Raw Beauty is All Around – A Raw Beauty NYC Model’s Reflection

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.

Climbing to New Heights

by Amy Saffell

Being a wheelchair user doesn’t typically mean feeling tall or towering over others. Far too often, those of us who navigate life on wheels don't get to try adventurous sports easily in our own city, either, however I recently had an experience that reverses both of those trends: climbing.

Nashville held its first adaptive climbing clinic at our local climbing gym, Climb Nashville, with the help of Catalyst Sports, the largest adaptive climbing program in the country. Catalyst is based in Atlanta and travels throughout the southeast to implement adaptive climbing programs in various cities. With the success of Catalyst’s efforts, other organizations in different areas are taking note, and adaptive climbing has spread across the country in recent years. The sport has become popular enough that this year marked the first USA Paraclimbing National Championships, with top competitors advancing to the World Cup.
Amy in the Wellman Chair
I had previously climbed once using a chair pulley system, known as the Wellman Chair, created by and named for Mark Wellman. Wellman was injured as a young adult climbing in the Sierra Nevadas and lost the use of his legs. He not only didn’t stop climbing, but he has since climbed some of the world’s toughest peaks and lit the 1996 Paralympic cauldron by climbing to its top. He has also become dedicated to helping other people with disabilities learn to climb. My first experience with the Wellman Chair was at a convention center with somewhat low ceiling. I knew that I didn’t get the full experience of what I could accomplish in climbing then, but it made me eager to try again.
The Nashville climbing clinic also had a Wellman Chair setup, but I first wanted the opportunity to climb the wall. Able-bodied climbers use their legs for balance and support, and I knew that it would be much harder to only use my arms, but I was up for the challenge. 


Igniting a global conversation about beauty! 

On September 20, 2014 in New York, meet the people who started THE RAW BEAUTY PROJECT,  Pulitzer Prize Winner, Models, National Speakers on Disability and Dating.

It's an evening dedicated to Women with Disabilities, it YOUR time, it's OUR time, THIS EVENT CELEBRATES WOMEN WITH DISABILITIES, BE PART OF THE CELEBRATION!

Buy your tickets on-line now for RAW BEAUTY PROJECT NYC! If you can't attend, please consider a donation.

What is True Beauty?

As the Gallery Reception for The Raw Beauty Project NYC, fast approaches, we thought this insightful article by one of our contributors, would be fitting. Tickets and sponsorships are still available. For those of you that can not attend, please consider giving a donation to keep the project going and to benefit the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. No amount is too small!

By Kara Aiello

 As a woman who lives with a disability, I know the stigma that I face in a culture that values a perfect body, particularly among women.  My body may not arouse “babe’ fantasies in the eyes of some when I wheel past them.  This is something I have struggled and lived with so much of my life and making peace with my body has been a challenge for me like no other.

Born with brittle bones or osteogenesis imperfect, I have had many fractures that have caused me to be petite in stature. To see me, you would notice I have very petite legs as that is where the brunt of my fractures took place.  I also have a very small torso due to a curvature of the spine called scoliosis.