March 15, 2023

Your Disability Does Not Define You with Kellina Powell

Your Disability Does Not Define You with Kellina Powell
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In addition to March being Women's History Month, did you know it is also National Deaf History Month? In this episode, I am so excited to speak with Kellina Powell. Kellina is an entrepreneur, author and life coach who loves to help differently-abled people on their journey to personal growth. At the age of 4, she became hard of hearing after an ear infection. Through her speech therapist, she was able to learn ways to communicate with the hearing world. She now uses her experiences to assist others. In honor of Kellina, I have attached a transcript with this episode.

I invite you to join our conversation as Kellina and I discuss:

  • Hearing loss
  • Ruptured Eardrum
  • Speech Therapist
  • American Sign Language (ASL)
  • Self Advocacy
  • Reading Lips
  • Hearing Aids
  • Bullying
  • Peer Pressure


Honourable Mentions

Share how YOU overcame a situation

You're Enough: Letting go the Pressure to be Perfect by Bianca Hughes, LPC

Ear Infection and Hearing Loss

Quick Statistics About Hearing

Benefits of Using Sign Language in Your Classroom

How Do Hearing Aids Work

Where can you find Kellina?

Every Day I Am Just Deaf: Life in a Hearing World with Deaf Queen Boss by Kellina Powell




This podcast is hosted by Bianca Kesha Hughes. Known for authenticity and heart-work services, Bianca is the ultimate trailblazer in the mental health and wellness field as a therapist, coach, speaker, and podcast host, inspiring her audience to let go of the illusion of perfectionism. Ready to learn more? Contact her here!


If you would love to connect with Bianca, join her in these following spaces:

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Podcast Website



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Song Credit: Encore by King Sis

This is a Crackers In Soup production.


Bianca: [00:00:00] Welcome to the "It Didn't Break Me" podcast where we have honest and vulnerable conversations around the messy stuff we didn't think we'd come back from inspiring you to give yourself permission to discover the beauty within the mess and to let go of the illusion of perfection. I'm your host, Bianca Keisha Hughes.

Hey there, and welcome to the “It Didn't Break Me” Podcast. I am your host, Bianca Keisha Hughes. It is a pleasure to have you here. As always, I appreciate you taking your time out to listen to the podcast because time is one of the most precious things we have so thank you so much for being here. We're in season three and this is episode three of the podcast. So it's been like a [00:01:00] year since I've been doing this. I must say doing seasons is a great thing cuz it gives me a break to be creative, think and make sure I'm not doing the most, as I'm sure some of my listeners can relate to. 

As always, we have an amazing guest.I'm going to introduce her in a moment, but please don't forget to leave your reviews. I have been sharing reviews of the podcast, and I would love to continue to do so. One of the reviews I've had, it was entitled: “Powerful”, an honest and beautifully imperfect look at the human experience; an uplifting and connecting experience.

So I'm so grateful for those reviews. Or you can DM me on the Authentically Be You Instagram, that's where I am the most. Or you can even send me an email But I appreciate your reviews. And it really helps other people guide people to know what they're gonna listen to [00:02:00] on the podcast and gets the podcast seen more.

So thank you so much for leaving a review if you have done so. If you have not done so, I appreciate you. If you could go ahead and leave a review on Apple Podcast. 

My guest today is Kellina. Kellina is a young entrepreneur who loves to help people with their personal growth and educate others about the deaf community.

Little do people know, Kellina is actually a hard of hearing person. She became deaf at the age of four, and she recently graduated with a psychology degree and is now starting her own online coaching business while launching her book. So, we're gonna get into this conversation and we're gonna hear more about her story of becoming hard of hearing at the age of four.

So let's go ahead and get into the conversation.

Bianca: Hello Kellina.

Kellina: Hello. Thank you for having me today. I'm excited [00:03:00] to be here.

Bianca: I'm so excited. Welcome to the “It Didn’t Break Me” podcast. I'm very excited to hear your story. Um, uh, I really don't know much about your story. I know kind of a gist of it, so I kind of like that I'm learning as everyone as a listener is learning.

So we're gonna go right into it. What is something you thought would break you but it didn’t?

Kellina: Something that didn't break me, that didn't break me is me being deaf at age of four. Um, yeah, some of you are probably like, wait, what? Kellina is deaf? Yes, I am deaf. So, you know, I did not allow my deafness to define who I am. Mm-hmm while growing up, I tried my best to not let anything affect my communication with the hearing community.

Bianca: Okay. So kind of tell us, take us back to what was that like? Because if I'm correct, you wasn't born not hearing, is that correct? 

Kellina: Yeah. That's correct. Yeah, it's very interesting in a way a lot of people be like, what? Yeah. [00:04:00] Honestly, it all started, um, when I had an infection. I don't know how I had it. I really dunno. Mm-hmm. Um, however, my family doctor prescribed me ear drops and I, my mom bought it to the daycare, explained them the instructions. However, they did not follow the instructions at all to the point where the same day I became deaf actually.

I, yeah, it's very crazy. And home the same day when they did not follow instructions, I was in front of the tv, I was watching something and my mom tapped me on the shoulder and I just jumped. When I tell you, a four year old jumped, you know they got scared. 

Bianca: Mm-hmm. 

Kellina: so my mom went to go tap me and I said to my mom “I can’t hear you.” My mom’s like “Excuse me?” So my mom freaks out and mom was a young mom, she was like 19, 20 years old. And, um, she was just like, like, what? And so luckily my grandmother was a nurse at the time, she was a nurse. Mm-hmm. and, um, she came home from the hospital. Rushed in. She did different assessments with me and she sat down with me.

She said, [00:05:00] “Oh my God. Okay, there is something's wrong. Like Kellina can't hear me” and I know my grandmother voice like the back of my hand at the time. Yeah. And {inaudible}, I couldn't hear her voice at the time. My grandma, my grandma can't hear you either. It's happening. And I was freaking out, panicking. And then, the next think I know, I see my mom hopping on the phone, crying, my grandma's panicking, and the next day, we went to my family doctor.

Mind you, I could not hear at all what was happening. Like my family had to wake me up, my family had to physically move me to tell me like where I was going. They couldn't tell anything. And then, cause I can't read cause I'm four years old and I went to the family doctor I’m looking at my family doctor like crazy, like what is happening to me? And he looked at my mom and he shake his head.

And when he was saying, “I'm so sorry, there's nothing I can do. Kellina is deaf.  It’s too late”. So that is how I became deaf.

Bianca: Wow. I am in shock. I'm sure that your, like you said, your whole family's shock, like how could this even be happening? Did you, I'm sure, did you, did your [00:06:00] family, were they like, no, we're gonna get a second opinion.

This can't be true. How is this even possible or

Kellina: No. Luckily we trust my family doctor. We've been with him since my grandma came to Canada. Okay, so, so we really trust him a hundred percent. So we knew that my doctor wouldn't lie to us. We are with him to this day and and I'm 25 right now so we’ve been with him since I was a baby. We hundred percent trust him.

So he had been our family doctor for over a decade. Okay.

Bianca: How come there was nothing they could do? Like how come it was just so sudden and then that was it? Did they say or

Kellina: no, it’s because it’s your ears, right? A lot of people don't understand your ears are just very sensitive. So if anything gets into it or anything like anything simple like water, get into it.

You can get, easily, it's like, it's like going up an airplane and you land and your ears pop. It’s literally just like that. There's nothing you can do cause it's your ear. [00:07:00] Your ears are the most sensitive things in your whole entire body that a lot of people don't understand. And so, because what was infected in my ears was the eardrum. The eardrum was broken like in half.

Bianca: Oh, wow

Kellina: So my ears drums, they won’t, it was not like, there's nothing you can do unless they do surgery. But that's too risky for a four year old. 

Bianca: Wow. So you find this out and you're four, and I don't know how much you remember, but what do you remember upon learning this? Like, do you even comprehend?

Kellina: I was, I was crying a lot. I was very emotional. I didn't want the thing in my ear. I had no idea about what’s in my ear, um, I threw it in the garbage one time. Um, my family would, it was just, it was rough. It was really bad. For me, I was a rollercoaster. Mm-hmm. , I didn't know what was happening. I did different speech therapists and all that. There were a lot of doctors, professional doctors, and I'm confused.

Why am I seeing all these people? What's wrong with me? And I did have doubt in myself, especially at a [00:08:00] young age. Like I was just like, why did God give me this thing, like why am I put up with this? Why me? Like I always had that question every time when I was young. And luckily I was able to go to a deaf school.

Okay, halftime. And then I went to a parent school halftime. So I was able to learn how to communicate with two different community, which is very cool because I was able to learn who I am within the two community. Okay. And I did. I did have a lot of difficulty in the hearing community. Mm-hmm. because no one knew about what it's like to be deaf.

No one was acceptable at all, had the deaf community. Unfortunately, I never had anyone that looks like me in the hearing community. Even just the hearing world, like it was just very tough support where my family pulled me out of the deaf school and put me in the hearing school full time. So that was something, it was not acceptable at all.

I was just really, it was really, really hard. Yeah.

Bianca: Wow. They took you out of the deaf school. Was there a particular reason or they just [00:09:00] was like, yeah,

Kellina: it was just very hard. Right. My mom was in college at the time. My grandma was a nurse. She hadn't. And my aunt, she was, she was a teenager. My family's not gonna make my Aunt skip class just to pick me up in one school, drop me off to the deaf school and the school that, the hearing school was like two minutes walk.

So it's like, what's the point? So my family really had to help me and guide me through the home school by myself. How did

Bianca: that impact you then being taken out and then now being a hundred percent into. , the here school,

Kellina: um, affected my self-esteem. Mm-hmm. a lot. My confidence, it was very difficult. Like I, I used to learn sign language actually when I was younger mm-hmm.

And now that I'm being transferred to the hearing school full time, I was not able to learn sign language anymore. So that was something would take away, away from it. And I felt devastated and I did not feel like I would connect it with my own community. It affected me a lot in terms of my mental health because I'm all [00:10:00] trying to teach teachers how to advocate for me, and it's really sad because you're a teacher, you're supposed to know what you're doing.

Mm-hmm. when you have a student that had a disability and unfortunately that was not the case. I had to consistently advocate for myself. And it was annoying. It was exhausting. And I know there are times where I lied to my mom and said I'm sick. I don't wanna go to school cause I'm I'm tired. It was really hard that it was a lot on my plate for a young age.

Bianca: Yeah, absolutely. Cuz you are having to figure this out in a hearing school, the teacher's not listening and you are still a child. That's not your responsibility in that sense to be advocating for yourself. Not hearing is one thing, but then having to advocate for yourself on top of it. Yeah. I wouldn't wanna go to school either.

That makes total sense. So how did you communicate with people in the hearing school?

Kellina:  Because of my speech therapist, [00:11:00] I was able to communicate better. Okay. Um, so she taught me, uh, ways of listening. And also too, a lot of people dunno that a lot of deaf people are lip readers. Okay. So we have to see the lip to fully understand the full sentence.

If I tell you may think, okay, but Kellina has hearing aids. I do have hearing aids, but sometime I won't pick up the full sentence with my hearing aid. First, it's reading lips. I feel like when I read lips I get a full sentence better than I can with hearing aids. 

Bianca: Really. Okay. Yeah. Okay. How long have you had your hearing aid?

Kellina: Since I was four years old. 

Bianca: Since you was four. And even though you were deaf, they still help with the hearing aid? 

Kellina: Oh yeah, a hundred percent. 

Bianca: Okay. Wow. That's interest. So it wasn't like a hundred percent your hearing aid gone. It was like, what, 95% or?

Kellina: It grew. It grew. First you, when I got older and my hearing kind of dropped a little bit, it's, it's [00:12:00] like when you get old, your hearing a little, yeah. it's the same thing. It's the same thing, but kinda the same thing for someone who is deaf. But again, like I said, I can't speak for everybody. Mm-hmm. . Everybody's hearing is very different.

Bianca: Okay. It's different. So you're in this place where you're in school, you're not wanting to go, you're advocating for yourself.  Does it stay that way or? How do things turn around for you?

Kellina: It's still the thing, even though it's exhausting, I don't blame the hearing community at all because there's so many lack of education. Mm-hmm. , there should be more awareness and more education around it, but it got better, I would say. Okay. I, a lot of people are not ignorant like back in the day.

Mm-hmm. I feel like people are, now, we're starting to be more open and people trying more accepting, so it's progress. It's not Straight. Straight. You know it’s, baby, step, right? Yeah. It's not easy, but you just have to find the right person, the right environment to be around. Okay. In order [00:13:00] to get accommodate,

Bianca: you've been able to kind of work through those self-esteem issues that you had. When you first were in the hearing school, like how did you work through that?

Kellina: Honestly, I had, um, a teacher with me, so she would, called and don't know the exact word, but teacher for, uh, we deaf student to have, especially if they're not going to a deaf school. Mm-hmm. . So there's like a deaf teacher comes in the hearing school for me and she guided me through everything.

Helped me advocate for me. Uh, teaching teacher worked me to be done. I did not have to do a lot of advocating. When I started to receive the teacher when I was in like four or five ish. Okay. So I was, I finally felt relaxed. I'm like, thank God, like I'm done. Like I'm really done. I was like, I'm done advocating for myself.

So luckily she was able to help. So I did have support by my deaf community teacher thankfully. Okay. Um, however, I did have challenges in middle school. Middle school is a little bit more challenging because I think you deal with bullying and you deal with peer pressure. Mm-hmm. You [00:14:00] deal with so much. So I literally had to, I would say my family kind of made me pull up my socks in a way of kind of tell me to stop criticizing myself in a way.

Wow. And I said, you have to keep going. You know, and I was super young to have that type of conversation with my family. But again, it's something that I need to be talked about, especially if I'm going by myself in the real world. They really wanted to teach me really young. Mm-hmm.

Bianca: So that was middle school. I'm glad that you also got that support and that encouragement, cuz it sounds like it's enabled you to be independent. So how was high school and college?

Kellina: High school was a lot more hurtful than middle school that because I did have teacher doubted me to the point where I had my guidance counselor did not believe in me.

She did not put my grade in for postsecondary. She lied to me saying that it was in, but would not, I received an email from the university. I applied for saying that my grades were [00:15:00] not in, and I went back to her and I said, what is going on? And she said to me “Oh, I forgot you had two last names”. Quote: “forgot”. I was just like, are you kidding me?

I worked so hard to get here and now you're gonna push me back cause you think I could not, I'm not capable of doing it. So basically she wanted me to go to college first, but then my family had expectations of me going to university. Okay. And she, she, she thought I was not the right fit for university and that's why she did what she did.

Bianca: Wow. Yeah. I'm so sorry to hear that. Wow. It's okay. What happens after that in terms of University? She didn't do the grades. She didn't put it in. Did you end up going, like, what happened in that process?

Kellina: A lot of things happened, so I actually took an extra semester back in high school with her. Unfortunately. Whoa. I just pulled up my socks. My gram said, “You need to do an extra semester. Prove her wrong. Pull up your socks. Get good grades”. And I did. I got good grades. Got into university just for one [00:16:00] extra semester and approved her wrong. And I got into university. It was stupid successful. I graduated like two years ago from York University, Uhhuh, from psychology, and I actually had a professor who was actually also deaf.

Wow. And it was, yeah, it was very crazy. He paused a lecture to change his hearing aid battery in front of the whole lecture, and no one knew he was deaf. I didn't even know he was deaf. And I'm like, wait, you're deaf. I'm like, I have to go talk to this Professor. Me and the Professor got super close during the whole semester. And I was just asking him, how does he get confidence to do that? I cannot do that in front of a lecture class. And it was just really cool and fascinating cause he literally gave advice that I would never forget, he said, “You just need to get yourself out there because you never know who needs you. Mm. You never know. Mm-hmm. . Just like the way you came up to me, I didn't know you were deaf, but guess what? I just made an impact on you that you can do it. Yeah. And you can pass it on to the next person. Cause you just never know who's watching”. So that was [00:17:00] something that would always be with me ever since.

Bianca: Wow. I know you kind of mentioned this and I read that, you know, you don't want people to allow to let their disability to define them, and that also there are some things that people won't talk up about if they do have a disability because of the shame and, and misunderstanding.

So what are some of the challenges you had and others with a disability might have that they don't share or often talk about?

Kellina: I think disability is a very vague term. Okay. Um, I tell people every, every disability doesn’t have to be physical, it can be non visible, it doesn't have to be seen. So I would say a lot of times people don't always talk about their disability, especially if they're not {inaudible}.

So if they hide. Like for example, for me, I. I didn't, I was not really open about my deafness until, I would say until I was 20. Okay. And so it takes time. 

Bianca: Okay. And what kept you quiet? [00:18:00] Was that the fear of what other people would say? Of course, misunderstandings 

Kellina: Yeah, definitely was the fear. Misunderstanding. No one. Definitely, because I would bully, was bullied as well right? Mm-hmm. . So obviously I'm gonna think that the next person I interact with might bully me or might {inaudible} down on me.

Bianca: Okay. Okay. So where would you say you are today? 

Kellina: Right now, I'm happy where I am. I got a book released about me being, yeah, being deaf. It's on Amazon for those who are interested. My book is called: Every Day. I Am Just Deaf. It’s mixed with poetry, poetry and biography. Mm-hmm. Which is kind of cute. So it's a really short book, but really, it’s cute. And as well, I have my own coaching business. I am an international speaker advocate, so I teach people how to be inclusive of deaf people.

In terms of putting code, caption and a lot more towards it. [00:19:00] But, but yeah, my way now and

Bianca: yeah. Okay. Okay. So one of the things you say, um, the reason why I'm sure, I don't know if that also relates to your book, is that you speak up cuz you don't want people's disability to define them and so you kind of share your story so people are not doing the same thing.

What are some ways people allow their disability to define them, and then how can you, they kind of get over that or work through that?

Kellina: That’s a good question, it's really about the mindset. Mm-hmm. It's super important to have that positive mindset. A lot of times people need to, especially those who have disability, like if you need help to speak with someone, go for it.

And a lot of times we feel like pressure because we're putting pressure on you to help us. Knowing that we have a lot of pressure on us and a lot on the children. Okay. And we're still used to being independent. That's the problem, [00:20:00] you know? Right. Cause we're so, we rely heavily on ourselves, like for me, I rely heavily on myself because I have to advocate at such a young age.

So I'm so used to it, you know? And for me to speak about it, talk to someone about it, it's like it's not gonna so if they pushing mm-hmm. . And so the thing I would tell people a lot of time too, no, it, you have to keep going. You have to keep pushing. And sometimes people do a allow, allow themselves if they are in need of a help or something like that.

So I do tell people like, it takes time for people to be more open and be more accepting, and we're in 2022 now. People are more aware than before. So I think we are opening things a lot more for the disability people. Okay,

Bianca: yeah, that makes Totally, that makes a lot of sense. So Kellina, is there anything you would like the listeners to know; anything you would like to leave them with?

Kellina: I do. I know I [00:21:00] said, um, disabilities don't define us but also too, I do want to say that, that you have to keep pushing whether you have a disability or not. Nothing should define how you are going forward in life, because at the end of the day, you have to live that one life.

You have to live your life to the fullest, so, mm-hmm. That's the one thing I definitely wanna live out.

Bianca: Mm-hmm. I love that. So disability or not live your life. Exactly . And would you say you're living your life?

Kellina: Of course I am. Of course. Every day. Of course.

Bianca: You absolutely are. You absolutely are. And I love it.

So the question I always like to ask, people, the other question is, what is something that is messy in your life today? 

Kellina: Uh, time management. Yeah. Just cause I have too much, I'm like, oh my God. Ok. I gotta get into time management.

Bianca: Time management. Time management. And that's [00:22:00] with all your clients and your coaching and all that kind of stuff. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Do you actually just quick question, do you get clients with disability or who have any hearing problems? Do you get that as well?

Kellina: Okay, so my coaching is open for people who don't have a disability. Cause I have came across a lot of people. I would like you to kind of coach me because I will understand their story better than anybody else, and because I've been through worse than they have, so I'll understand where they're coming from.

Bianca: Ah, I love that. Okay. Yeah, yeah. . So where can people find you, Kellina to shower you with love? How can they connect with you?

Kellina: Um, everybody can connect with me on Instagram, uh, Deaf Queen Boss, or on my website, which is

Bianca: Okay, thank you. And I will definitely put those, that information in the show notes so  everyone can get that?

Thank you so much for being on the podcast Friday. [00:23:00] 

Kellina: You're welcome. 

Bianca: I dunno about you, but Kellina’s story is so needed and so necessary. I felt like, you know, I got this insight into a world I'm not too familiar with, um, and which I'm very grateful for and her sharing her story. So a couple of things. My takeaways is, first of all, how sensitive our ears are. I know they say stuff like, don't put the cotton bud all the way down your ear and things like that. You can hurt your eardrum, but it makes total sense. And I'm just really grateful for that knowledge, that wisdom and that understanding, um, and being more mindful of that with my own ears. So that was very eye-opening for me.

And then the other thing is becoming more mindful of people with disabilities. I mean, she mentioned that you don't always know. [00:24:00] The disability is not always visible. Honestly, if you look at her, you know, you, you can't tell, you know, there's nothing to tell with others you can. So just to be more mindful, because everybody's disability is not visible.

Thank you so much for listening. I really appreciate you being here and tuning into the podcast. Don't forget to share with your tribes so they can be inspired and they can discover their beauty in the mess. So thank you again. 

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