When’s the last time you saw fashion divas in a wheelchairs, outside of American Horror Story? We’re here to change all that.
Fashion is for everybody — and every body. Over time, consumers have begun to demand representation for all bodies, including those with disabilities, and a handful of designers are finally beginning to listen.
Models like Jillian Mercado have been spotted in Diesel’s denim campaigns, along with actress Jamie Brewer in American Horror Story and para-Olympian-turned model Aimee Mullins. But representation has to go beyond the handful of folks you may see occasionally on television or the runway. One way is to start curating your own media more carefully, so that you’ll see more images of various abilities, regardless of your own.
Curious who is leading the conversation and the fight? Look no further. Check out these six fashionistas who use wheelchairs.
1. Jillian Mercado
Twenty-nine-year-old Jillian Mercado may be the most prominent of models who use wheelchairs. The Dominican-American model was born and raised in New York and cites her mother, a dressmaker; and her father, a shoe salesman; as her first fashion inspirations.
Mercado attended the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) and interned for both Veranda and Allure magazines. In 2014, Mercado caught the eye of Diesel jeans and was signed by IMG models as a result. Other gigs include being featured as one of Beyonce’s primary models for her products and the Formation tour.
Mercado continues to grace magazines, runways and ads both domestically and internationally.
2. Tamara Mena
Tamara Mena is a international motivational speaker, host, spokesperson, ambassador and survivor who calls herself an “eternal optimist.” Born and raised in Mexico, her family immigrated to the U.S. when she was 13. At the age of 19, Mena was in a car accident, which rendered her paralyzed from the mid-chest down.
Mena has dedicated her life to spreading a message of hope and motivation. Mena has been a guest speaker many conferences and events, as well as a guest on television shows, both American and international. Mena competed in the Latinx reality show Nuestra Belleza Latina as the first woman in a wheelchair to participate in the famous beauty pageant. Mena has since modeled internationally, including at New York Fashion Week.
3. Gigi Giscome
Giovanna “Gigi” Giscome is a San Francisco Bay Area fashionista, model and disability rights activist. She says her Afro-Latinx heritage and New York City upbringing, strong women throughout her life and the Cali influences of her recent years are her main influences on her fashion choices. Giscome has a love of bold prints and black leather jackets.
“My family raised me to love my disability, so as a kid I was comfortable with my disability. I never thought I was different just because I was in a wheelchair,” Giscome told Wear Your Voice in her StyleCrush interview. She continues:
“Growing up, I saw firsthand how our society treats people with disabilities like we are “different” or “foreign,” which is insane to me. People tend to forget that people with disabilities are human beings also. We have the same wants, needs, values as everybody else. We may look, move, or talk a little different but we are all human. The disability community tends to be isolated from everyone else, and that isn’t fair. That’s why I am moving forward to be in the fashion and beauty industry so that people with disabilities are represented. I look forward to the day when I see people with disabilities in fashion magazines and on billboard ads. That’s my dream.”
4. Lolo of Sitting Pretty
Lolo of Sitting Pretty is EVERYTHING! Sitting Pretty is her YouTube series in which she chronicles life firsthand as a woman with a disability. From dating to accessibility to fashion, Lolo goes deep and speaks honestly about her experiences, supporting others with disabilities in the process while remaining honest, funny and real.
“Most will assume the life of a physically disabled person HAS to be depressing, sad, or anything less than amazing. Anyone’s life can be all of those things, disabled or not, but we all have the choice to live our lives the way we want, and for me, “Sitting Pretty” is a reflection of that choice. I’m here to show the good parts of my life, the challenges unique to a disabled person and everything else in between,” Lolo says.
Did we mention that her style is downright amazing? Check out her Instagram for style inspiration, no matter your body type and ability.
5. Magdalena Truchan of Pretty Cripple
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I’m a #LuckyGirl. After scouring all the #trends at #ParisFashionWeek, I realize I already own everything I need for #Fall2017. #RhinestoneHeadband as seen at #Chanel but made by @tongueinchicjamiekreitman big #furcollar on my #VintageCoat with lots of #rhinestonebrooches as on the #MiuMiu runway, #silver #pleatedskirt, #silvertights, and #silverboots by #elizabethandjames. Lots of #silvertrends as seen at #Mugler and #BarbaraBui. #WheelchairFashion #FashionBlogger #wheelchairgirl #pfw #streetstyle
Magdalena Truchan of Pretty Cripple is a disabled fashion blogger from Haverstraw, New York. A first generation Polish-American, she describes her style as “vintage-meets-high-end mashup with a bit of ‘I don’t give a shit.'” Truchan chronicles her looks via blog and Instagram.
With fashion influences like Beatrix Ost, Nick Wooster and Catherine Baba, she zeroes in on high-end couture. Truchan also has a strong love of art, music, artisanal food, great fashion — especially hats! — global politics and her animals, and works as a graphic designer and artist.
“I am loud, direct, honest and beat my own drum without obsessing about what people think,” Truchan says.
6. Tatiana Lee
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Thanks to @curlkit for featuring my photo on their social media platforms!!! #inclusionmatters #representationmatters #disabilitypride #lacurlygirl #accessiblehollywood #model #actress #influencer #cur8able #Repost : @curlkit Yes, hun! @pintszdiva #curlkit #teamnatural #teamnatural_ #mynaturalhair #urbanhairpost #naturalhairmojo #naturalherstory #myhaircrush #naturalhaircommunity #naturalhairdaily #usnaturals #naturalhairstyles #naturallyshesdope #curlswithlove #amazingnaturalhair #prettygirlsroll♿️ #appleaccessibility
Tatiana Lee is behind Accessible Hollywood. Born with spina bifida, she uses her blog to highlight her journey as a model, actress and blogger living with a disability. Lee relocated from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles a little over six years ago. Since she’s been in L.A., she’s been featured in Apple’s ad campaign, showing the world how to use their accessible products. Lee can also be seen in short films, commercials and viral videos like Soulpancake’s “How You See-Me” series, and Infinite Inclusion’s Venice Beach Flash Mob.
Accessible Hollywood highlights Lee’s life within Hollywood and shared knowledge on things like beauty, fashion and general lifestyle topics. Check out this fashion diva for fashion inspo and more!