Using Her Voice in a Rewarding Career

Headshot of Nefertiti Matos Olivares

It’s impressive enough to be the first person who is blind to provide live audio description for the Oscars. But knowing that Nefertiti Matos Olivares has only been doing voice acting for a little more than two years is almost hard to believe. 

But it’s true. Nefertiti had other work in her career trajectory (more on that later). Still, in 2023, she was chosen, along with another live audio describer, to “represent and lead by example,” she says. The opportunity came from her boss at Descriptive Video Works, where she serves as Workflow Manager for Quality and Inclusion. Chief among her responsibilities is identifying and uplifting other blind and low vision talent into all aspects of the Audio Description creation process.

“Not to toot my own horn, but I’m talented at doing live, on-the-spot description along with more traditional studio work,” Nefertiti says. “Specific to high-pressure moments like performing live AD, take the Oscars for example. I was there when Jimmy Kimmel jumped from a fighter jet and landed on the stage of the Dolby Theater – it was quite an exhilarating experience. And I’m very hopeful that this will be work that breaks down barriers and opens doors for others.”

Pursuing her dreams, no matter what 

Nefertiti is a first-generation American of Dominican heritage. She’s the first in her family to do many things, including going to college and having two careers. After spending seven years in assistive technology and instruction for the New York Public Library, she is now a bilingual professional voice talent specializing in creating culturally competent audio description and narration. 

She was born sighted, but when she was about three years old, she was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. The tumor was removed surgically, but it resulted in vision loss. Although Nefertiti has a little vision, she identifies as blind. She reads braille, uses a white cane and screen readers. 

After completing high school, she began college but was diagnosed with kidney failure. Thanks to a kidney donation from her mother, Nefertiti survived and returned to college in her 20s. There, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Community and Human Services. She considered social work and other careers that could let her advocate for people with disabilities. However, she was offered the position at the New York Public Library’s Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library. Nefertiti jumped at the chance. 

Although she enjoyed her work there, Nefertiti ultimately decided that transitioning to a career she felt deeply excited about was important. After some reflection, she realized her passion was for voiceover work and voice acting – specifically audio description.  

Putting her natural talent to work 

Nefertiti was clearly destined for this career. Although she’s enrolled in a learn-at-your-own-pace voiceover academy, she started landing high-profile work while working on the program.  

She runs a group called the Social Audio Description Collective, a remote team of professionals who want to fill gaps in the audio description space. The team includes people of color, women, LGBTQ people, older adults, people who speak other languages, and more. What began as volunteerism to advocate for greater inclusion turned into paying opportunities. Members of the collective have provided descriptions for an exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, for the U.S. National Park Service, and much more.  

But even in the early days of the Collective, while Nefertiti was taking the brave step of going after work in a new field, she was noticed by the studio head of Descriptive Video Works – who created a position for her based on her skill sets and experience. 

“He also liked what I represent,” Nefertiti says. “I’m Brown, I’m blind, I’m multiply disabled due to my chronic illnesses. He took notice of all those things and saw the value, and we negotiated something that works for both of us – and for the community at large, too.” 

Shining bright for herself and others 

The rest of the world is clearly taking notice as well. Nefertiti has landed many high-profile projects for clients, including for the Screen Actors Guild and Apple. She’s done audio description narration for many independent films, the Emmy Award-winning short My Disability Roadmap, and Netflix’s Jennifer Lopez: Halftime. In addition, she provides audio description for museums and cultural institutions like Lincoln Center and does ongoing work with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  

In addition to facilitating panels and workshops on Audio Description, Nefertiti has also met with TV network executives and representatives from top streaming services to lobby for more audio description, believing that her advocacy is directly tied to representation. 

“We are people like anyone else, with our gifts and deficiencies, and personally, I believe that it is my responsibility to put that out into the world,” Nefertiti says. “I recommend that people explore their interests. Find the kind of work that makes you excited to get up in the morning – and put yourself out there. I think that there is a real need for us to be seen out and about simply living our lives, with a goal of finding and spreading joy wherever we can in whatever way fits best.”

Watch Nefertiti’s audio description for the latest Google Pixel Commercial

Learn more: 

Watch Nefertiti’s episode of Career Conversations talking about her career experiences.