Chicago, IL – The Define American Film Festival (DAFF) has confirmed that New York Times bestselling author and former wrestling champion AJ Mendez will attend the festival in Chicago this year as a panelist.
She will join prominent immigration activist and former Bernie Sanders press secretary Erika Andiola; Alaa Basatneh, a Chicago-based Syrian-American who helped orchestrate the Syrian Revolution from afar and was the subject of the film “#ChicagoGirl: The Social Network Takes on a Dictator”; and award-winning poet and Define American Artist-in-Residence Yosimar Reyes to discuss patterns of global migration and how it intersects with mental health.
Mendez said: “As a mental health advocate of Puerto Rican heritage with family who was directly affected by Hurricane Maria, I’m looking forward to having an honest and real conversation at DAFF about some of the on-the-ground realities of the disaster’s effects, including the toll it is taking on people and their families. It’s important to connect what is going on in Puerto Rico – which is, as many forget, a part of America – to experiences of trauma and migration around the world.”
“Define American couldn’t be more thrilled to have AJ at DAFF this year,” said Elizabeth Grizzle Voorhees, Executive Producer of DAFF and Managing Director of Define American’s Creative Initiatives division. “AJ’s resilience after having overcome so many personal struggles and turning them into opportunities for advocacy on behalf of others is truly inspiring. Already a role model for so many young female wrestling fans, her work as a mental health advocate and in helping to raise awareness for Puerto Rican relief efforts will provide a fresh voice and valuable perspective for our audience at DAFF Chicago, especially in conversation with our other panelists about global migration.”
The conversation will take place on Sunday, April 22nd at 2:50 PM following the screening of This Is Home: An intimate portrait of four Syrian families arriving in Baltimore, Maryland and struggling to find their footing. The film will be used as a conversation starter and to tie us into the larger migration narrative in the United States right now.
About AJ Mendez
AJ Mendez is the New York Times Bestselling author of Crazy Is My Superpower: How I Triumphed by Breaking Bones, Breaking Hearts, and Breaking the Rules. She is a mental health advocate and animal rights activist, currently serving as an ambassador for the nonprofit organizations NAMI, The JED Foundation, The ASPCA, and Girls Make Games. A former professional wrestler with the WWE under the ring name AJ Lee, she has won three championships and numerous awards, as well as inspired a generation of young girls to wear sensible shoes. AJ has been made into several video game characters and action figures, all with substantially exaggerated body measurements. In her spare time she enjoys comic books, video games, and internet videos of unusual animal friendships. She is currently working with the producers of the “Genius” franchise to turn “Crazy is My Superpower” into a TV series, which she will write and executive produce. Find her on Twitter and Instagram at @TheAJMendez, and online at TheAJMendez.com.
About Define American
Define American is the nation’s leading non-profit media organization that fights injustice and anti-immigrant hate through the power of storytelling. Through event curation, media consulting and creation, and grassroots organizing, Define American jumpstarts widespread culture change around citizenship, race and identity in a changing America. It was founded in 2011 by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Emmy-nominated filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas. For more information, visit DefineAmerican.com.
About the Define American Film Festival
After seeing the impact of its award-winning pro Documented (CNN) and White People (MTV), Define American launched DAFF in 2016 amid growing anti-immigrant sentiment and debate over American values during the Iowa caucuses. Since then, DAFF has visited a new city every year, including Des Moines and Charlotte just last year. DAFF uniquely brings together journalists and experts in film and activism. DAFF is proud to have sold out 100% of its screenings, and accumulated more than a half-million views of streamed panel discussions, and over 9 million collective impressions across Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. DefineAmerican.com/filmfest