Two years later, at only 5-foot-4 and 230-pounds, Wes was non-athletic and vastly overweight. As a single father, working full-time, he had just won sole custody of his daughter. But only five days after his 24th birthday (January of 2012), everything changed dramatically. As he was walking back to his car, Wes was shot multiple times, with one bullet slicing through his chest and fracturing a rib. The other entered his abdomen, partially severing his spine, paralyzing him below the waist. He’d never met his shooter.
Two years later, at only 5-foot-4 and 230-pounds, Wes was non-athletic and vastly overweight as a single father, working full time at an auto finance company and had just won sole custody of his then 2-year-old daughter. But only 5 days after his 24th birthday (January of 2012), everything about Wes’s life changed dramatically. As he was walking back to his car, Wes was shot multiple times, with one bullet slicing through his chest and fracturing a rib. The other entered his abdomen, partially severing his spine and paralyzing him below the waist. The shooter was a guy he’d never met.
Wes spent the next three years in recovery, which also included two of those years fighting the severe emotional depression that arose from his belief that his life would forever be bedeviled by medications, surgeries and limitations.
But for the overwhelming love he had for his daughter, Wes knew he had to set an example for Nevaeh. He started down a path of taking ownership back in his life. He started a fitness and nutrition regiment, which was completely foreign to him – as he never ate healthy a day in his life, nor had any experience exercising. Wes learned everything he could about nutrition and started cooking (and now is known for his culinary skills). The fitness side of everything also took off, and in the first year lead him to lose 100 pounds – which is incredible, especially for a man who doesn’t have the use of his legs. He became a powerhouse of inspiration and felt his transformation had the potential to help others who are struggling similar battles, so he founded a non-profit called, Disabled But Not Really (DBNR). DBNR has helped so many individuals with disabilities (not just physical) to feel empowered and has helped so many lives overcome any mental limitations they may have – which is the driving force of the organization. The passion Wes has for DBNR is evident by its expansion. DBNR joins community events to raise awareness about the role of good mental and physical health in overcoming life’s challenges. It has expanded a scholarship program for disabled individuals who learn ways to improve their nutrition and fitness, as well as support the homeless population in his hometown of Kansas City providing dignity care packages, water, and food. Wes has been recognized many times for his entrepreneurial success, and has been honored with a number of philanthropic awards.
Wes has also spent the past four years being recognized role-model in the Crossfit Community, winning a number of bodybuilding competitions, even being featured in Men’s Health Magazine climbing a rope with his wheelchair. He has had the opportunity to speak to many community groups, schools, universities, organizations and associations sharing his story and inspiring so many lives. He has a stack of hero letters from all ages thanking him for sharing his story. Wes transformed yet again when working with the Fab Five on Season 4 of the Netflix hit show, Queer Eye, who taught him how to be true to himself, leaving him humbled by the experience. Wes believes that the highest human act is to inspire – and knows that is his purpose in life.
- Change the Way the World Sees Disabilities
Despite the attempts for many organizations to embrace inclusivity, there is still a lack of disability awareness training. During this session, Wesley will provide a breakdown of common misconceptions people have around disabilities. He will also share a number of accessibility challenges he faces every day, which may be impacting your business without you even knowing it. By the end, Wes will help enable your team to develop a more empathetic and understanding culture by removing any barriers that may exist. In turn, it will also create a working environment for your organization that welcomes and accommodates new and existing employees with disabilities.
- Overcoming Any Obstacle By Allowing Disruption
Most people in life understand adversity but how many of us welcome it? In this keynote, Wesley will take you on a journey of how to overcome obstacles by truly embracing them. He will teach you how to accept things that may seem questionable; and how to find a positive lesson in all things. Our life is shaped by about 10% of what happens to us, and 90% of how we react to those happenings. In this incredibly inspirational talk, Wesley will also provide an understanding on how to value your life in a way that adversity becomes something we embrace because the rewards are endless!
- Understanding the Black Perspective
After the death of George Floyd in 2020, many organizations and institutions started taking accountability of the racial bias that has kept people of color hindered for so long. During this public speaking talk, Wesley shares his experience of what it means to grow up in the inner-city, as well as embodying all the stereotypes that are projected upon a black community. Wesley also shares his story of who he was before the accident and why he was so willing to accept a life of death or imprisonment due to the lack of leadership and opportunities available to those living in underserved communities. This powerful keynote is meant to educate and provide a perspective to those who may not fully understand what it is like.
- From Paralyzed to Purpose Driven
Wesley Hamilton’s journey after surviving multiple gunshots in his abdomen will inspire every human on the earth. His quintessential stories of courage, strength and perseverance resonates with participants long after any talk he’s ever delivered. Wes instills the essential tools of positivity, self-awareness, empowerment, resilience, and acceptance in the face of any challenge. He believes “the highest human act is to inspire” – and that is exactly why he is profoundly affecting human hearts of all ages, races, lifestyles and backgrounds worldwide.
- Mastering Your Potential
Are you ready to take control of your life? Become more aware of who you are? Learn better time management, and goal setting? This keynote is for you. Wesley takes his audience on a journey of learning who they are inside and out addressing wellness, nutrition, well-being and personal/professional development. Wesley shares his stories on how he started a successful non-profit organization; how he stays fit, even winning bodybuilding competitions; how he never lost hope or accepted failure – and teaches his listeners how to do the same. Wes also has a culinary passion, and shares his success secrets on how he lost over 100 pounds. This is a great keynote for all ages, and will leave you with key insights, tools & action steps so that anyone can master their full potential no matter their abilities or circumstances. People can relax and sit back, laugh, learn and feel supported.
- One-On-One Interviews & Media Appearances
More than just public speaking, Wes has shared his story on countless media platforms at this point. From local outlets such as KCTV5, KMBC9, and more, to global outlets such as BBC Radio London, Good Morning America, and CNN, Wesley has inspired audiences around the world to take control of their potential. His transformative makeover with the Queer Eye guys still generates conversation. His CNN Heroes profile If your media organization is looking for unique perspective on people achieving with disability, issues around inclusiveness and intersectionality, or any of the other topics listed on this site, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
“Wesley’s keynote was FANTASTIC!!! Many of the attendees met him around in advance and were excited to hear him speak. Afterwards, there was a line for handshakes, photos and exchanging cards! He was really great, and our members really enjoyed his story!”
--Director – Programming; American Public Transportation Association
“He had my mascara running for sure!”
--VP Meeting & Membership; American Public Transportation Association
“Wesley was GREAT. Everyone really enjoyed him. We all loved, ‘Don't give your energy to something that will not make you better.’"
--LaDenta Smith, CalWORKs Student Support Coordinator