Makeup and I have always had a rather tumultuous relationship. I’ve never understood makeup — or maybe I was insecure because of my disability and never really thought I deserved to wear it? Either way, I’m SO glad that I got to write about something that involves both the beauty world AND the disability community: How Ulta Beauty is changing the game by including a model in a wheelchair in their new ad campaign.
It’s my third op-ed for The Week and it’s particularly poignant that it should come out during the week of my big viral tweet because, at the heart of it, that tweet highlighted disabilities and, especially, society’s perceptions of what it means to be beautiful. There are so many beauty standards that I despise, but the one that gets under my skin the most and makes me rage to high heavens is this idea that disabilities and deformities aren’t beautiful. That there somehow ugly and repulsive and disgusting. THAT idea is disgusting and one that I’ll work forever and ever to change.
Here’s an excerpt of the piece, in which I discuss such things are inclusion and what it would mean for young people to see this ad and be able to feel like they belong in the hallowed aisles of Ulta Beauty…
We live in a society with very strict definitions of what it means to be beautiful. I learned from a very young age that my disability would never be synonymous with pretty or sexy or even cute, and I internalized a lot of those harmful messages — some of them I’m still trying to unlearn as an adult…and Ulta is sending a powerful message with a single photo: It’s time to challenge conventional beauty standards because beautiful comes in ALL forms.
We all want to see ourselves represented in society. We all want to feel included, like we belong. When it comes to disabilities, that feeling of inclusion is so important. I was well into my 30s when I stepped (well, rolled) into Ulta for the first time, and it was certainly an overwhelming experience. I had no idea what I was doing and felt like I was entering a new world without a map; I felt like I was out of place, as if I was peeking into an exclusive club that I wasn’t invited to. Imagine how my experience would have been different had I seen a model in a wheelchair. In the new ad, she’s smiling, as if to say, “Welcome. Yes, you belong!”
You can read the full piece here and I’d love to hear your thoughts. Feel free to email me anytime at email@example.com and let’s chat! And of course, feel free to share my essay on Facebook, Twitter or even your local refrigerator. If you share on Twitter, be sure to tag me @melissablake so we can connect! I can’t wait to hear from you! Love you all… xoxo
P.S. Thanks to Ms. Bear for snapping the photo for me!!
Ryann Palermo says
Hi, Melissa! I’m not sure if you read your comments, especially after all of the cruel comments you’ve received. In case you do, I just want to let you know that I read about some particularly nasty comments, but it brought me here, to your blog. Not only are you beautiful (you have a gorgeous smile, and I love your hair!), but you are incredibly smart, articulate, insightful, and inspiring. Reading many of your blog posts has opened my eyes to what other people may be experiencing, and how unfairly the media represents people who have disabilities. Thank you for making me realize how underrepresented so many people are, so I can make changes in my own life to ensure I always remember to include everybody.
P.S. You look super nice and I totally want to be your friend
I’m jumping in here to say I absolutely feel the same about you, Melissa! The world needs more people like you. No one has a right to say what or who isn’t beautiful. I have felt very intimated by makeup until a few years ago, but I still keep it simple. It is so overwhelming to walk into a store like Ulta, and because I don’t feel like I know how to do much, it kept me from even trying. I decided to just go for it and have fun. 🙂 When Aerie began showing models with stretch marks and “imperfections” i.e. just human characteristics, it really did make me feel so much better. I don’t need to see an air brushed model in an outfit. I need to see an actual person rocking the clothes because then I can comfortably see myself wearing it too. Thank you for your blog!
You are awesome and beautiful. Everyone is made in God’s image.
Don’t get discouraged. Karma will take care of them.
These trolls exemplify true ugliness in their soul.