Friday, July 25, 2014

Wonder Models and Wheelchairs: Overcoming Disability to Conquer Runways and Misconceptions

Nordstom recently made waves when it published it's catalogue with Jillian Mercado modeling boots from her wheelchair. Apparently Nordstrom has been proudly using alternatives to the "typical" model since 1997, making a once invisible group of individuals within fashion very public. 

Also featured in the catalogue are Alex Minksy who is seen here agilely stretching with a prosthetic leg...

...and Shaholly Ayers, who so deftly models a handbag, you wouldn't notice that she only has one arm.

Mercado (one of the fiercest models I've ever seen) is becoming one of the voices of the alternative modeling community. Receiving not only the Nordstrom opportunity, but a successful campaign with Diesel as well as interviews are keeping her face (and story) in the media. She doesn't let her condition define nor confine her. Her blog, Manufactured 1987, is as cool and stylish as any of the other style blogs we read daily. The only difference is that instead of standing in front of cool things, she's seated, usually in her power chair.

She and many others are leading the charge awakening the otherwise aloof industry that they are indeed here and, better yet, are more than capable of modeling just as fiercely as Cara Delevinge or Chanel Iman.
But, between you and me, I personally don't see this "addition" of alternative models (as if they were supposed to be excluded) as "cutting edge" or "game changing" as others have called it, rather I say it's about damn time. Thank you, Nordstrom, for helping the discussion along. I'm grateful that at least one large high end department store, along with the ever evolving JCPenney, at least considered the notion to include those who have often been counted out or completely ignored all together. 

The fact that others feel that this is edgy or trendy concerns me. Trends are things that fade in and out of communal favor. But these are people, not trends. And they deserve to have the chance to rock the runway or pose for the camera. Why should a wheelchair or a prosthesis or Down syndrome stop them? Why should we?

Maybe it's time the style, beauty, and fashion industries grow up and realize that we all are not able bodied white 18 year olds wearing size 2 with long hair and carrying a birkin, but rather we all come in many different shapes, shades, sizes, and situations, all of which are beautiful in their own ways and should be accepted, especially within a community that claims to be as progressive and forward thinking as fashion. 

It's about dressing your entire community, even if that part of the community is different than you. It's about addressing the needs of everyone involved in that community, even if it means wheelchair friendly raincoats that are just as stylish as "normal" trenches. It's about redressing all of the misconceptions, the stereotypes, and, especially, the prejudices surrounding this unique and essential part of our community that redefine what we previously believed it meant to be disabled. 

And as I said before...it's about damn time.