Introducing, Selma Blair: Bringing Clarity and Hope to the Disability Community

In October 2018, actress Selma Blair, then 48, revealed that she had been diagnosed with MultipleS sclerosis (MS).

In Introducing, Selam Blair, a raw, unpolished, if ultra honest documentary, Rachel Fleit, making her feature directorial debut, provides an inmate look at Blair’s new life chapter of living with Multiple Sclerosis.

Her earnest documentary offers a peek into the life of one of Hollywood’s most likable and favorite stars of the past two decades, equally adept at making comedies as well as horror flicks.

Introducing, Selma Blair world premiered at the 2021 South by Southwest, where it won the Special Jury Award for Exceptional Intimacy in Storytelling in the Documentary Feature Competition. It was released in limited theaters, prior to streaming on Discovery + right now.

“Disabled people like to have fun, too” Blair states at the beginning of the feature, which offers some great insight into her remarkable attitude as she embarks on a personal journey meant to offer pride and inspire hope for other (less famous) people with various forms of disability.

For years, Blair had thought that she was suffering from minor illnesses, or even a pinched nerve, but the diagnosis finally explained her disabilities, including her occasional falling, dropping things, foggy memory, and her left side “acting like it was asking for directions from a broken GPS.”

“I knew on some level that what she was going through was extraordinary and she wanted to tell her story,” Fleit says. The director met the actress soon after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in August of 2018, and their “immediate bond” became the impetus for her emotional documentary.

Fleit explains, “We were introduced to each other by a photographer who she had just worked with. We started talking and there was an immediate bond between Selma and I. She was in an extremely vulnerable position, she was in a state of surrender, and she was like, ‘I think that this might help people.’ There was an outpouring on social media when she came out with her diagnosis and she saw very quickly that people were being helped by her honesty.”

 

Fleit went on to build a unique bond with Blair, and having lived disability experience may have been one of the most important reasons for this: “There’s nothing quite like connecting with another person who has been deeply impacted by multiple forms of oppression.”

Blair was inspired to reveal the news for many different reasons. as a way to thank them for their encouragement and practical help.  Allisa Swanson, her costume designer, who had become her unofficial “dresser” for her role in the Netflix series, Another Life, is acknowledged as the person who “gets my legs in my pants, pulls my tops over my head, buttons my coats.”

Blair speaks openly about the struggles of getting diagnosed. When she finally received a name for her symptoms, it was a “relief,” as it follows years of not being taken seriously and experiencing gaslighting by the health system.

Sneha Dave, Executive Director of the Health Advocacy Summit and its program the Crohn’s and Colitis Young Adults Network, says “this documentary should be shown to all future medical professionals as a way to understand what medical gaslighting is and the impact it has on patients and their loved ones.”

Blair succeeds in giving disability a face and a presence—almost disregarding the fact that she’s famous.  She believes that her personal story is a reminder that disability does not discriminate. “If something as simple as using a cane, which I never minded, cause to me it’s, well it is useful but it’s a really cool prop” Blair mentions in the film.

In both real and ironic ways, Blair’s diagnosis has permitted her to live more truthfully—be herself. Blair shows that being disabled can sometimes be anything but glamorous, but that does not mean disabled people can’t be glamorous, or should not be looking for “normal joys.”

Troy Nankin, Blair’s manager and producer of Introducing, Selma Blair, and Michael Liddell, a producer, made sure the film was fully accessible to the disabled community; it was high priority for them.

Dominick Ławniczak Evans, a disability activist, was also hired to consult on disability. This allyship comes across in the film and whilst Blair has had conflicts with her biological family, predominantly her mother. She says in the film: “my mother really tethered a darkness to me, and only my suffering could please her.”

But the rest of the family that she has had behind her due to her career is a special one. This is especially the case of her special, precious bond with her son Arthur Saint Bleick.  Blair says “it makes me feel better knowing Arthur has a say — not a say, really, but is included.”

Andraea LeVant, who is disabled and leads LaVant Consulting, a social strategy firm dedicated to shaping the way the world views people with disabilities, attended the Los Angeles premiere, after which he said: “I had a flood of emotions, but one of the first I felt was a sense of relief. All too often, when it comes to the representation of disability in the media, I find myself holding my breath waiting for something to go wrong. I’m waiting to hear an ableist phrase or to watch a narrative that inaccurately depicts disability or focuses solely on their disability.”

I felt so much happiness, and relief, seeing disability presented in its rawest and most beautiful form, without apology, and without pity. I literally let out a sigh, recognizing the power of this film to continue to shift society’s perceptions of disability and build more connected and stronger communities among people with disabilities.”

This film is more than just a documentary about a celeb living with disability—it examines the ways we think about, and treat disabled people.

The director emphasizes: “Words cannot do enough to explain the experience of living with a disability in a society that has traditionally viewed it as something to pity. This documentary could not have been created in a more authentic and real way.”

LaVan says “Disabled people rarely have opportunities to see themselves represented in the media authentically. We’re generally deduced down to objects of pity or brokenness or even inspiration, but without getting to see the nuances of our humanity, the multi-dimensional aspects of who we are and how our intersectional experiences impact our day-to-day lives. This film gives color to the wholeness of disability. It reminds us as a disabled community that we are valid, not despite our disabilities, but in connection to them as human beings.

The director concurs: “The film shows that there is no one way to exist as a disabled person, and that the way we cope with or process through or embrace our disabled identities won’t look the same for everyone, even when we share the same diagnosis. It’s also a reminder that not all days within our bodies (abled and disabled) look the same. Not only we as a disabled community need these reminders, non-disabled people do as well.”