Movies and TV are a big part of our culture. Everyone should get to see shows with characters they can relate to. But people with disability often don’t get enough representation on TV, in movies or even in advertising.
Today, we’re excited to tell you about Aria Mia Loberti. She’s a blind actor who plays the blind character, Marie-Laure Leblanc, in the Netflix mini-series All the Light We Cannot See.
Aria is passionate about creating a more inclusive and diverse film industry. “I’ve never felt represented in the media of any kind before,” she shares.
“Bringing [the character] to screen is such a gift because it is the first example of authentic representation for a character who is blind in a project of this scale or in a leading character”.
Aria and her guide dog Miss Ingrid made history at the recent Golden Globe Awards where All the Light We Cannot See was nominated for an award. It was the first time a guide dog has appeared on the Golden Globes red carpet.
Playing the character Marie-Laure.
All the Light We Cannot See follows the life of a French girl, Marie-Laure, during World War II. The story explores how Marie-Laure’s blindness shapes her unique view of the world as she deals with the challenges of war.
The show’s producers knew it was important to cast a blind actor for the role of Marie-Laurie in order to make the character authentic. Aria uses her own experience as a blind person to show the audience what it’s like for Marie-Laure to navigate the world.
Growing up as a person with disability.
It might surprise you to know that All the Light We Cannot See is Aria’s first professional acting role. Aria has dedicated most of her time to learning, and to raising awareness about the challenges people with disability face.
Aria faced some of her first challenges at school where she often felt isolated and misunderstood. She was not given the same opportunities as other children to learn and play due to her eye condition, achromatopsia.
Learning from early challenges.
“Those challenges taught me many vital lessons,” shares Aria. “Our society sees disability in a somewhat negative light and [young people and women with disability] are often not taught or encouraged to use their voice.”
Aria did not give up on her education. To date she has completed an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree and she is in the process of completing a PhD.
In her work as an advocate for people with disability she has presented to the United Nations, UN Women, TEDx and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Promoting inclusivity through acting.
While Aria did have experience speaking to large audiences through her advocacy work she had never considered a career as a performer. A childhood teacher sent her the casting call for All the Light We Cannot See and with a little nudge from her assistance dog, Ingrid, Aria decided to audition.
Being cast in the lead role of a big production alongside Hollywood A-list actors is a wonderful accomplishment for Aria. It is also a major milestone for all blind people and the film and television industry.
All the Light We Cannot See is the first project of its size to cast a visually impaired performer in a major role. “I found this career and [the opportunity] to be, as a public figure, the person I wish I had growing up,” Aria says.
In her role as Marie-Laure, Aria is able to show audiences a more realistic version of what it is like to live with blindness. In film and television blind characters are often played by sighted people. This has led to false stereotypes about blind people and how they interact with the world.
Aria shares, “We deserve to not only have a say in telling our own story but that we can be the hero of that story too.”
Using media to shine a light on people with disability.
Aria’s performance as Marie-Laure has received a lot of attention. She was honoured with the Rising Star Award at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival and the Entertainment Weekly Breaking Big Award at the 2023 SCAD Savannah Film Festival.
Aria has secured more acting roles and has been named a global brand ambassador for L’Occitane en Provence. She has also co-written a novel that features a blind girl as the protagonist.
Aria’s work allows her to challenge stereotypes and help make the media more inclusive. She hopes her hard work and success will inspire others to follow their passions.
“You have your power,” Aria insists. “I don’t care how old you are. Own your power, and if you feel something in your soul, go do it.”