I recently had the privilege of interviewing a strong and enlightening woman regarding issues of beauty, fashion, and the rights of those who live with disabilities. Valentina Tomirotti, who hails from the city of Mantua in northern Italy, came to the attention of mobileWOMEN.org when she researched topics of fashion and how it relates to those who live with disabilities. At the age of 32, Ms. Tomirotti was born with a disability called Dysplasia Diastrophic, a rare genetic condition that affects 1 in 500,000 births and is characterized by its defect in creating cartilage that manifests itself in very short physical stature and scoliosis.
Ms. Tomirotti has had quite a roller coaster ride and is always looking towards the future. Feeling that she was born a writer, became an entrepreneur by passion. “I have set my path chasing a dream to create from nothing my own jewelry company.” It is a real gem of emotions and actions says Ms. Tomirotti and has set her on a new path she can feel proud of. “I felt that I had it all wrong and chose a path of studies with a future in the labor movement, but with a perfect stage presence and a stroke of luck I found my passion in fashion. My satisfaction has been in showing that where something is missing, it can show up elsewhere and may work better in its place.”
Deciding to marriage her love of writing and fashion, Ms. Tomirotti started to blog about it. Deciding to challenge people’s perceptions of disability and fashion, she proudly asks the question “have you ever seen a girl write about clothing, events and shoes and who uses a wheelchair?” Ms. Tomirotti wanted to be herself when writing, and not create her work as an avatar. Looking to address her company Pepitosa, Ms. Tomirotti would like her blog to address not only the changing world of fashion, but also issues associated with perception of disability as a whole. “I believe that using social media is an excellent tool to understand different worlds of the unknown.”
Living with a disability in Italy can be a challenge at times. From human perceptions to architectural barriers with no laws to protect those with disabilities, Ms. Tomirotti shares that there is always talk of diversity but little done by way of integrating those with disabilities into the larger community. She shares that persons with disabilities are almost never seen as someone to celebrate but hide or ignore. But Ms. Tomirotti continues to express desire to talk about it in a way that will create integration for all. “It’s time to dare and to give a new image of being disabled, with appreciation of what people have to offer.”
Through it all, Ms. Tomirotti feels like a very lucky woman. “My disability is very severe and visible, but I am happy and feel lucky because I am at peace with it and cannot imagine a different life.” She also goes on to say that she feels very fortunate to have a brain that never stops, which for her has no obstacles.
Moving forward, Ms. Tomirotti wants to continue to educate and help make disability a normal all its own. “I would like to continue to try to change perceptions on disability and help educate that all people are equal.” She would also like to remind people that everyone has difficulties to overcome. But when it comes to the fashion world, a message needs to be given that is currently missing from the chorus of conversation towards disability. That message is a very simple one and states that in the end, people with disabilities really can do it all.
Although Kara has Osteogenesis Imperfecta which simply means brittle bones, Kara has studied dance for over 16 years now and currently dances with American Dance Wheels Foundation. But for the bulk of her dance career she danced with Kardon.. Kara works as a licensed therapist part time at an inpatient mental health facility and as a Free Lance writer for Montgomery County Community College. She also sings with the Academy Chorale as the arts are an important part of her life.