Reality television star emphasizes the importance of diversity
Reality TV star Matt Roloff spoke to UNLV students and faculty about disability awareness on Thursday.
Roloff, a reality show personality on TLC’s “Little People, Big World,” was born with a rare type of dwarfism called Diastrophic Dysplasia, which affects cartilage and bone development. He drew on personal experiences to impart to the crowd the importance of advocating for a cause and embracing diversity.
“Craft your thoughts because they become your words, craft your words because they become your actions, craft your actions because they become your habits, craft your habits because they become your character, and craft your character because that will become your destiny,” Roloff said in his opening statement.
“I found myself submersed in diversity,” Roloff said. “At that time, I thought it was a bad thing, but now as I look back, I find it a blessing.”
He stated that there are two sides to diversity; playing the victim, or being the person who’s accepting of others who are different.
“This was a humbling experience from an able-bodied person such as myself,” said Laura Cipriano, a student and fan of the show. “My view has been broadened, being able to hear from someone so different from me and how their own differences made them understand diversity.”
Roloff said he started speaking to elementary and junior high school students when his producer suggested that they move his arena to television so they could reach a larger audience. Thus, “Little People, Big World” was born.
“It was our intention to educate the viewing audience on diversity, hoping that bringing my family into your living rooms would not only enlighten, but desensitize people so they wouldn’t be scared of someone that was different than them,” Roloff said. “A lot of people in our society, when they think about anybody that is different, they get scared.”
He added that he sometimes finds people whom he feels are not trying to be rude but are merely uneducated about disabilities and that people should have the resilience to cope with that.
CSUN Student Government Entertainment and Programming Director Donovan Kaneshiro stated that he and Nevada Student Affairs Director Ricardo Cornejo wanted to bring a motivational speaker to UNLV to educate the student body about disabilities.
“Matt Roloff was the perfect choice for this event as it really shows UNLV’s commitment to diversity,” Kaneshiro said.
He added that he not only wanted students to walk away with information and a broader understanding of what comprises diversity, but be able to look back years from now on the memory of the event and see how far they have come in life and how events such as these have helped shape their lives.
Kaneshiro said he was able to negotiate Roloff’s usual fee of $9,000 to $7,000 for this event, allocating the remaining $2,000 on food, beverages, and decorations.
“There were just under 400 attendees at Thursday evening’s event, according to CSUN’s Rebel card readers and sign-ins,” Kaneshiro Kaneshiro, adding that several disabled individuals were also in attendance.
“I’m taking home inspiration, I know that I am on the right track and I know to never give up on my dreams just because I’m disabled,” said Jamie Farrar, a student in social work. “[Roloff] was here to spread awareness to a topic that nobody wants to talk about until it reaches close to home and just seeing the reaction from the audience tells me that this was a huge success.”
Roloff stated that UNLV students are at a great age to learn to advocate.
“Advocacy is something that is so important in a university setting,” he said. “I challenge you to advocate for some cause that is important to you, whatever that cause may be.”