How vanity makes the world a better place

Not to brag, but my family has some outrageously gorgeous people in it. And my friends? They’re all ridiculously beautiful too! Wayyy better looking than the general population. I’m not talking about personalities here, I mean beautiful in the most literal and shallow sense of the word.

Before you judge me, take a moment to think about the people you love and how good looking they are. I bet you’re realizing that you must be shallow too.

For me, the vast majority of the masses are just meh, average, nothing special. My acquaintances usually tend away from average, either really nice looking or a bit of an eye sore. Maybe it’s a karma thing–if you take the time to be nice to people, they take the time to notice how smooth your skin is or how shiny your hair is. If you take the time to be mean to people, they take the time to notice your flaws. And by this magic, all your friends are exceptional looking.

The interesting thing is this growing movement to show the beauty in people with disabilities. To the friends of these models, they’ve always seen the beauty and it’s the most obvious thing in the world. But in a culture where disabilities are hidden away, people don’t know how to recognize that beauty for themselves; they must be shown. And that is what is so important about the efforts of people like Debbie van der PuttenAimee Mullins and Ali Stroker: including disabled models and actors in mainstream media. Because when someone takes the time to appreciate and share the beauty of another person, it’s easy to see the person behind the appearance. And that goes for any sort of demographic. I’m sure that if you’d never seen a guy taller than 6 feet before, you’d think he’s pretty funny looking and have a hard time looking past it to see him for his personality. Think about how long it took people from the history books to look past people with a different color skin than they were used to seeing.

Last year’s Fashion Week in Ukraine was a massive step for this country for not only embracing but also integrating the disabled community. One night they hosted a special fashion show, Fashion Chance, featuring models with disabilities.

Blind model at Fashion Chance

Models in wheelchairs preparing for Fashion ChanceBlind models in Fashion Chance

Living in Ukraine with a disability is shockingly different from that same experience in the US. The lack of ramps, elevators and accessible transportation cuts off all connection to the general public. After WWII, many disabled citizens and injured soldiers were locked away in institutions or on remote islands to isolate them from the general public. Even children struggle with this: there are only about 10 inclusive schools Kiev, in a city with tens of thousands of disabled children!! And these struggles only continue as 75% of disabled adults are unemployed.

These are some major issues! And efforts like this fashion show will prove to be among the most powerful weapons we have to right these wrongs! It’s about so much more than vanity.

In a place where disabilities are so hidden…

When I roll in my wheelchair, people stare at me like I am an alien and it wounds. –Yulia Kozluk

…no wonder people react this way.

It’s hard to see beauty or value in the foreign, the unknown, the alien, but it’s hard to miss when you take the chance to look. Fashion Chance for many Ukrainians was their first chance to look.

When we look at a disabled person, we are not ready to see a person in them… we should first be seeing a person and only then notice their peculiarities – are they tall or short, do they have blond or dark hair, do they have disabilities or not   —Natalia Skripka, Director of Ukraine’s National Assembly for Disabled

Do you think the media has affected how you see disabilities?

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