What does it take to be a great actor? It takes dedication, passion, and hard work. Actress Lisa Jai has dedicated her life to that idea. As an actress with a physical disability—Jai has coined the term “physical diversity”—she is working diligently, both on and off the stage, to show the world that acting isn’t about what you can’t do but what you can do.
The physical diversity community is lucky to have Jai as a performer. She almost quit the entertainment business once her disability was revealed (Lisa suffers from rheumatoid arthritis). Then it occurred to the Canadian actress that the best way to advocate for performers of physical diversity is to be one.
Fearless and assured, Jai relocated to Los Angeles. There she furthered her craft by enrolling in The Stella Adler Acting Academy (and later their conservatory) and furthered her advocacy work by becoming a vital part of I AM PWD (Inclusion in the Arts and Media of People with Disabilities). I AM PWD, which is now recognized by several of the world’s most powerful entertainment unions (thanks to Jai’s help), seeks to give a voice to physically diverse performers and journalists.
Even while working in L.A., Jai still continued her involvement in Toronto’s ACTRA Diversity committee. When she wasn’t attending meetings by phone or email, she was flying back in forth, sometimes in the course of a couple of days.
Her tireless advocacy work was recognized in 2010 when she received the Unsung Hero Award from the City of Toronto. The award goes to those with disabilities that are working for changes and inclusion for the physically diverse community.
Clearly, Jai is an accomplished advocate, but she’s also an accomplished performer. She’s landed numerous roles on television, the stage, and the silver screen including Nora Ephron’s directorial debut, This is My Life. Lisa has also done tons of voice work. You’ve may have heard her in the video game Resident Evil 2 or the children’s animated television series Babar. The extremely talented Jai has studied dance and singing and is one of Toronto’s top poets and spoken-word artists.
Jai has two dreams. She wants to act on Broadway in a leading role and she wants to be an inspiration for other young actresses with disabilities. In wanting to be the face of physically diverse artists, Jai is a hero to us all.