We were very sad to learn this morning of the death of Stella Young. The Australian disability advocate, broadcaster, and comedian passed away unexpectedly on Saturday at the age of thirty-two.
We met Stella back in July, when she was touring the States and joined us for the midsummer edition of The Lion & The Pirate Unplugged (you can read more about her visit here). She was one of the smartest, funniest people to ever perform at Malvern Books. Stella was a tenacious advocate not only for people with disabilities, but for gender equality, education, and social justice. She challenged conventional thinking, and was a visible and feisty presence in Australian public life. And she also gave one of the most thought-provoking and popular TED talks, in which she rallies against turning people with disabilities into “inspiration porn” and explains why being in a wheelchair doesn’t automatically make someone “a noble inspiration to all humanity.”
Stella has been described by her friends as “enormous in the way she lived” and a “foul-mouthed wonder….” And those sound like tributes she would’ve approved of—when a friend of hers with the same condition (Osteogenesis imperfecta, a congenital bone disorder) passed away earlier this year and was compared in social media posts to a “delicate snowflake,” Stella had this to say on Facebook:
In case I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I want to make something clear … I am not a snowflake. I am not a sweet, infantilising symbol of fragility and life. I am a strong, fierce, flawed adult woman. I plan to remain that way, in life and in death.
Here she is in action at Malvern Books, doing what she did best—entertaining and educating us all with her brilliant wit and unrivaled honesty. Stella, you will be missed.
If people wish to pay tribute to Stella, her family have suggested making a donation to Domestic Violence Victoria in Stella’s name, as she was a supporter of their work.