Jennifer Kumiyama is a singer, actress and speaker based in Long Beach, California. Born with Arthrogryposis, a condition defined by multiple congenital joint contractures, Jennifer uses a wheelchair daily, however, she has shown the world that talent sees no limitations. She received vocal lessons at Long Beach College and California State University of Long Beach, propelling her into an incredible singing career. In 2000, Jennifer appeared on Warner Bros. reality TV show “Popstars 2,” receiving praise for her voice from national publications such as Variety magazine and TV Guide, and, two years later, was cast in Disney’s “Aladdin: a Musical Spectacular” at Disney California Adventure Theme Park. She performed four times a day in front of thousands of international guests and was the first performer in a wheelchair to ever be on any Disney stage. It was here that she became an advocate for people living with disabilities and a strong voice that would break barriers. In 2010, Jennifer was crowned Ms. Wheelchair California followed by Ms. Wheelchair America 2011, First Runner Up and used her platform, “Empowering Children with Disabilities to Make Their Own Dreams Come True” to spread the message of hope. Read on to learn more about Jennifer and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Jennifer Kumiyama (most of my close friends call me Kumi)
Heritage: Asian (specifically Chinese and Japanese) & Pacific Islander (specifically Chammorro/Guamanian) and Black
Hometown: Long Beach, California
Current City: Long Beach, California
I currently teach voice privately and sing once a month for Bedside Beats - a program through the Long Beach Blues Society that provides performances at Miller’s Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, California. Outside of performing - I work full-time at Progressive Solutions Consulting, a full-service boutique campaign consulting firm that works to elect women of color and LGBTQ candidates to office. I was also recently elected to be a Delegate representing Assembly District 70 in the California Democratic Party.
What are some of your favorite credits/projects?:
‘Aladdin; a Musical Spectacular’ at Disney California Adventure Theme Park, ‘Awkward’ MTV, ‘Carmen’ in ‘The Sessions’, and Undercover Boss - Celebrity Edition.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
Hone your craft. Training and studying will always benefit you, no matter how seasoned of a performer you are or become. Also remember that not booking the gig does not always equate to something that you did in the audition that was ‘wrong’. As performers WE ARE NOT THE CASTING DIRECTORS. Our job is to bring our best in, and that is it.
How did you get your start?
My first big thing I did was ‘PopStars 2,’ which was pre-American Idol. I made it to the second round and was featured in the first and second episodes.
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
Booking ‘Aladdin’ was a huge pivotal moment in, not just my career, but my life. It was there that I first realized that being in this industry was something that was worth constantly fighting for, and that me being on stage in a wheelchair had so much more to do with the impact it made on guests who came to see the show, than me fulfilling a lifelong dream.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Aside from COVID-19, the biggest challenge in my performing career is finding parts for folks like me - chubby, brown girls with a disability. As far as our industry has come to be more inclusive, there is still a lot more work to be done, especially when it comes to remaining committed to casting roles of characters with disabilities with actual talent with disabilities. There is also a responsibility of those being offered roles of characters with disabilities when they do not have one - stop taking the roles. When it comes to the lack of content for people with disabilities - stop asking us to create pieces of work for ourselves. In my opinion that is more like passing the buck than it is being inclusive. People with disabilities make up 20% of our population in our nation, we are everywhere, and that needs to be reflected in what we see on TV, the stage, radio, etc.
What are some interesting facts about yourself?
I was Ms. Wheelchair California 2010.
Do you have any organizations or non-profits you work with you’d like to highlight?
I currently sit on the Board of Directors for the Disabled Resources Center in Long Beach, I’m a Commissioner on the Citizens Advisory Commission on Disabilities, also in Long Beach, and I’m Chair of the Bylaws Committee for Ms. Wheelchair America, Inc.
Who do you admire?
If you could name one point in time when everything changed for you, what was it?
The closing of ‘Aladdin’ really changed me. I had a moment of identity crisis - am I still a singer if I’m not currently singing? I later learned that the answer will always be yes - no matter what path you take in between or after gigs, I’ll always, to my core, be a singer.
To find out more about Jennifer, please visit her at:
Comments will be approved before showing up.