Norah Luna, 10 years old from Fair Oaks, California, is breaking barriers – interpreting ASL for Disney and starring in an international Starbucks ad.
October is National Disability Awareness Month.
Speaking through an ASL interpreter, Norah told WBAL News Radio that it’s been her dream to become a Hollywood actress.
“She’s such a bright light and she is such an energy and a force,” Norah’s stepdad Michael Luna said.
Norah’s acting career began when Disney was recently looking for a talented child actor who was also fluent in ASL.
The job was for Disney’s World Princess Week. They offered Norah the role after seeing her audition tapes.
“I was so excited!” Norah said. “I wanted to be involved in lots of different projects like this. So when Disney called me back, I was really excited to work with them.”
Norah was born deaf and she’s been fighting for ASL to become a part of mainstream media.
“If there is deaf children out there or other children that are interested, I think they should learn ASL,” Norah said. “I think it’s really important to have representation of ASL on screen not just having access to closed captioning.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney had Norah working from her own living room. Norah has filmed seven different videos for their YouTube Channel, interpreting ASL.
Norah said this a “game-changer” for the hearing disabled community.
“(Closed) captioning is different because it’s English. When I watch an interpreter signing, it’s my native language and I’m able to understand it a lot easier. With captions sometimes I miss some of the information,” Norah said.
Soon after Norah began working for Disney, Starbucks asked her to star in an international commercial showcasing the beauty of ASL.
The commercial features Norah approaching the counter at Starbucks with her co-star and mother in real life, Celina. Norah is seen communicating with the barista, who is also fluent in ASL.
Norah wants to motivate kids with disabilities to reach for their own goals. Her family is bursting with pride of the barriers Norah is breaking.
“Norah always showed appreciation when seeing people like her on TV. Whenever there was someone on a commercial or in a movie that was deaf, she would say ‘Look that person is deaf!’ So now she gets to be that person,” Michael said.
“A deaf person – they can get married, they can drive a car, they can go to college. They can be successful actresses and really the only thing they can’t do is hear, and that’s not a bad thing.”
Norah is saving her acting money for college. Although currently on a hiatus from acting while concentrating on the fifth grade, she plans to start auditioning for roles again once school is out.