Hailing from New York City, New York. An alumnus of Lexington School for the Deaf ’96 and Gallaudet University ’03. She is a producer, actor, business professional and activist. She sees herself as a “Jack of All Trades” Indo-Caribbean American woman. Maleni Chaitoo is passionate in everything she pursues in: from being an educator of American Sign Language to visual storytelling. She recently took some time from her busy, hectic schedule to do an exclusive interview with The Silent Grapevine (TSG).
What was the last project you headed up, and what was its outcome?
We wrapped up the shoot of Don’t Shoot The Messenger for episode five to seven just recently. The outcome was so good even though some of the scenes were challenging so it will be a challenge during the post production. We are currently working in the post production period. Exciting!
What do you look for in terms of culture — structured or entrepreneurial?
Is #deaftalent something you want included within your culture?
Yes. We do hire #deaftalent in our cast and crew. We want to show everyone that #deaftalent actors are professionals and can do just as good or better than hearing professionals. I would like them to be more involved in Hollywood and Independent entertainment industry regardless of their deafness.
Tell us about your proudest achievement.
My Don’t Shoot The Messenger team and I were so proud to receive the Loreen Arbus Disability Awareness Grant in the front of over two thousand Hearing attendees at the New York Women in Film and TV Muse Awards Luncheon on December 8th, 2016. I was quite amazed, inspired, and honored to see all of these attendees laughing at a short video clip of me playing Kayla character in the episode 3. It was amazing sharing our joy with our audiences.
Was there a person in your career who really made a difference?
Sofia Seitchik, life coach and a friend of mine. Before I jumped into the acting career, she signed to me, “You are an entrepreneurial person at heart.”
What is your greatest fear?
Sign Language is not existed.
What is your goal with Don’t Shoot The Messenger?
To promote the web series to the broad audiences and to shift their perspective of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing people and sign language to be positive and open to everyone. To inspire Hearing parents of Deaf child that they do have a bright future by acquiring sign language. To educate the Hearing audiences that sign language interpreters should be provided full communication access for both of Deaf and Hearing people. That means that they should have access anywhere… at events, meetings, and etc. My hope is that all our audiences enjoy the series in their own language and learn more about American Sign Language and to enjoy laughing together amusing awkward situations.
— Maleni Chaitoo (@MaleniChaitoo) October 29, 2016
Maleni Chaitoo and her team recently won the Loreen Arbus Disability Awareness grant. It is a $7,500 grant that is awarded to a woman filmmaker on physical or developmental disability issues. Loreen Arbus is known as an advocate for women and people with disabilities. Maleni will be using the grant to produce three more episodes (episodes 5-7) of “Don’t Shoot the Messenger”!
— Maleni Chaitoo (@MaleniChaitoo) December 9, 2016
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Completely Silly Random Questions:
What’s the most important thing you learned in school?
Tolerance. I learned this word from my former superintendent of Lexington School for the Deaf, Dr. Oscar P. Cohen. I grew up surrounding with students and teachers that came from various backgrounds: different races, different religions, different cultures, different sex orientations, and different disabilities, etc. All of us had one thing in common— we’re human beings.
There’s no right or wrong answer, but if you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?
Syria. I would like to take care of the innocent people and animals during the Syrian Conflict. I do not want to be a hero. No. I am just want to be a simple person who wants to help them out, to be sure that they are in a safe place, and to empower them by educating them to be better people so they can run their own democratic country. We can learn from each others in positive ways regardless of my deafness. I would like to be a role model for Deaf children, adults, and their families as well. They would be my role models as well.
Who are your heroes?
Too many! They helped me lots during my childhood and adulthood. They are definitely my heroes.
If you could choose one superhero power, what would it be and why?
Storm, the X-Men team. I honor my friend Karl Alexander Ewan who named me after I got a new hairstyle that I looked like actress Halle Berry who played the Storm role in the X-Men films. Storm and I have pretty lots in commons. I love flying — to visit my relatives and friends all over the world. To be able to go about anytime without recharging, to be able to control the weather— to create more snow so I can ski downhill! I would love to provide homes for animals in the north and south poles, having healthy relationship with international diplomats, and socializing with people in different languages. No limits.
If you could get rid of any one of the US states, which one would you get rid of and why?
Hawaii. They deserve to run their own native nation. I believe they would be quite organic, stunning, and well respected country with colorful pride. They can speak in their mother tongue and practice their traditional/modern civilization. Personally, I never traveled there before but I can imagine I would love to appreciate and participate in their customs very much.
My favorite part: The questionnaire concept was originated by French television personality Bernard Pivot on his show Apostrophes, after the Proust Questionnaire.
The ten questions Lipton asks are:
- What is your favorite word? Yes
- What is your least favorite word? No
- What turns you on? Witty humor
- What turns you off? Body odor
- What sound or noise do you love? Pop/Rock/Hip hop music
- What sound or noise do you hate? Vibration especially my alarm clock
- What is your favorite curse word? F-word
- What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Holistic Physician
- What profession would you not like to do? Accountant
- If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? It would be amusing when the god signs to me, “Let’s go lime!” (Lime, the slang word that uses in Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies.)
Website – https://about.me/malenichaitoo
IMDd profile – http://www.imdb.com/name/nm4248066/?ref_=nv_sr_1
Linked In profile – https://www.linkedin.com/in/malenichaitoo
YouTube channel – https://www.youtube.com/user/MaleniChaitoo