Exhibitionists·Video

Suddenly going blind didn't stop this artist from creating — it only pushed her further

Artist Vivian Chong opens up about life on the stage and the Sunglasses Monologue, her one-woman show about going blind.

'Comedy is such a healing agent for my recovery'

Artist Vivian Chong opens up about life on the stage and The Sunglasses Monologue, her one-woman show about going blind 4:08

In 2004, stand-up comedian and performer Vivian Chong suffered an extremely rare reaction to Ibuprofen and was put into a medically-induced coma. When she woke up, she found out that she had suffered internal burns. As her body recovered, her eyesight deteriorated — ultimately leaving her blind in both eyes.

With all of her family in Hong Kong, Chong had to build her life in Canada from scratch — and, along the way, found out that our relationship to people with disabilities is not what she expected. "People ask the weirdest things," she says. "I have a guide dog and people always ask how I know when he's taken a poo! When I'm walking with my dog or my cane across the street, I even sometimes hear people taking photographs of me."

I discovered that if you have the inner strength to make yourself laugh, to pick up yourself, that is the fastest way you can heal.- Vivian Chong

The ability to laugh at these situations — and at herself — has played a huge role in Chong's physical recovery and her development as an artist. She turned her artistic ability to the stage, where she began using comedy to describe the darkest moments of her experience: "I want people to think about the way they treat people with disabilities and even the word 'disabled,' but also to know it's okay to laugh at the situations I can get myself into."

In this video, you'll learn how Chong learned to be a new kind of artist when she was no longer able to produce visual art. Her one-woman show The Sunglasses Monologue is the result. She performed it in Toronto in 2016 to a sold-out theatre, so The Second City is hosting the show again on April 8. Soon after, Chong plans to take The Sunglasses Monologue across Canada.

Watch Exhibitionists on Friday nights at 12:30am (1am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT) on CBC Television.

About the Author

Alexis is a British documentary filmmaker who is drawn to the issues we rarely discuss. She has worked with the BBC, BRAVO and VICE on films around immigration detention, youth justice, Autism and sexuality in the disabled community.

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