St. Louis woman without arms has fame, but no job

Sunday, October 7, 2012

ST. LOUIS -- YouTube videos have made a 25-year-old St. Louis County woman an Internet star. Now, if Tisha Shelton could only find a job.

Shelton was born without arms and has gained a great deal of attention from posting videos that show how she gets by -- simple things such as making and eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or getting dressed.

"I tell people this is my 15 minutes of fame," she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last week.

The videos went viral, surpassing 1.6 million hits total, and she's been featured on CNN, MSN, AOL and the Huffington Post. Three production companies have called to discuss the possibility of a reality show.

But Shelton said the videos don't pay the bills. She's seeking employment, hoping for something in graphic design since she has an associate degree in graphic communications. Previously, she has worked for schools and at a pizzeria.

Shelton, whose father is a Palestinian living in Jordan and whose mother works at a downtown St. Louis bank, was urged by a speaker from NextStep Employment Services to use social media to advertise her abilities and relieve fears employers might have about her disabilities.

In the videos, Shelton uses her feet as others use their hands, helped by physical therapy and exercise she had as a child.

"I was born without arms," she said. "So it was not something I thought about as a small child. You don't think about what you've never had. If you want to pick something up, you use your toes."

Doctors never figured out why she was born without arms. None of her four siblings had similar afflictions.

The lack of arms never got in the way of her jobs, either, including after-school work at Imo's Pizza.

There were no specially equipped phones at the restaurant. She picked up the receiver with one of her feet, and used toes from the other foot to put the order into the computer.

Carl Imo, who runs the restaurant, started a fund to raise money to buy her a specially equipped car she could drive with her feet. He bought her a new 2005 Toyota that she still drives.

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