The internet has made it easier for people with disabilities to get exposure in the fashion and beauty industries, but there is still work to be done. Over the years, we’ve witnessed the birth of new types of beauty campaigns with more diverse models at the forefront. While in the past, a certain look monopolized the fashion and beauty world. Today we see more shapes and sizes, cultures and ethnicities, and types of disabilities take the stage. The latter is finally receiving more attention and is growing into its own niche.
From Disability to Stardom
Over the years, several brave pioneers have used their disabilities to their advantage. Rather than viewing it as a hindrance, these individuals have shown the world that disabilities are just a different kind of beauty. Disabled models are quickly becoming the norm, with many major brands and agencies signing them. Here are just a few of the types of disabilities that models have flaunted to take the fashion and beauty world by storm.
One of the disabilities that affect many up-and-coming models and many established celebrities is cerebral palsy. Isabella Neville, one of the best-known models, got her modeling break at only thirteen years old. Neville was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was 18 months old. Neville was told by doctors she would never walk. However, she ended up walking, dancing, and playing sports. She fiercely paved the way for other people with disabilities to pursue their dreams when she became a model.
Jillian Mercado is thought by many as the first disabled person to make it big in the modeling world. Now an actor and model for CAA fashion, her outlook wasn’t always so bright. The New York native was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at an early age and had a passion for fashion all her life. After working in the industry for many years, she got her first big break in 2014 for a Diesel campaign and went on to sign a contract the following year. The WHO estimates that 1% of the world needs the assistance of a wheelchair, so seeing this group represented in the beauty industry is quite a big deal.
Down Syndrome is the most common chromosomal birth disorder, according to the CDC. Out of all disabilities, Down Syndrome is probably the least represented in fashion and beauty, but that is rapidly changing. Grace Strobel’s climb to fame is somewhat of a Cinderella story. She went from working in a school lunchroom where she was constantly teased and bullied to getting a dream modeling gig at the age of 24. Today she is the face of Alivia, a groundbreaking fashion label that features prints designed by disabled individuals in their clothing.
The Future of Fashion
Though there are certainly more talented disabled models gracing the covers of fashion magazines and beauty campaigns in recent years, they are still few and far between. However, because so many brands are now open to hiring models with disabilities, that may soon be changing. It may take a few more years, but seeing more disabled models emerge gives us a glimmer of hope. Above all, the current trailblazers paving the way for people with disabilities in the industry serve as an immense inspiration.