Disability and the face of beauty

It’s no secret that disability in the media is often represented a certain way, whether this be in a film, TV show or documentary I can’t help but think it’s often used as an inspiration, if disability is ever represented at all.

However one place that disability is rarely seen is the fashion and beauty industry.

I enjoy flicking through the pages of Vogue or scrolling through the hundreds of images of models on Instagram but where are the models with disabilities? I know there’s an argument that the fashion industry is false and is based on unrealistic expectations of beauty but that doesn’t mean disabled people should be excluded.

Disability affects 1 in 6 people and can be something that can affect anyone at any time. I’m slowly learning to accept the way my body looks due to the Cerebral Palsy and Scoliosis, I do think the battle around self image would be easier if disability was seen in mainstream media and not in an inspirational way but in an equality way.

There have been attempts and some progress in disability being seen in the industry with BBC’s documentary series Britain’s Missing Top Model where a group of aspiring models with disabilities were in competition to win a cover shoot for magazine Marie Claire. Watching the series as an impressionable teenager I definitely felt like it was a step in the right direction, but like a lot of tricky concepts and movements it seemed liked the idea was a one-off event that was until recently.

During a daily scroll through Instagram I decided to search the hashtag ‘Disabled model’ and I came across the model @ChelseyJay and the campaigning movement Models of Diversity. The purpose of the campaign is to have a greater diversity in the fashion industry and this includes those with disabilities.

There are a number of reasons why I believe that this movement is particularly important and one of those is about acceptance. It would be a lie to tell you that I haven’t been affected by these images like a lot of women but my disability has and does have an affect on how I see myself, particularly on occasions when I get a stupid comment about the way my body looks. I feel that if disability was seen and accepted in the beauty and fashion industry then prejudices and issues around acceptance would be reduced.

As much as we in society might not want to admit that the glamourised industry doesn’t affect the way we view beauty, we consume these images everyday and from a young age, so why can’t an aspiring model with a disability break into the industry when disability for many is a normal part of everyday life. In an ideal world and with the help of campaigns like Models of Diversity models with disabilities will be seen but not as models with disabilities but as models in their equal right.

Slowly but surely disability is making its way into the world of fashion with disabled models seen on the runway at this year’s New York Fashion Week and amputee model Viktoria Modesta who was signed to major modeling agency IMG Models earlier this year. So now it’s onwards and upwards for breaking the barrier between disability and beauty standards.


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