Fun Sized: Sophomore dances through dwarfism


Lights on, stage set, music blaring.

Sophomore Hannah Sunil takes center stage on carpeted floor, small feet chafing against it. Her head just barely peeking over the vanity as the mirror reflects her every move.

Suddenly the music stops.

Her head whips around to find a devilish grin on a taller girl, towering more than 3 feet above her. “It’s too loud,” the girl deadpans. A period of peaceful alone time turns into a wrestling match of sisterly bonding.

They roll out of the room, breathless from laughter. There is never a quiet moment in the Sunil house.

For Hannah, life has always been a challenge, or rather a vertical challenge. Technically classified as a dwarf, she prefers to be called a little person. At 3 feet 9 inches, Hannah carries herself with an undaunted attitude, not allowing others’ judgement to hinder her goals, like becoming an occupational therapist.

“People generally treat me normally, not like a person in need,” Hannah said. “My friends treat me like I’m actually there and they don’t recognize me as a little person, but just the same as them.”

Despite her small stature, Hannah is a force to be reckoned with. According to older sister Seena, she’s the more aggressive one in a play fight and is never afraid of asserting her demands. She regards herself with a certain kind of confidence, casting away any doubts of her handicap.

“Just by walking around, being herself, Hannah brings out an essence of being a normal person and no one has to think differently,” Seena said. “She’s good at proving other people wrong just by being herself.”

Just like “normal” people, Hannah finds solace in her hobby: music and dance. From finding videos on YouTube to discovering Dancing for a Cause (DFC) at school, she considers dancing an inhibited passion that she keeps secret.

“When I was younger, I started listening to a lot of music and started to like a lot of the beats and rhythms and want to move around,” Hannah said. “I discovered videos of other people dancing and it sparked an interest in me. And it was something I did all on my own.”

According to Hannah, the major hardships in her life came during elementary years. Sitting amongst her peers, she wished to be a part of their conversations and jokes. But when they would think she was not listening, she would hear whispers behind her back, “She’s so short, can she even reach the door?” However, she found that those comments faded into compliments and genuine concern from others.

“There’re more hardships in things like trying to reach something or staying healthy and trying to interact with people when they don’t really want to talk to you,” Hannah said.

Hannah reaches for the orange juice, perched on the highest shelf in the fridge. Her dad stands nearby, ready to grab it for her. She stops him, “No, Daddy, I can do it.”

Slinking through the hallway, she repeatedly calls out a soft “excuse me” to get through the deluge of a crowd. People often make way for her, lest she get trampled by their tall figures. But Hannah is always able to get through on her own, with or without others’ aid.

“A benefit of being small is that people think of you as privileged rather than someone with a handicap,” Hannah said. “I have easier access to a lot of things because people provide them for me.”

From shopping with her sister to practicing hip hop, Hannah leads a regular life, one that she would never trade.

“Anywhere she goes, she brings her confidence there. Even in the church choir, she sings. She’s not the type of person who steps backwards, but rather a go-getter,” father Zachariah said. She brings happiness anywhere she goes.”