Michelle Stevens may describe herself as “a chill, ordinary graphic design student” but not every graduate has had their own art exhibit independent from their program, spent spare time volunteering for a youth camp or had their life filmed for a reality show.
In 2017, Stevens attracted local attention for her exhibit “ In a World Full of Little People” in which her artwork was displayed at the Harold B. Lee Library’s Gallery on Five. The truly unique part about the exhibit, besides her original artwork, was that her artwork hung four feet off the ground. The exhibit reflected Stevens’ eye-level viewpoint as she was born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism. Stevens said she wanted the exhibit to serve as a creative way of thinking differently and more open-mindedly about someone else’s perspective.
“Maybe little people do see differently sometimes, but we’re still people,” she said.
Stevens’ art exhibit was a huge highlight of her college career after she had spent two years unfulfilled as a computer science major. Stevens said she felt pressure to get a degree in something more practical or with more job security than art. She said she felt like she needed to be motivated by paychecks instead of by passion.
“Once I started I thought I was committed, but that’s not true. Don’t be ashamed if you don’t like what you’re doing and want to try something else,” Stevens said.
Stevens said when she came to college she wanted to try to make new friends since many of her friends had left on missions, and she felt depressed and lonely. Stevens decided to sign up for Camp Kesem, a service opportunity she found through Y Serve.
Stevens participated for three years with Camp Kesem, a camp for kids with a cancer-diagnosed parent. Stevens said she was drawn to the camp because her mom passed away from cancer when she was only seven-years-old. Through her experience, Stevens said she was able to identify with and serve families through public outreach and later with public relations and marketing. She said the experience helped her gain new friends and gain a sense of healing in her own life.
Stevens was also a lead for “My Little Life” a TLC reality show recounting her family and student life as a little person. Stevens said although the series was not renewed for a second season her overall experience gave her a platform to show her perspective.
“I got really lucky in the way I was portrayed in “My Little Life,” Stevens said. “It was really true to who I am and accurate to who I want to be.”
She said the most viewed YouTube clip of her on the show is of her modeling at the Beaux Arts Academy and represented her time as a model for BYU figure drawing classes. Stevens said this was powerful to her because she has struggled with body image and felt like comparison has been her worst enemy. She said she hopes her experience can inspire other girls struggling with confidence to know they aren’t alone and they don’t have to be perfect to be happy.
“I’m obviously very different looking,” Stevens said. “Even though I can’t do everything-- like I’m not going to be a pro basketball player-- I can still love my body for what it can still do. I can paint and do other wonderful things regardless of my body.”
After graduation Stevens will continue to work for Change for Love, a nonprofit that sells art done by people with special needs to fund special needs art classes. Stevens plans to travel, eventually work for a design or advertising company in New York and has had thoughts of teaching at a university one day.