How Wheelchair Dancer Chelsie Hill and the Rollettes Are Empowering Others Through Movement

Hill, who has been paralyzed from the waist down since she was 17, created the wheelchair dance group known as the Rollettes back in 2012.

Photo: Courtesy of Aerie / Getty Images

As far back as Chelsie Hill can remember, dance has always been part of her life. From her first dance classes at the age of 3 to high school performances, dance had been Hill's release. But when her life forever changed at the age of 17, when she was involved in a drunk driving accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down, Hill had to re-fall in love with the sport that had always empowered her.

"Dance for me has always been something I felt I've been good at," she says. "I always felt like school was always really hard for me, to be honest, growing up. Dance for me, I was able to bring home a trophy. I was always able to make my family proud. It taught me discipline. It taught me confidence in a different way that I don't think I ever would have had otherwise. And now, I've grown a whole other love for it since becoming paralyzed." (

In 2012, Hill's love for dance led her to create the Rollettes, a wheelchair dance team comprised of seven members, including Hill herself. Based in Los Angeles, the Rollettes have competed and performed on the international stage, including the International Cheer Union Worlds, Redbull's Wings for Life World Run, and the 86th annual Hollywood Chrismas Parade, among others. Together, they empower women with disabilities to live boundlessly and shift perspective through dance.

"My goal isn't to inspire people, my goal is to empower them to be the best versions of themselves," says Hill. "A lot of people think, 'Oh, you're such an inspiration,' but for me, I'm just living my life because I love doing what I do. I love connecting with all the Rollettes. Those girls are genuinely all of my best friends and I feel very lucky that I can say, 'I don't do this to inspire, I do this to empower.'"

The Rollettes are one of the newest members of the Aerie family, joining country singer Kelsea Ballerini, TikTok sensations, the Nae Nae Twins, actress Antonia Gentry, and longtime Aerie ambassador Aly Raisman for the brand's latest #AerieReal campaign. The new initiative is aimed at empowering people to use their voices to share their own stories while lifting one another up. (

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Courtesy of Aerie

"To me, Aerie has been the one brand that really has always included all body types — and I didn't know the value of that until I was paralyzed," shares Hill.

Hill says it also took her time to accept her body following the accident. "I hated my body when I first got paralyzed. My body was not what it was, and I couldn't change that," says Hill. (

Hill shifted her perspective, however, after a few encouraging words from one of her best friends. "When I was first injured, I was like, 'I wish I could wear shorts,' and [friend] Ali Stroker told me, 'Why can't you? Your legs are beautiful.' And that was that little moment of a push that I needed. And everyone has those moments, you just have to find someone to pull it out of you," she says.

When it comes to getting through those challenging times, Hill is grateful she can lean on her inner circle for support. "I say this all the time: When you surround yourself [with] people that are going through the same things as you are, you have this new kind of weight lifted off your shoulders that you're not the only one," she says. "When you go through something — say, a loss, or you're feeling self-conscious about your body, or something with your job, or you lose half of your body or get into an accident, something happens in your life — you start to feel isolated. Reaching out to other people that are like you and talking about it really opens that door to be like, 'Okay wow, I'm not alone.'"

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