Rihanna's Savage x Fenty Features Model With Limb Differences
Singer and actress Rihanna launched a lingerie brand, Savage x Fenty in 2018, and part of her mission was representation. Most recently she hired model Lyric Mariah Heard who has limb differences in order to feature some of her lingerie — a move well received by abled and disabled individuals alike.
Mariah was born with a congenital condition called amniotic band syndrome where the bands supporting and protecting the fetus wrap around limbs and organs, causing them to lose blood flow to the bound areas. Heard now models with her prosthetic leg and three fully developed fingers on her left hand. Her first modeling gig was a breast cancer awareness project through her high school, and now she models for brands such as Dolls Kill, Love, Vera and Savage x Fenty.
Upon the release of photos with her modeling Savage x Fenty, Heard posted a screengrab from Dazed magazine on Instagram.
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Heard said her ideal modeling scenarios always involve lingerie, telling Health magazine, “Lingerie is beautiful when it fits you right and hugs your body. It makes you look at yourself and be like ‘wow, that is all me.’ It makes me feel a new level of confidence and show my body in full everything — stretch marks, cellulite, surgery scars, here it is. I love all of it and I try to put that forth in my lingerie photos. I’m not selling sex, I’m selling confidence.”
Representation of disabled individuals in the fashion industry has had a rocky road to travel and has not always been well-received. Ableism is oftentimes glorified by designers and seldom are brands taken to account about their choices.
This ought to be shocking to everyone, considering that over 25% of the American population or 61 million adults have a disability today. Thirteen percent of that number have a mobility disorder. With the upswing in popularity of the body positivity movement or #bopo in the early 2000s, it comes as little surprise that disabled bodies were often taken out of the imagery and remained uncelebrated.
However, between 2017 and today, several disabled models have walked the runway of brands like Formation, Nordstrom, Chaos, Gucci, Savage X Fenty and many more.
Along with this new wave of representation has come accessible fashion for individuals in wheelchairs or those who rely on other mobility devices from brands like UGG, American Eagle, Target and others.
This push can’t start and end with representation. Companies and brands should utilize this movement and put it into practice by hiring individuals with disabilities into roles where they have a seat at the table and can shed light on topics others don’t understand.
To my fellow disabled peers, this is your moment. If you have a dream to see yourself in a public, popular setting, don’t let anyone close the door in your face. Your story and voice need to be heard. We deserve our place at the table alongside everyone else, regardless of how we get around, how we think or how we move.
Author and social activist bell hooks said it best, “Representation is a crucial location of struggle for any exploited and oppressed people asserting subjectivity and decolonization of the mind.” Once we claim our place, call attention to our needs and challenge the ableist structures that hold us back, nothing can stop us. We have to keep moving forward and allow our needs to be seen and heard.
Image via Instagram.