In my previous post, I talked about the reaction I always get at formal events when people see me with Erica Kane (that’s my cane’s name). At some point, someone says to me, “You look great. Can I take a picture of you? Just put away your cane because it ruins your dress.” But beauty doesn’t end where disability begins. I ended by asking you, “What is beauty?” While everyone has their own definition of beauty, the influence of the fashion industry (for better and for worse) cannot be denied. When the average person sees 200 ads a day, fashion impacts impressionable youth and adults (male and female) who have body image issues. Thankfully, some fashion campaigns are now including models with disabilities.
Diesel’s artistic director, Nicola Formichetti, cast, Jillian Mercado, a 26-year old with muscular dystrophy in Diesel’s spring 2014 campaign called “We Are Connected.” Mercado is a wheelchair-bound fashion editor and blogger. Mercado told the Daily Mail that she wants the ad to give hope to people who are maybe saying, “My life is over” because they are disabled. “You can totally do it, nothing should be stopping you.” As someone with Myasthenia Gravis who has many friends with muscular dystrophy, I find Diesel’s campaign inspiring. In addition to Diesel, Nordstrom Inc. included models with disabilities in their summer 2014 catalog. Two of those models included a woman in a wheelchair and man with a prosthetic leg who was modeling Nike shoes.
But what gives me the most hope for diversity in the fashion industry is a nonprofit campaign called Models of Diversity (MoD). MoD’s mission is to see greater diversity in fashion with older models, models of color, larger models, shorter models (including little people), and models with disabilities. Angel Sinclair, a former model, is the founder of MoD. MoD wants to change the way the industry thinks and see it represent the needs of all the fashion public. You can learn more about MoD from the video below, “Catwalk 4 Change” and follow them on Twitter. MoD had a breathtaking spread in the September issue of Handistrong. Fashionably ill was also featured in that issue on the editor’s “Favorite Things List.”
If you’d like to learn more about becoming a model with a disability, you can join this Facebook group.
What Is Beauty To You?
While society still has a ways to go in how it treats people with disabilities, changes in the fashion industry give me hope. Hope for a world where disability ≠ less attractive. Hope for a world where illness and beauty are not seen as mutually exclusive. Hope for a world where everyone is invited to the party. Your turn: What do you consider beautiful? Who is beautiful to you? Until my next post, you can catch me and other Fashionably ill (FI) readers on Facebook.
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–Your Stylist, Jessica Gimeno