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Portrait of Laurie Perlongo Zappulla


Laurie Perlongo Zappulla

  • Jay & Patty Baker School of Business & Technology
  • Marketing & Fashion Related Industries

You're Going To Walk
Still Pressing On After Spinal Cord Injury

I self-published my memoir, “You’re Going to Walk”. It is my life story about sustaining a Spinal Cord Injury in 1979, I was 18, and it was two weeks before I entered college. I jumped into a swimming pool and was instantly paralyzed. I share my trauma, my pain, and my survival in the pool that day and my survival since…it has been a 39-year journey of courage, hope and determination to “live” again. I also share my inner struggles of becoming “different.” Talk about a “new normal”, I quickly learned about being judged upon my appearance, and how people portrayed me as “only” disabled. I was still me, a girl with dreams of being a fashionista and working for a major design house, but the world in the ’80s wasn’t ready for that. It is a story of personal change and overcoming obstacles. If you’re someone needing encouragement, then my story of NEVER GIVING UP in the face of fierce odds will give you hope to go beyond what looks hopeless. You can do it! SeeAbility!

Cover of You're Going To Walk

How did you first come up with the idea for this work?
Whenever I would share my story with people, 99% of them would say, “Wow, you should write a book, it sounds like a movie.” It has been a book in process since 1979. I remember living this work. I would often say, “This is chapter 22”, when something incredible would happen.

What was your research process like?
A lot of tears and deep thought. I had to remember events, people and conversations that happened 39 years ago. I was fortunate to find my doctors and therapist who were amazed that I was doing this. It was a very healing process.

Does this work relate to your role at FIT? If so, how?
I now do public speaking about disability awareness! I spoke at a TEDx event, and made a T-shirt to further my message…I want people to see my Ability, not my DisAbility. That t-shirt has sparked a new career, I am soon launching a T-shirt and activewear collection with the hope to educate and motivate people to keep going and to never quit, no matter what obstacle is before you!

What was your biggest challenge? What was most rewarding?
My biggest challenge was me! I had to get used to being the person that people stared at, and it wasn’t always because I looked runway ready. I lacked self confidence and my physical body was something to continuously work on. What was most rewarding was completing my bachelors degree and getting my first job at Revlon Inc, even if it was for a short time.

Is there other information we should know?
Yes, I am grateful to have met Prof. Ron Milon and to have spoken to the Council of Diversity & Inclusion. I am happy to know FIT has Disability Support Services (FIT-ABLE). This is so important for students to know they have that support and a program that embraces and seeks opportunities for equal inclusion and strives to enhance community awareness on disability issues.

  • Time to publication: 2 years
  • Class of 1985