It's rare that reality television provides role models, but Britini D'Angelo, recently seen on the latest season of Big Brother, is a welcomed exception. The amiable and infectiously positive reality star has a resume of accomplishments that makes one wonder: when does she have the time or energy to do it all? An elementary school teacher, dance instructor, and accomplished martial artist (4th-degree black belt in the Chuck Norris System) Britini works hard and navigates it all with an additional challenge.
Diagnosed with Autism at 22 months old, D'Angelo has been determined not to let it limit her future. D'Angelo spoke to me recently about studying Karate, her current message of bringing awareness to Autism, and what she is planning for the future.
D'Angelo started studying Karate when she was 12 years old. Watching her older brother Philip compete and test at the 2009 United Fighting Arts Federation (UFAF) International Training Conference and World Championships made her want to give it a try. "I saw so many people just having so much fun, and competing. I saw my brother having a blast competing. I saw that UFAF and the Chuck Norris System was this grandiose big family, and I wanted to be part of it. And the weapons looked really cool, I'm not gonna lie to you." D'Angelo wasted no time getting started, "We flew back on a Monday from Vegas, and that Tuesday I was in uniform."
Beginning training was the start of a difficult process of overcoming her disability to achieve her goals. D'Angelo describes her struggle, "With me starting at 12, with my disability, was like starting at 9." D'Angelo puts it in perspective. "The four core tenets of the Chuck Norris system are integrity, loyalty, discipline, and respect. And that discipline component was not there for me at age 12." With the support of her family and instructors, D'Angelo stuck with it and pursued her goal, relentlessly.
Now a 4th-degree black belt and a champion competitor having won three world titles at the UFAF World Championship Tournaments, D'Angelo has not forgotten how difficult her journey has been. "It was a tough road of five years to get to that black belt. That's why me getting my black belt, and I got it on October 25 of 2014, that's why that day was so momentous for me, because I, truly, almost quit three times, starting at green belt. And green is not that far away from black." D'Angelo is also quick to acknowledge that the forge of adversity was ultimately beneficial. "I realized that martial arts is a different art and I firmly believe that it is a huge reason why I am the person who I am today."
While a cast member on Big Brother, D'Angelo did not tell the other cast members that she was diagnosed with Autism, "I wanted them to get to know me instead of the diagnosis." D'Angelo plans to use her celebrity to bring more awareness to Autism, and hopefully crush the stereotypes that exist about what people with Autism are capable of achieving. "There is such a focus right now, in terms of Autism, or in terms of any disability for that matter, in terms of what we cannot do, as opposed to what we can do. I'm not really sure where that narrative started, but that narrative needs to flip."
The future is limitless for D'Angelo. Having conquered so many things already, from martial arts and entertainment to teaching and being a shining example for people of all ages, she is wasting no time, and already piling on big, shiny, new goals for the years to come.
D'Angelo is back training and planning to attain her 5th degree in 2024, but she is also pursuing goals in other arts as well. She is a level one instructor in Krav Maga, and would like to learn more."I love Krav and I love training in Krav, because Krav, for me, is very challenging. It's a different mindset and thinking in martial arts."
In addition to martial arts, D'Angelo would like to eventually open a theatre and dance company for children with disabilities. (Check out her TikTok videos) D'Angelo's message of Autism awareness is served by her example as she seeks to crush preconceived perceptions. "We are not these outcasts in society, we are much more similar to you than you think." Hopefully, there will be many more that follow her path. "My story is not the only story that needs to be heard. There are so many stories that need to be heard."