How beautiful would it be to live in a world where you have the total freedom to be yourself?
Have you ever looked up the word “disabled” in the thesaurus? Weakened, lame, maimed, helpless, powerless, incapable, worn-out, out-of-action, broken, bedridden, mutilated, challenged, invalid, useless, deactivated, done for, done in, wrecked, mangled – these words far from describe me as a person.
Is this how society perceives me?
I am quite the opposite – strong, helpful, powerful, capable, ready for action, whole, always on the go (thanks to my six month old baby), challenging, valid and useful. What if I was a young disabled person seeing these awful words for the first time? I would feel hurt, sad, and certainly not confident. Maybe I would even believe it.
I remember back in 2008 a model was being interviewed at London Fashion Week – she said: ‘New York Fashion Week would rather burn down than see a disabled person appear on the runway’. Fast forward six years, Carrie Hammer casted Dr Danielle Sheypuk (a wheelchair user) to model in her debut show at NYFW. Carrie’s goal was to show off her collection and change the world – how incredible is that!
NYFW are leading the way when it comes to disability inclusion on the catwalk. FTL Moda consistently use models with disabilities in their shows with the support of Chris Collie, Editor in Chief of Fashion Week Online. FTL Moda producer IIaria Niccolini celebrates diverse beauty at its finest and breaks barriers by creating a platform for the most under-represented group in fashion.
I am grateful to the decision makers in fashion who do recognise the power in diversity. Diversity is trendy, diversity is cool, and diversity sells. The Diesel #Reboot campaign is a fine example of this, Artistic director Nicola Formichetti casted a beautifully unique set of models, including Jillian Mercado a model with a disability – the campaign was strong, creative and powerful.
Beauty is not one dimensional.
Beauty should not be defined by ability, size, age or colour – beauty is for everyone.
Disabled. I have never liked the word. It sounds so negative and dated doesn’t it?
I am proud of my uniqueness and believe individuality should be celebrated. Why try and blend in when you were born to stand out?! I refuse to be labelled. I am not a robot, or a carbon copy. I am a human being. My arm does not define me as a person. It is just part of me, like every other part is.
I want every young disabled person to know it is perfectly OK to be you, to love and accept their different body, love their uniqueness and follow their dreams, no matter what.Through my work, I want to change the way the world sees disability and crush these stereotypes.
Young disabled people need role models, not just in sport and especially in the creative industries. Disabled people are creative by nature after all. We have to be.Fashion has the power to positively change other people’s lives and being a role model is something I hold very close to my heart.
As a young girl / teenager, I read all the “in” magazines such as Sugar, Bliss and Shout – I cannot remember ever wondering why there wasn’t a girl like me in the magazines, but if there was, I might have been more accepting of my different body during my transition from childhood to teens.
In this media driven society, more and more people are suffering from depression, anxiety and low self-worth – is this because of the unachievable standard of perfection portrayed by the fashion industry? Heavily airbrushed celebs? Filters on Instagram photos? Imperfection is not ugly; society’s obsession with perfection is ugly.
There are around 11.9 million disabled people in the UK; this is almost 1 in 5 people and roughly 19% of the population. Consumers with disabilities are the largest untapped market with high street brands missing out on the estimated £1.8 billion a month.
Surely it is in a brands best interest to use a disabled model in their advertising campaign?
Not just the once, but consistently.
The lack of disabled models on the scene makes disabled people feel non-existent, let alone beautiful or fashionable. Consumers want to be empowered by the images we see, not oppressed. I would like to see disability normalised in fashion.
Make a disabled model the face and ambassador of your brand; be proud to be part of a positive change, creating the future of beauty, for the revolution of fashion.
My dreams are valid, my goals are big, and my ambition is strong.
I am not a trend, craze or the new little black dress – I am here for the long haul, for all seasons.