The 31-year-old actress told The New York Times in an interview published Wednesday that being a disabled performer is what she “was born to do.”
Stoker has used a wheelchair most of her life due to a car accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down at age 2.
“When a little baby is injured, you always wonder why,” Stroker said. “And I think for my parents it’s so clear I was meant to be in this seat, to bring my joy, and my light, and my love, to something that a lot of our culture and a lot of our society looks at as just a shame, or a tragedy.”
Stroker says because of the way society views disability, she’s used to the awkward gazes she often receives from those who are not disabled, unsure of how to respond to her.
“So many times, our society is taught, ‘Don’t look, don’t stare and don’t ask — that would be rude,’” Stroker said. “As an artist, I’m saying, ‘Look at me now. Look at my body. Look how I move my chair.’ I’m asking, and that makes me feel my most powerful self.”
She told the Times that she feels that “Oklahoma!” and her portrayal in the Tony-winning revival as the lusty Ado Annie is sending audiences an important message.
“It’s hard to look at things that are uncomfortable,” she said. “But the only way to make progress is to feel the discomfort. And that’s the same about disability.”