My name is Bree Dunkel. I am one of 53 million adults in the United States that is living with a disability. When I was born, my belly button cord was wrapped around my neck causing me to lose oxygen to my brain. This caused me to be born with Cerebral Palsy, a neurological disorder that affected my gait my entire life. I had neurosurgery two years ago to help improve my quality of life. It was called a Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy. They cut parts of my spinal cord that were causing me to walk irregularly and I had to learn how to walk all over again. This came with a whole other set of challenges including accessibility using a wheelchair, walker, canes, etc.
Persons with disabilities are the largest minority group in the United States and I believe one of the most underrepresented. In the past year I have had the opportunity to be a makeup artist for a couple fashion shows and photo shoots. This opened my eyes up to how truly underrepresented people with disabilities are in the fashion and beauty world. In recent years, there have been fashion shows composed entirely of models living with disabilities. This is refreshing to see but there is still so much more that could be done. We don’t need a fashion show dedicated to us. We need to be integrated into already existing fashion shows.
In my experience, as well as others with disabilities I have spoken to, people with disabilities are grouped into that category and that category alone. In a crowd of people their identifier is the ‘girl who walks weird’ or ‘the boy in the wheelchair’ when in reality it should be ‘the girl who was valedictorian’ or ‘the boy who plays amazing guitar’. There have been countless times when I tell people about my disability and they reply with “oh, but you’re so pretty!” as if people with disabilities can’t have any other defining traits.
Almost 1 in 5 Americans has a disability. If we had more people with disabilities represented in the fashion, advertising, beauty, and makeup industries I feel it would bring positive attention to our minority group and inspire people to learn more about different disabilities and in turn, want to know more about the person who is living with the disability.
Everyone is beautiful in their own way, disability or not. I think if we all saw beauty in one another more often, the world would be a lot better off.