function better?
KENNEDY: I had a gap in my spine that was very dangerous and needed spine fusion surgery. They took bone from my hip and put it in my neck with metal plates and wires. Then they put me in a halo to heal from that. Without it, I could have been paralyzed, so it really saved my life.
BTCF: BTCF uses the power of art and expression to create inner healing and connection with one’s overall mental health including prevention of body-focused stigma. How do you use art as a healing tool for yourself?
KENNEDY: My art is dancing. I love to dance when I’m in a group or on stage or just alone in my room. It makes me happy and brings me peace. I feel happiest when I’m moving.
BTCF: What does inclusivity mean to you when it comes to over health and well-being?
KENNEDY: Inclusion is everything. I have always been included in my schools, in my community, and now in the entertainment industry. It has sometimes been a fight, but it’s so worth it.
BTCF: What was it like to be a featured model in the launch of Mille Bobby Brown’s makeup line? What did it mean to you personally?
KENNEDY: That was one of my favorite jobs! I was so excited to work with a brand that I love and an actress I admire. It was a great representation of inclusion as well! Florence by Mills has continued to collab with me which is awesome too!
BTCF: When it comes to combating stereotypes and inspiring youth who have Down Syndrome, what are 3 things you can share with them?
- Never give up on your dreams!
- You can do anything!
- Don’t let ANYONE tell you that you can’t.
BTCF: Social media is a tricky thing – what are three things you would advise youth when navigating through it when it comes to what appearance ideal means?
- Just be you! People will love you for who you are.
- Ignore the haters and delete the comments. Don’t give them space on your page or in your head.
- Love yourself as much as your selfie.
BTCF: For those who struggle with any disability and/or health challenge – do you have one message you would like to share with them?
KENNEDY: Never forget you are strong, smart and beautiful.
BTCF: What are your hobbies outside of the entertainment world?
KENNEDY: I love to go to the beach, hang out with my friends and my boyfriend, eat sushi, and go to the mall.
BTCF: What are 3 of your favorite self-care tips and ones you do for yourself?
- I take lots of naps.
- I eat healthy (with the occasional ice cream treat)!
- I get lots of exercise – by dancing!
Thank you, Kennedy, for sharing!
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