So, friends, have you heard about Britain’s Missing Top Model, the new UK reality show that gives disabled models a chance to compete for a photo spread in Marie Claire UK?
“The premise of the show seems cruel and unusual to the core—to boost the acceptance of disabled women in an industry that is based solely on physical perfection. Can you say “pleading for rejection and humiliation?” says one writer on TheFrisky.
She goes on to ask: Why on earth would any person want to put themselves through this show? And why would I want to watch? I know we all have our own disabilities—physical and emotional—and imperfections to overcome in life and, yes, we are all capable of achieving our dreams. But modeling is not for everyone.
Yes, that’s true. Modeling is not for everyone. But I must say that my agreement with the author stops there.
There is a big difference between being a model and giving someone a chance to be a model. Shouldn’t disabled women – and men – be afforded those same chances and opportunities?
When I was about 13 and swimming in the local pool one sunny summer day, I remember so clearly the stinging words of my sister’s friend’s mother. I’m not quite sure how the topic came up, but I distinctly remember the mother telling my sister’s friend, “Melissa couldn’t be a model. She’s disabled.”
Shocked, I just sort of let those words sit in my stomach for the next few days. Now, it was never and will never be my dream to be a model (though I do love to pose for the camera; I’ve never been camera shy, that’s for sure), but her words? Gosh darnit, it made me want to take a spin in my wheelchair on the catwalk just to prove her wrong.
If I still remember those words 15 years later, then, yes, we do need more shows like this. Shows that put those with disabilities in the forefront instead of the background – not in a humiliating let’s-make-fun-of-them for ratings way, but in an honest, this-is-my-story sort of way.
Which is exactly what I was hoping to do with The Bachelorette, but alas, ABC has yet to return my emails. Oh, the day will come my friends. Remember, people with disabilities are just that: people.