Larger than Life in Times Square
Kean University’s Millie Gonzalez is having a whirlwind autumn worthy of a celebrity. On Friday, December 2, the media relations specialist in the Office of University Relations was at the United Nations, performing with the integrated dance troupe Heidi Latsky Dance in recognition of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, celebrated worldwide the following day.
Performing ON DISPLAY at the U.N. was the latest “surreal” turn of events for Gonzalez. Her totally awesome autumn began in late October when ON DISPLAY was featured on a billboard in Times Square in a video called Juxtapose.
“The truth is, I never imagined that any Hispanic, plus-sized, disabled female would ever be represented on a New York City billboard and that I would be that person,” Gonzalez said. “It speaks volumes for the increased awareness and acceptance of people and is such a wonderful gift to the arts. The work of Heidi Latsky and other integrated dance companies continues to open doors, widen perspectives, challenge stereotypes and break barriers for people of all abilities, all of which is long overdue.”
ON DISPLAY seeks to redefine beauty and virtuosity through performance, discourse and education, using performers with unique attributes to bring rigorous, passionate and provocative contemporary dance to diverse audiences.
“People asked if I ever imagined I’d see myself on a billboard in Times Square,” said Gonzalez. “I realize I had never imagined it because it never crossed my mind as an attainable goal. The whole experience is pretty surreal.”
Gonzalez is a two-time graduate of Kean University, earning both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communication. She started working full time in University Relations in 2003, after learning the ropes during a senior-year internship in the office the year before.
Gonzalez is passionate in her advocacy for the disability community. She spearheaded the planning and execution of the first-ever ReelAbilities: NJ Disabilities Film Festival at Kean University in 2013, and another in 2014, where she emceed five days of programming which included panels, speakers and performances. She also helped plan Kean’s first-ever Disability Awareness Week in spring 2014, for which she moderated a student panel and hosted a film screening of Lives Worth Living.
Off campus, she is on the boards of two nonprofit organizations that serve people with disabilities, the Spina Bifida Resource Network and the Alliance Center for Independence. She was on the steering committee for the inaugural NJ Disability Pride Parade & Celebration in 2011 and has served as the co-emcee of the event since its inception. Gonzalez also organizes and facilitates an annual "Empowerment Retreat" for adults with disabilities each December.
“I try to make the voice of the disability community heard at the discussion table whenever possible to ensure accessibility has been considered,” Gonzalez said about her activism. “I often have to remind others that people with disabilities are part of the beauty of our shared human diversity.”