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Gone are the days when fashion was only about stereotypes of perfection.
For years, magazine covers and billboards have dictated the way fashion has been perceived – we all saw size-zero women posing in perfect-looking toned bodies, giving a look of boldness and confidence into the camera while carrying off enviable clothes.
These images fed us the perception that fashion and beauty is about being tall, slim, having the perfect cheekbones, silken hair and the smoothest curves.
Not anymore. Thanks to several progressive minds, dressing is now about shapes rather than sizes, beauty is about happiness more than makeup and sexiness is an attitude.
Photographers and fashion moguls across the world have been focused on making fashion more accessible and inclusive. And one particular photo-shoot pushed the envelope further by shining the spotlight on one particularly ignored section of the society.
I’m talking about people with disabilities, the subjects of a recent trendsetting photoshoot by Models of Diversity. The shoot featured five models with disabilities looking bold and free of inhibition in Swimsuits For All.
The man behind the lens, James Lyon, has been conducting fashion shows that feature disabled models since 2012. He has been responsible for the casting and co-ordination of many such shows, and hopes to eradicate more than just the stigma of disability.
To him, photography is a tool to address the issue of low self-esteem among disabled people. Why should they not be cast as models for brands in fashion, beauty and mass-media?
To represent the people whose disabilities stop them from chasing their modelling dreams, Lyon chose a team of five incredible women – Fran, Dominic, Carla, Angelica and Ellie.
Fran is a former swift and competitive swimmer, a sport she passionately pursued despite being bron with cerebral palsy. Years later, she suffered an injury that put a stop to her passion, and she now models to set an example for other people with disabilities.
Dominic is a fighter – and she doesn’t plan to give up on her modelling career, despite having sight and hearing issues. With her confident presence, it is hard to tell that she has learning difficulties, autism and fetal alcohol syndrome.
Carla had a long, tough journey to appreciating her body, but there is no longer room for any self-doubt in her mind. She was only seven months old when a fire broke out, taking away her left hand and leaving permanent scars.
Angelica is a plus-size model with a permanent accessory. Armed with a colostomy bag, she has survived bowel cancer, and shuts down body-shamers with her work.
Ellie is not just a model, she is also a dedicated student of hair and make-up. She has claimed her fate despite having Incontinentia Pigmenti, a condition that causes mobility issues, scarring and toothloss.
The sight of the incredible models standing proud, confident and full of ambition gives new hope – not just to those who battle disabilities, but also to the fashion industry, that has a lot to learn.
Another stereotype, broken. We’re making (slow but important) progress!