By Nicole Forgione
Niagara Gazette —
Toronto native Jewel Kats considers herself a diva, but her only demands are the ones she puts on herself. Kats, also known as a “DitzAbled Princess” is one diva that remains positive.
Kats, 34, is an award-winning comic-strip writer and children’s book author. She will be at the Museum of disABILITY History, a project of People Inc., for a two-day event Friday and Saturdayin Buffalo.
What makes Kats a diva? Her personal definition is, “a woman who is not afraid to go after what she wants — sassy, determined."
Her physical challenges began at age 9, when she was in a car accident. She spent weeks in the hospital, recovering. She has had eight leg surgeries and walks with hot pink crutches. But her disability has not stopped her from fulfilling her dreams.
Kats is the author of seven books for Loving Healing Press, including her Mom’s Choice Award winners: “Cinderella’s Magical Wheelchair” and “The Princess and the Ruby: An Autism Fairy Tale.” She is currently a nominee for the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame, a former intern for Entertainment Tonight Canada, former teen-advice columnist and was filmed in a documentary series for the Oprah Winfrey Network (Canada) Network.
Kats has learned to do things differently and considers her disability her fortune. “I have been shaped into the person I am today. I can’t run a mile, but I can out-write anyone!”
Fans of princesses and kings will appreciate Kats’ versions of fairy tales. She spent five years writing “Cinderella’s Magical Wheelchair,” partly because she did not personally settle for her first draft and kept re-writing. She then thought her job was done, but had to keep “selling” the book to publishers. Her second book, “Reena’s Bollywood Dream: A Story about Sexual Abuse,” sold in 48 hours. Kats has many aspiring goals and has put her social life on hold for a career to meet them. Soft spoken, she shared, “My work is what I live and breathe for – I don’t mind the extra hours. I never write something for the sole purpose of making money.”
The DitzAbled Princess web-based reality comic series started in the summer of 2012. Her husband, Alan challenged her since she is a huge fan of the Archie comic-strips, in particular Betty and Veronica. To his surprise, Kats took the bait and wrote about her own life, while also including her own family members in the series.
The comic series has also been made into a graphic novel: “DitzAbled Princess: A Comical Diary Inspired by Real Life.”
Thankfully, her family members have been supportive of them being portrayed in the series. Although, her younger sister feels “exposed,” her mom wonders why she is always in curlers and her hubby gets a kick out of seeing their life in colorful photos.
Kats gives credit to her illustrator Katarina Andriopoulos, who has made the art come to life. “She captures the personality of DitzAbled Princess.”
People with disabilities can relate to the comic-strip series. “For people with disabilities, it has struck a chord,” Kats said. Since the comic strip is about every day experiences, the series can be seen as more mainstream as well.
Being someone for children to look up to may not always be easy, but Kats has a positive attitude: “I never let anything or anyone stop me – including my own disability.” The lesson that Kats wants to share is one that she has learned through her own life experiences: “Every day we learn a lesson. Be the best person you can be. Try not to mimic someone else. Be a leader, not a follower.”
“An Evening with DitzAbled Princess Jewel Kats” will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday. It will be an adult friendly interview-style discussion with Kats. Tickets are $5 for adults and seniors, $2.50 for students with ID and human service employees.
The “Your Crowning Achievement” event will be from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday. There will be a book reading of Kats’ fairy tale “Cinderella’s Magical Wheelchair,” along with a “make your own crown or tiara” craft activity. The event is geared towards children ages 5 and up. Fee: Adults: $5 and seniors, students with ID, human service employees: $2.50. Children 6-17: $2, family package: $13 for two adults and two kids over age 5. Both events will be held at, and includes admission to, the Museum of disABILITY History, 3826 Main St., Buffalo. Kats’ books will be available for purchase and signing. To register, call 629-3623.
Nicole Forgione is the public affairs manager for People Inc.