The Aspienwoman Interview Series Project: Actress, singer, model, dancer and MarsOne Applicant, Sybelle Silverpheonix

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The Aspiengirl and Aspienwoman Project is devoted to showcasing females of all ages and from all walks of life, who live with a Spectrum condition.  In these interviews, I talk to mentor heroine Aspienwomen from a variety of countries about their lives, their gifts and talents and more. Actress and model Asperchic Sybelle Silverpheonix joins me from New York City, United States of America to discuss her life, talents and Asperger Syndrome. (Photos to be changed)

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Tania:  Hello Sybelle, Thank-you for agreeing to an interview and for joining alongside other cool Asperchics in the AspienWoman Mentor Project. It is fantastic having you here, not only because you are such a role model, but because you are the first MarsOne applicant I have interviewed. Thank-you for joining other cool Asperchics in the AspienWoman Mentor Project, a project designed to gather an inspirational group of females on the Spectrum who are successful role models and mentors.  Where about in the world do you live?

Sybelle:  I live in New York City, United States of America.

Tania:  You have so many talents. Please tell us about them.

Sybelle:  Oh, lol, where do I start. I work primarily in entertainment, if its art, I’ve probably done it at some point, lol.  My main career path is as an actress, singer, model, and dancer right now.  I’m a vocalist for the rock band Kings Valentine.  I also fix PCs.

Tania:  So, you really are a triple or quadruple  threat?!

Sybelle:  I suppose a “multi threat” is an appropriate term, haha.  I have a background in martial arts, gymnastics, and various styles of dance.  I also can do portrait sketches, self taught, have no idea how, I can just see all the details on a person’s face, all the shadows, the lines in the skin, right down to pores, it creeps people out, lol.  I can take a photograph, no matter how small, of a person, and duplicate it with all detail on a much larger piece of paper.  I can draw portraits in person, but people don’t usually stay still enough for me to do it.  My PC tech skills are for the most part self taught also.  I swore after the first time being on the phone with tech support and not understanding those crazy thick accents, that I would never call tech support again, lol.  This was my first impression of outsourcing, and I am absolutely opposed to the practice if it prohibits the smooth flow of information between people, lol.

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Tania:  How did you find out you were on the Spectrum?

Sybelle:  Oh wow, that is a story.  I was logging in to check my email and some email providers have articles that scroll across the screen when you first go to their sites.  One such article was titled “Whole Family Diagnosed with a Disorder”, and I was thinking, hmm, sounds interesting, so I click it, and the whole thing was practically my own biography! I was instantly obsessed with the topic of Asperger Syndrome!  I googled everything I could that instant, I called in family members to look, it was all quite dramatic, I felt almost like I had died!  Whole portions of memories of my life flashed before me as if I was having a near death experience, and those portions began to make sense in a matter of seconds!!! Then I was absolutely compelled to know from a professional if this was me, or if I was just jumping to conclusions….members of my family agreed it certainly sounded accurate.  More googling, only to be disappointed with what services were available for adults…it was as if the entire community on autism had this strange idea that autism just disappeared upon becoming age 18….very strange.  Heard all kinds of things from places I called. “Women don’t have that”, “You’re too high functioning”, “We only see children”, and a whole host of other stuff from the very obviously and numerously misinformed population working in the field…then I managed to find Dr. Lynda Geller.  I’d say she’s the top expert in the field in NYC.  I wish she could be cloned and placed in every facility that treats people with autism.  Our world would change so efficiently it would practically be instantaneous.  Glad that people like her, and you, are working to change the misinformation out there.  So Dr. Geller evaluated me, and it turned out I was 100% correct about myself.  This prompted me to observe similarities I had seen between myself and my daughter, and I then had her evaluated also, and she too was diagnosed.  Not with Asperger’s, but somewhere around HFA and PDD NOS.  Finding out all this was one of the best things to ever happen for us.  It opened up a whole new world I wished I could have been exposed to waaaaaaaay earlier.

Tania:  Well, that’s quite a story and great to hear of Dr. Geller’s work and expertise, for anyone in New York. I will also add her to my list of professionals around the world. You also mentioned your daughter. What talents does she have?

Sybelle:  She’s very creative.  She likes to take pictures, draw, paint, dance and sing.  What she’s really good at though, is physical fitness.  She’s very strong.  She’s fast.  She has no fear.  I would get criticized by parents in the neighborhood for allowing her to climb to the tops of trees, playground fixtures, stone walls, etc.  I would allow it, because I have full confidence in her abilities.  I recognized these skills early on.  At 4 months, she would stand while I held her hands, knees locked in place.  Around 2 months later, she was able to “koala” me, hanging onto me with her own hands and feet entirely unsupported by me.  Once she was able to walk on her own, a little before 1 year, she would climb anything and everything she could, and has never once fallen!  Sure, she’s fallen running after or away from someone, or tripping over an object during running, but she’s never fallen from climbing…she recently told me she’d like to rock climb a full wall.  I must test this interest next time I am at the Intrepid with her, at the rock climbing wall, lol. i believe she can get to the top with no problems at all.  People’s reactions will be interesting.  I too, am athletic, have reached the top of the same wall, and simply because I am female, had people gasping.  Imagine my almost 10 year old daughter, lol

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Tania:  I was already impressed by your accomplishments  but then I heard that you had applied for the “Mars One” Mission and I was like “wow”!  For those that do not know, Mars One is a not-for-profit foundation that will establish a permanent human settlement on Mars in 2023. So, once you go, there’s no turning back?

Sybelle:  I applied for this mission, yes, however, at the time of this writing, none of the applicants know if they have been accepted into the program or not.  There are 4 selection rounds.  Applying is only round 1.  We will know if we have passed onto round 2 by the beginning of 2014 most likely. One of my special interests is astronomy, has been since birth.  I knew things about astronomy as a toddler most kids didn’t learn till they were at least school age.

Tania:  Will your daughter go with you?

Sybelle:   She cannot go on the same exact mission I would be on if I am accepted for the 2023 launch.  If selected, I will be required to train for 8 years. All accepted applicants must do this.  All applicants must also be 18 years of age. She will be 18 by the time of launch.  After she has turned 18, she can apply for the next selection process.  There is not yet an option for people to apply as families.  All must apply individually.

Tania:  What it is about this Mission that inspires you to apply?

Sybelle:  I have always loved space.  Been fascinated by it.  I want to know it, experience it, live it, be one with it.  During the first half of my life, this desire became coupled with the fact that I felt completely unappreciated by people on this planet.  This fueled the interest even more.  I never thought in my lifetime there would be such an opportunity as to live on another planet, experience its different gravitational pull, terraform it, utilize its natural resources, live with solar power as a main source of power, create an entirely new society…I have wanted this since birth, I was engineered for this purpose.  And now I am being given an opportunity to try again…I wrote NASA in 5th grade.  They sent me gorgeous images of astrophotography and several astronauts of the time period who were on missions.  It excited me like nothing else could.  I attended US Space Camp during high school.  THAT was an experience.  The training, I loved it, I actually wish it had been more intense, more rigorous.  Mars One will do that…it will be the most rigorous training anyone has ever endured in the field of space travel and exploration.  And Space X, Elon Musk’s company, is also in communication with Mars One about transportation.  I am so phenomenally impressed by Mr. Musk’s work, and would be completely star struck should I ever get to meet him.  I don’t get star struck very easily, but that would be very overwhelming, lol.

Tania:  It really is like a movie. For those interested, how does one apply to be a part of the Mars One settlement?  I have a feeling you may not be the only Aspie that’s applying to move to Mars.

Sybelle:  Aaah, yes, I imagine so. Yes, a movie.  As an actress, I’ve worked on many genres, but still have yet to work on a sci fi project.  I would absolutely love to be a part of a sci fi project.  Especially if it puts me in space, lol.  It is my favorite genre, and yet, there seems to be a severe lack of sci fi productions in NYC, lol.  So yes, Mars One is the real deal, this is science fiction becoming reality, and if anyone else wants to walk through that door, they will need to apply.  Unfortunately, this year’s astronaut selection process is already closed. I believe the next will be in another 2 years or so.  The project will send 4 astronauts to Mars every 2 years starting in 2023, so based off that time frame, would be applicants should start looking for information on the Mars One website 2 years from now.  I do not know if the application criteria will be the same.  This year, it was necessary to fill out a resume form, write a motivational letter, answer a very personal questionnaire, create a video of yourself answering 3 questions about yourself and your interest in Mars One, and also pay an application fee equivalent to what it would cost to apply to a college.

Tania:  How do you think Aspergers has helped you in your career/life?

Sybelle:  Aspergers is the reason I was able to learn and acquire information at the rate I have.  The reason I was able to successfully teach myself skills outside of an educational environment.  The reason I can solve technical problems quickly, have an effective sense of logic. Having a brain that functions similar to Spock or Data is most definitely advantageous, I just wish more people understood these advantages and that they have benefited from these advantages with each advancement in technology and various other fields.  In terms of career, on the film production side of things, I was able to put together all the systems we would need.  I have 4 computer systems, and have maintained all the computers here on my own for over a decade.  As an actress, echolalia is a good thing, for acting is the skill of imitation.  Learning to mimic the way others interact is paramount.  I have also done all my own marketing.  I built my own website, at least at the time of this writing.  I have been effectively using social media, which to me feels more natural than all the schmoozing that usually goes on, lol.  It was actually surprising to me when I saw that there were classes that taught people how to effectively market themselves through social media.  To me it was obvious.

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Tania:   Where can people follow you or find out more information about you and/or your work?

Sybelle:  www.sybellesilverphoenix.com

I am also on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Model Mayhem, and IMDB.  Here are the links, respectively:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sybelle-Silverphoenix/143040925715
https://twitter.com/SybelleSilver
http://www.youtube.com/user/SybelleSilverphoenix
http://www.modelmayhem.com/1381118
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2655690/

Tania:  Where can people view your somewhat humorous yet serious MarsOne application?

Sybelle: On YouTube at http://applicants.mars-one.com/profile/8d485a78-46c4-4152-93cc-3a015d4df694

Tania:  What kind of advocacy are you involved in?

Sybelle:   I have become very interested in giving exposure to autism awareness and acceptance.  I’ve recently had an article published by AHA’s newsletter On The Spectrum about where Aspies can go to meet compatible people. The same organization has asked me to participate on a panel of adults who have had interesting career evolution’s. This will be for the 2014 Autism conference at Adelphi University in April. I have also participated on a panel for GRASP about Spectrumites in their communities of faith. I am also working on assisting GRASP with starting a support group in the boro of NYC that I live in.

Tania:   Sybelle, I want to thank you for your time and for being a mentor Asperchic role model and part of the AspienWoman Mentor Project. You are inspirational and I wish you all the best with your application to take up residence on the Planet Mars. Very exciting!  Please keep us up-to-date on your achievements.

Sybelle:   Thanks for selecting me as a person of interest 🙂 I hope that through those such as yourself, we are appreciated for the things we contribute to society, instead of being looked upon as being a mistake that must be corrected.


Tania Marshall. 2013.  All rights reserved. Duplication in whole or part is explicitly forbidden. Thank you.

Aspienwoman Mentor Interview Series: Actress Olley Edwards

This is my 6th Interview of people involved in the world of Autism or Asperger Syndrome. Previous interviews of mine include: Professor Uta Frith, Maja Toudal, Kathy Hoopman, Lynn Marshall, Rich Everts and The United States of Autism Movie.

This interview is the second in a series where I interview Mentor Aspienwomen from a variety of countries about their lives, Asperger Syndrome, their gifts and talents and more! Actress Olley Edwards is a professional actress from the United Kingdom and an Aspienwoman mentor, who seriously advocates for female Asperger Syndrome through by making a movie and writing a book about the condition.

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Tania: Welcome Olley and great to have you on join a phenomenal group of female mentors, in this interview series and future book!

Olley: Tania, thank-you for inviting me and it is a pleasure and a bit of a mission of mine to advocate for females with Asperger Syndrome.

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Tania: I came across you in my research on female Asperger Syndrome. I had initially heard about you in terms of this incredible movie that you were making, at the time, called “The Kindest Label”. When I read your script I was very impressed. I also want to say that I love the title of the movie because one of the most common comments I come across for not having a female formally diagnosed is the stigma of a ‘label’. Please tell us about your movie?

Olley: ‘The Kindest Label’ is a short 20 minute film about the importance of an early diagnosis of females with Asperger Syndrome and the consequence of a late or missed diagnosis. The movie told from the view point of lead role “Belle”, not only as an adult with a late diagnosis but also by Belle’s younger self experiencing the lack of understanding and support she should have had. Belle is a complex adult with addiction issues living in temporary accommodation. She is trying to rebuild her life now that she has received her late diagnosis at 26. Her younger self who tells her story in flashback scenes is a clever and bright young girl who has very little support in school and in safeguarding issues.‘The Kindest label’ also shows the adult Belle, with scenes of how she now can see how her life could have been happier if she had been diagnosed sooner. It shows just how Belle’s life could have been with Asperger Syndrome, the “The Kindest Label” she ever had.

‘The Kindest Label’ is going to be entered into as many film festivals in UK and Internationally as possible, My aims by doing this are to raise awareness, (open a few eyes and prick up a few ears) and to hope that someone with the expertise, money and contacts likes it enough to make it into a feature film for a global audience. My film is intense, information packed, hard hitting snap shot at late diagnostic consequences but it could easily be expanded upon to make a ground-breaking feature. The movie aims at raising awareness and changing the perception of “what female AS” looks like forever.

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Tania: How can people view ‘The Kindest Label’?

Olley: Due to festival regulations, I am unable to post film online until after festival use, to raise awareness in the meantime I am arranging private screenings and will endeavour to take film into secondary/high schools to use along with my book to talk about female Asperger Syndrome.

Tania: You directed this movie and you are an actress yourself?

Olley: I wrote, co-directed and acted in “The Kindest Label”. Luckily, being an actress, I have great actor, director, cameraman friends who came on board and gave up their free time and talent to make this happen. Playing Belle as an adult was a pleasure as well as hard work , to prepare myself for the “homeless addict” role didn’t wash my hair for 8 days and it also meant filming with no make-up or glamour, this felt very vulnerable as its normally these “costumes” as such that help me feel more confident when acting. I am however more than pleased with the end result as Belle is a very guarded yet unconfident young woman and that shows on tape.

Tania: How did you get involved in acting?

Olley: I started acting at a very young age; it started with dance lessons at 4 which grew into attending South Hill Park, the local arts centres drama classes every Saturday by 8yrs old. I became obsessed or should I say, hyperfocused with entertainment and was interviewing pop groups on Saturday morning TV by 10. I loved entertaining of any kind and took part in local productions and the school plays. My school was just a normal state school, it was huge, scary and I hated it. I went for one reason and one reason only, we had a great theatre and I use to skip PE and any lesson I could go unnoticed in just to pretend it was my drama lesson and go there instead. The teachers soon realised what I was up to but they let me get away with it most of the time. I got the role of the Artful dodger in the main school play, I prepared for this by constantly watching Oliver on VHS and copying the role of dodger over and over again. It was a boy’s role but loved playing a boy and was convincing enough to receive the school drama award for it. The next year I started lessons at a very well-known London Drama school. I only went one day a week but it was always the best day of the week. I felt so at home there and was offered a small role in Disney movie, which I couldn’t take up on, however the head offered me a full scholarship. Sadly I couldn’t attend fulltime as we lived to far away and the lodgings were very expensive. I can remember crying for a whole day in my room. I must have had the whole street thinking what a spoilt brat I was. I know now I wasn’t a spoilt brat, I was having a meltdown and unable to continue with my subject of hyperfocus.

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I’ve always been an extremist 100% in or 100% out. Very black and white thinking. To me this meant I could never act again and I went downhill into an extreme teenage rebellion by the age of 13. I had replaced the friend and buzz of acting with secret drinking, drugs, you name it. This resulted in a teenage pregnancy by 15.

From the moment I knew I was to be a mum my hyperfocus was just that. To be the best mum I could be. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but I loved being a young mum and I felt truly blessed. I was married by 18 and had my 2 other daughters within that marriage. My obsession was 100% on parenting and housekeeping. I lived in constant anxiety that I wasn’t the perfect mum, developed OCD and insisted on everything being lined up a certain way, certain coloured ornaments in in certain rooms and felt so empty that I started to diet a lot, weighing just 6.5 stone at 22. I was very happy being a mum. I live for the girls, I loved the routine of marriage but I did feel like I was just playing another role and something was missing. I felt I was never good enough but I was a great mum and wife I just had a huge chunk of my identity missing.

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After my divorce, I had these awful voids of time where children were at their dads and step mum’s, I filled this void (which I can only liken to having 3 limbs removed) to go back to my first love, acting. My acting has gone strength to strength and even if I’m sleep deprived I feel acting energises me mentally. As any mum knows you have to put a brave face on a lot, any single mum with several children on spectrum will tell you how that brave face may as well be super glued on some days! Acting is once again, my safe place, whereby I can have escapology, display emotions, spend time with others, and cry on demand if required too….with ease.

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Tania: I have provided formal diagnoses and personally know many actors/actresses with Asperger Syndrome. Your own daughter Honey is also an actress and has Asperger Syndrome. She also starred in your movie. Did Honey naturally follow your footsteps, in terms of acting?

Olley: Honey has many talents. It would have been unfair for me to push her on the stage all “pushy mum”- esque. Honey also loves reading, history and sci fi. Honey is a really intelligent young girl but this intelligence was leading her to be very isolated and she was spending huge chunks of time alone in her room, not hours, not days but up to a week at a time in summer holidays. With the help of a bursary from South Hill Park, the same Arts centre I went to as a child, Honey was given a small role in the Easter show. I will never forget the first day when the teacher asked me if I knew Honey could sing. Actually, no , I didn’t know she could sing, Honey was almost mute at home after being drained from school. The first time I saw Honey acting and singing on stage I couldn’t believe it. It was like looking at a different child. Her Aspergers leaves the building the moment she is on stage or in front of a camera. As a result her confidence is so much more improved and she still receives a place every summer and Easter at South Hill Park. Honey also had the lead in a short film “A Fathers Gift” and the lead in ‘The Kindest Label’, my Aspergers film.

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Tania: How is the diagnostic process in the UK?

Olley: The diagnostic criteria in the UK has well improved since I was younger. The doctors who diagnosed my two daughters were outstanding! Honey was diagnosed very quickly with Aspergers at 6 and Cherish was diagnosed with standard Autism at only 2 years (however I believe her to be more Aspergers). The criteria for teen girls, young women and adult women though I feel, is shocking. Female Aspergers looks so different to male Aspergers and women are still going misdiagnosed. Many of the Asperger traits look a lot like depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder but they are merely co-morbid conditions to undiagnosed Asperger Syndrome.

Tania: Has Honey’s diagnosis and the new research on female Asperger Syndrome caused you to seek a diagnosis for yourself?

Olley: My parents have been and always are very supportive, In the midst of my teenage rebellion they sought help for me after I refused to go to school, spent hours alone in my room and had full blown tantrums (better referred as ‘meltdowns’). The doctor they saw called me lazy and washed his hands of me. After the routine of marriage I felt I was getting more and more anxious again, and with the fact I had two daughters on the Spectrum made me seek my diagnosis at last. The doctor I saw said on paper I was very Asperger’s, scoring sky high on a paper test. The Doctor however insisted that I couldn’t possibly be Aspergers on the basis I spoke about acting a lot (apparently people with Aspergers can’t act) and the fact I maintained eye contact (I stare).

I don’t know what he expected me to look like? Perhaps wearing a anorak and reciting train time tables (I do actually own an anorak and yes I do know the London train route a little bit too well but I also know not to make it common knowledge)?

I found it a puzzle as Honey is a great actress yet she is Aspergers? I wondered if females and males on spectrum presented differently. I went onto Google to research the differences in male and female Aspergers. The criteria felt like someone had watched me from birth and taken notes. I felt a rush of relief and sent it to as many friends as possible. I know in my heart I have Asperger’s, and I will now gain an official diagnosis outside the UK. My aim to do this isn’t to get support or services perse. I am 31 now, I cannot get my schooling or teen years back. It’s not even to let my inner rebel have her day and wave it in the face of the UK doctor who said Aspergers people can’t act. It is because, at last, I have my identity, my missing puzzle piece and above all I am proud of whom I am and that is an Aspienwoman, an adult female with Asperger Syndrome.

Tania: How do you think having Asperger Syndrome helps in terms of being a great actress or actor?

Olley: Females with Aspergers don’t make good actors, they are BORN actors. Neurotypicals spend thousands to learn method acting at university, but female Aspergers method act, without even knowing from day one. They are chameleon, watching people’s actions, mannerisms, accents and language and mimic this to get by, to socialise, to communicate. Acting is an Aspien girls second language, almost like being bilingual.

Tania: Now, not only have you made a movie about female Asperger Syndrome, but you mentioned earlier you have written a book entitled ‘Why Aren’t Normal People Normal? A Girl’s Survival Guide to Growing up With Asperger Syndrome’.

Olley: Yes, I have just finished it this past weekend and it is more of a guidebook for girls, in terms of what will help and support them as they develop.

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Tania: Where can people purchase your book?

Olley: I am just now putting the final touches on my book. Once that is done, people can purchase it. I will let you know the details once we have it all set in place

Tania: It has been a real pleasure to interview you and you are such an inspiration to the many females with Asperger Syndrome. Thank-you for a fabulous interview and for doing what you do for the many females all over the world with Asperger Syndrome.

Olley: Thank-you for interviewing me and providing a platform like this where people can and learn more about female Asperger Syndrome, mentors, information and resources.

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Tania Marshall©. 2013. AspienWoman Interview Mentor Series. All rights reserved. Duplication in whole or part is explicitly forbidden. Thank you.