Faith Guilbault does not want pity. She just wants friendship.
The 17-year-old from Bel Air has not let cerebral palsy stop her from being a featured model during New York Fashion Week. It has not prevented her from regularly riding horses, playing sled hockey or even skydiving.
The cheerful go-getter will allow the world to get to know more about the realities of her daily life with disabilities through a documentary, “Faith’s World,” which she directed.
The 27-minute documentary, which premiered in April on Maryland Public Television, eventually will be sent to 1.8 million American teachers in 155 cities this spring. It will then be shown in 150 countries across the world. The film, with an introduction by actress Ashley Judd, comes with a teaching tool kit.
“It makes me feel really good. It makes me feel that I’m doing something that is going to be worth so much to people,” said Guilbault, who attends Maryland School for the Blind where she is a junior. “I thought it would be an inspirational film. I wanted to put awareness out there.”
Holly Carter, founder and executive director of BYkids, a New York City-based nonprofit that produced the documentary, believes that audiences will fall in love with the Guilbaults.
“Faith is open, joyful, reflective, generous and comes with the most amazing family,” Carter said. “We got her mom, dad and even brother in the film. This is an incredible, strong, optimistic family.”
The past 13 documentaries from Carter’s company have included topics ranging from race to climate change.
“I think the intent is the humanization of hard topics so that people can talk about it to help American young people think about these large topics,” Carter said. “Because it is personable, it can become actionable.”
An estimated 61 million people in the United States live with a disability, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“One out of six Americans deals with disabilities,” Carter explained. “It’s a huge group. My job was trying to humanize them.”
Carter discovered Guilbault, when she was modeling at a fashion show in New York. She was struck immediately by the teen’s energy, fearlessness, and willingness to try new things.
“Faith’s resilience shines through. When we picked Faith the day before the Runway of Dreams Fashion Show [an annual show featuring models with disabilities], we didn’t know she was doing skydiving and horseback riding. She’s an adventurer,” Carter said.
“I think we’ve done something really powerful with that film,” Carter said. “It’s sweet but it packs a punch.”
Although Guilbault could not hold the camera, she worked closely with filmmaker Joyce Chopra, who mentored her.
“We discussed every scene with her,” said Chopra, who also mentored other youth directors in previous documentaries.
Chopra said he was drawn to Guilbault’s presence.
“She has such a lively mind. She radiates a kind of warmth,” Chopra said. “I learned a lot from Faith. I hope audiences come away with the same thing.”
The documentary was shot over the course of a month in 2019 and includes scenes from New York City for fashion week and then at the Guilbault family’s Bel Air home.
Guilbault’s mother, Karen, said that she is excited to see how many people her daughter will “touch.”
She added: “There are things she has to work twice as hard to do. She doesn’t let anything stop her.”
Depending on how far she needs to travel, Guilbault will use either a walker, wheelchair stander or house cane. In addition to cerebral palsy, she also has epilepsy and Cortical Visual Impairment, a condition where vision is decreased due to a neurological problem affecting the visual part of the brain.
What’s next for Guilbault? She wants to get a service dog and live on her own by the age of 22. She also wants to star in a reality show, be an author and work in a day care.
But most of all she wants to continue to educate others “and to let people know that people are different and that’s OK. I want to put awareness out there.”
This article is part of our Newsmaker series that profiles notable people in the Baltimore region who are having an impact in our diverse communities. If you’d like to suggest someone who should be profiled, please send their name and a short description of what they are doing to make a difference to: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Editor Kamau High at email@example.com.