Category Archives: Performing

I Wore a Blindfold and Asked People to Write Their Pain on My Body. This Is What Happened.

If you don’t already know, pain is a deeply personal subject for me. I have been fighting ankylosing spondylitis (AS) since 2000, since I was 13. AS is an often-invisible, progressive disease that attacks joints of the body with painful inflammation. In severe cases, it can cause bone spurs to grow that can fuse the spine into a single long column of bone. AS can also damage multiple organs, including the intestines, liver, kidney, lungs, heart, and eyes. There is no cure.

I have made it my mission in life to do something about that ‘no cure’ part by raising awareness in all the ways that I can. I have been on the news, written articles, interviewed celebrities, represented patients at conferences and meetings, given speeches (including a TEDx talk), and testified in state legislative hearings and with members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

Recently I became a performance artist, too.

Each month, Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California hosts a themed ‘ArtMix’ night. In August 2017, the theme was Combust, inspired by Burning Man, and I was granted permission to be an interactive art installation. I named the piece ‘My Body the Temple,’ inspired by the Temple at Burning Man.

I wore a bikini, sat on a stool, blindfolded myself, and offered people the opportunity to write their invisible pain on my body.

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Image by Rich Beckermeyer, Rich Beckermeyer Visuals

Continue reading I Wore a Blindfold and Asked People to Write Their Pain on My Body. This Is What Happened.

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“An Invisible Disease” – my TEDx talk

In September, I had the honor and privilege of giving a TEDx talk just two weeks after my father died from Ankylosing Spondylitis, a disease I inherited from him. I am so grateful for having this platform to share via the Sacramento TEDx Changemakers series.

I hope you’ll watch and share this video to raise awareness about living with chronic illness, but I also hope you’ll take something away for your own journey.

Click here to watch the 8-minute video:

An Invisible Disease : Charis Hill : Sacramento TEDx Salon


My Queer Story

Elementary school:

+I’m on the school bus sitting behind an older girl. She is playing with her hair and I stare at her, intrigued. She turns around and says, “What are you staring at, white girl?” I blush deep red and look away, unsure what I did wrong.

Middle school:

+I still wear my brother’s hand-me-downs. I’m comfortable wearing shorts that reach my knees, jeans with holes in the knees, and shirts multiple sizes too large for me. But I begin to feel self-conscious because the other girls and some of the boys bully me. I am pressured to start dressing more like a girl and I begin to wear tighter jeans and shorter shorts.

+A new boy moves to town and he becomes my boyfriend. We kiss behind a building during a school field trip. We ride bicycles and play soccer together.

High school:
Continue reading My Queer Story

Tomorrow I Am Famous

For 60 seconds I will be famous. On the runway, the catwalk – whatever surface my heels will be wobbling on as I make my legs appear longer than they are and my heart less frantic than it will be. Few in the crowd of celebrities, photographers, stylists, and designers will know my name, but for 60 long seconds I will be the one everyone is looking at. It doesn’t matter to them who I am, and that’s ok. I’m there to sell clothes.

But I’ll be selling something else, too. I’ll be selling dreams and awareness for those living with incurable chronic diseases.

For the five hours before I take the first bold step on that plank runway I will be backstage interacting with dozens of people – models, makeup artists, hairstylists, designers, stylists, photographers, and producers. Many of these people will see me as another model who wants to make it big in fashion. I’ll be another face to paint, another head to sculpt, another frame to drape and dress. I don’t blame them. That’s why most models walk in big fashion shows – to make it big. But I’m not in this to be America’s Next Top Model.

I’m in this to share my story. I’m in this to bring fashion and sickness together in a powerful way that changes people’s perceptions and awareness of invisible illnesses.


Backstage while I’m getting hair and makeup done, there is plenty of time for conversation. Continue reading Tomorrow I Am Famous

My Struggle With Three Simple Words

How are you?

Just three words.

Just three words silence my voice but incubate my thoughts.

The responses I wish to deliver get caught in my throat as I open my mouth to speak; I gag wordlessly without any outward signs of panic; I feel a glass wall erect itself to support and contain my stoicism while I suffocate. The words I want to use expand in my chest like air being pushed into an empty balloon, threatening to leak out of my mouth in a jumble of hot air and exhaustion.

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Usually I manage to push aside the wordlump in my throat so I can still breathe and respond in a socially acceptable way. I say polite things, or I say I’m not ok and try to change the subject. Or I stand there awkwardly, ashamed and lime-lighted, drowning in my reality until I realize someone is waiting for my next move. Continue reading My Struggle With Three Simple Words

My Body’s Symphony

When you see me you see a picture of health. A young body. Eyes that shine through the pain. Even my doctor says, “So you’re healthy aside from your diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis, so that’s good.” What an ironic statement.

I see a body in the mirror that looks like mine, but this is not my body anymore.  This body now belongs to someone else, it is a stranger’s body.2015-03-28 14.33.58

Look past my face.  Look past my beautiful face to the pain.  Slight outward signs, my physical insecurities, only wait for the trained eye to discover: discolored splotches of skin, a slight hunch, constant readjusting when seated or standing for long periods of time – indirect signs of a disease that causes far more insecurities than the clinical diagnosis on paper can possibly reflect.

Look at ME! Past the click bait, that fancy model pose that got you here. Here, a glimpse inside my twisted fate, my gnarly spine. I’ve got plenty of backbone, thank you, that leaves me in an ironically fragile state. Bone spurs take root and strike a nerve softly like the soft staccato of pianissimo on the baby grande, until my legs give way – the build up of a chord deep within (thudding along, a low F on the bass clef) until an avalanche of sound screams from within my joints. This is my symphony – all my cells screaming (begging), “Finale!” while the inflamed audience – the peanut gallery – screams, “Encore!” It must be raining today the way Beethoven has woven his angry Symphony number 5 in C minor through my body.  Or maybe Dvořák’s Symphony number 9 in E minor. Beautiful pain. Continue reading My Body’s Symphony

When you see me I’m acting

When you see me in public I’m putting on a show. Curtains and…action. Seriously. All the world’s a stage.

Especially when you’re sick. And I mean sick.  Whether you have cancer, ankylosing spondylitis (AS), multiple sclerosis (MS), lyme disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), fibromyalgia, gastroparesis, vitiligo, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), etc etc etc, or a mix of more than one extreme disease, you’ll probably relate to the desire for “normalcy” in this post. Continue reading When you see me I’m acting