I have a very important question to ask you: Who is your favorite superhero? Superman? Captain America? Maybe Wonder Woman or Black Panther? Really think about it; there are so many excellent choices. But wait! Before you decide, it is important to remember that not all superheroes wear cool uniforms and drive fast cars. There are real-life superheroes, too. This year, I met one of my favorite real-life superheroes – Angie DeMuro. She is an author, illustrator, cartoonist, and a proud mom of three sons, Dominic, 32, Nicholas, 24, and Michael, 9.
If you were to ask Angie if she thinks she is an extraordinary person, she would say no. She just is the way she is; she is just doing what she knows how to do. At first glance, you might briefly make the mistake of agreeing with her and assume that she is ordinary; but after spending just a few moments with her, I promise that you would quickly change your mind.
I began my interview with my superhero friend by asking the most seemingly obvious question that one could ask an accomplished artist: “When did you know that you were an artist?”
Her answer could not have been more perfect – “I was born that way.” Angie has been drawing ever since she was capable of holding a pencil; she equates drawing and making art to breathing, both natural and necessary. She relied on her artistic gift to get her through many difficult situations in her childhood, including bullying, coping with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in the classroom, and, as Angie described it, being “different and strange.”
Being different was not always easy. Angie bounced from one school to another as her parents desperately searched for a place that she would fit in, yet she was often the odd one out no matter which school she was enrolled in. Despite mainstream society’s many attempts to “normalize” Angie, begging her to blend in, she remained unafraid to stand out, unafraid to embrace her superpowers.
In my mind, Angie has two primary superpowers: the ability to spread love and kindness through her art, and possessing the unwavering belief that individual differences should be accepted and embraced as truly beautiful. Throughout her childhood, Angie embraced her self-proclaimed “strangeness” and confidently made choices that were rooted in compassion. Her path and her mission were always very clear to her: Choose kindness and spread love – her superpowers.
For over 40 years, Angie’s message of self-love, loving others, and acceptance has been continuously exemplified in her art. Angie’s message and her superpowers were put to the test and ultimately strengthened in 2012 when her youngest son, Michael, was diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.
When I asked Angie how Michael’s diagnosis changed her art, she explained that it was the moment that she decided to start writing and drawing for children. She is the author and illustrator of seven children’s books that have been published internationally. She is also the creator of the comic strip “Life with Mr. M,” a comic regularly published in Autism Asperger’s Digest and Autism Parenting Magazine, that is based on her day-to-day life with Michael. Angie, of course, uses her art as a platform for good, seeking to educate people about Asperger’s syndrome and advocate for individuals who are, as Michael described it, “just a little bit different.”
Michael sat down at the table with Angie and me while we were chatting, and I asked Michael to give me three words he would use to describe his mom. Without hesitation, he replied, “Kind, lovable, and sometimes embarrassing!” We all laughed. I then asked Angie which words she would use to describe Michael. After some careful thought, she chose the following: charismatic, powerful, and bright. Michael’s little face lit up with a big smile. Because of Angie and her husband, Doug, Michael has been taught that he is limitless, that he can be anything he wants to be, and that he is beautiful and special just the way he is. He knows that he is incredibly intelligent and that he is worthy of representation in art.
When asked if she has ever considered Michael’s diagnoses disabilities, she responded instantly with, “No! I really don’t.” She went on to say, “Nobody shows up broken. That’s what people really need to remember. Nobody shows up broken. We show up exactly the way we were supposed to show up, and completely perfect for why we are here.”
What a lovely thought, that everyone is perfectly made, fully prepared to fulfill his or her purpose. We all certainly know Angie’s purpose; what’s yours? If that seems like a difficult question to answer, just take a look in the mirror; after all, you are exactly the way you’re supposed to be. Like Angie always says, “Be beautiful like you.”