By Emily Ladau
As a visibly disabled woman, I’m often made to feel during public outings that I am on display. Using a wheelchair makes me noticeable, turning me into a sight that – despite it being the 21st century – still causes far too many people to stare as though I’m an otherworldly museum piece. My body is not my own in the eyes of society, but rather an exhibit open to insensitive jokes about my disability and unsolicited comments about my appearance. I’ve spent my life shielding my self-confidence from the barrage of remarks, and yet there are times when even my thick skin begins to feel worn.
Raw Beauty Project NYC is a project that set out to change all this, and I have the honor of being part of it. I first discovered a call for prospective models on Twitter, inviting women with disabilities who are advocates and leaders to apply for the opportunity to be photographed for an exhibit showcasing their “raw beauty.” I was intrigued, but something caused me to hesitate: was I willing to go outside my comfort zone and purposely put myself on display when I’d already felt exposed for so long? How lucky I am that I took a risk and applied, because being chosen to model proved to be an experience I’ll carry with me always.