By Catia Malaquias
If the name Tathiana Piancastelli doesn’t ring any bells for you then it’s probably because you don’t live in Brazil.
Tathiana is the star of the 2015 advertising campaign for Brazil-based global cosmetic brand “Inoar”, which distributes its products in more than 40 countries. And, like Australian model sensation Madeline Stuart, she has a public profile and a role in a global movement that is seeking to challenge the exclusion of people with Down syndrome and other disability in media and advertising and in every sphere of life.
But it doesn’t stop there. The 30 year-old is also a professional theatre actor, playwright, web TV presenter, muse for cartoonist Mauricio de Sousa, the creator of legendary children’s comic “Monica” who went on to create the character of “Tati” who has Down syndrome, and an advocate for people with Down syndrome.
I first heard about Tathiana after she went to New York to perfom in “Apple of My Eye” which had its debut there in December 2013. “Apple of My Eye” is an original multimedia and physical theatre piece that she wrote and the first-ever professional production of a play written by an artist with Down syndrome to go on tour. The play was also invited to be part of the 30th International Hispanic Theatre Festival in Miami and will tour other parts of the world in 2016.
“Apple of My Eye” tells the story of Bella, a teenager who has Down syndrome, a role performed by Tathiana, and explores themes around Bella’s search for community and romantic love. “It’s a story that makes you laugh and cry” says the actor who is supported by a cast of 10 professional actors.
The play confronts taboos and prejudice, including from Bella’s family, that continue to impact on the ability of people with with Down syndrome and intellectual disability to realise their rights and to fully participate and belong. It also explores the important issue of violence against women with disability. In that sense, the play is not only an artistic work but also a vehicle for freedom of expression and rights advocacy.
“Apple of My Eye” was written by Tathiana without punctuation and its adaptation ensured that it respected her narrative style and reflected the way in which Tathiana freely expresses her thoughts. “It has all been taken from my head, because I love to perform”.
Tathiana who now lives in the United States, was born and raised in Brazil, attended mainstream schools and eventually trained as a hairdressing assistant and worked as a physio therapy assistant. She discovered her passion for self-advocacy and performing arts initially through her involvement as a volunteer at the MetaSocial Institute, a Brazilian not for profit association that has used media and social marketing for almost 20 years to promote inclusion. Tathiana has been particularly involved in their long running and very successful campaign, “Being Different is Normal”. She decided to study theatre and went on to feature in television commercials and host her own web TV program “Being Different” (Ser Differente). Tathiana’s advocacy for people with Down syndrome had previously taken her to New York, in 2010 when she represented Brazil at the United Nations Headquarters on World Down Syndrome Day and in 2014 when she delivered a speech at UNICEF.
Despite the fact that, like fellow model Madeline Stuart, Tathiana has not been able to engage the interest of any modelling agencies in representing her, Inoar embraced the opportunity to work with Tathiana and Maiara Barreto, a disabled model who is a wheelchair user. The company has described their new campaign as one that seeks to “highlight the beauty of diversity and the importance of social inclusion” as part of a broader commitment to “integrate people with disability into our routine, without bias”. “We’re all different, and this is what makes us beautiful,” says Inocência Manoel, founder of Inoar.
Like her work in “Apple of My Eye”, Tathiana’s participation in Inoar’s advertising campaign challenges outdated perspectives about people with Down sydrome and disability and their social exclusion, through visibility and self-expression in the arts and media.
If you would like to keep up with Tathiana, you can check for updates on her website. You can also view the behind-the-scenes video of Inoar’s 2015 campaign with Tathiana.