Let's talk about the purple pound.
With 12 million disabled people living in the UK, with a spending power of £249 billion pound a year, it is the largest untapped consumer market.
So why aren't brands reaching out to their disabled customers?
Why aren't disabled models regularly featured in advertising campaigns, fashion magazines, and on the runway?
Photo credit: Simon Clemenger, Hey Girl Magazine
Disabled is not a word I would use to describe myself. I am not a robot, I am a human being.
I am not this skin; I am the soul that lives within. Why should I be defined by my missing hand? It is part of me like every other part is. I understand the word disabled can be off putting. You only have to look the word up in the thesaurus to read all the negative word associations. A few of my favourite: wrecked, helpless, incapable, powerless, put out of action, broken. NONE of these words describe me. I am a strong, powerful, independent, capable, helpful, whole woman and mother, always ready for action. I was born ready!
The social model of disability holds that a person is not disabled because of their impairment; rather it is the physical and attitudinal barriers in society. This is the song of my own heart. I am disabled by the lack of opportunities and out-dated attitudes of society, not by my impairment. The barriers created by society are disabling. Society needs to change to be become a more equal, inclusive and accessible place.
There is so much more to marketing to disabled consumers. Not only does it make perfect business sense, it will empower so many disabled people.
With body confidence at an all-time low and 85% of girls state advertising has a directly negative impact on their self-esteem, I often wondered what it like is to grow up in this media driven society, obsessed with perfection for a young disabled girl. The stats must be even higher for disabled girls because they are simply not recognised or represented, let alone embraced and celebrated.
Having a physical disability is so visible, so fixed and so permanent. How can you expect a young disabled girl to know her body is amazing, beautiful and perfectly ok exactly how it is? Never mind her being strong, sassy, capable, resilient, adaptable and have a very much deserving place in society where she has the power and support to follow and live her dreams?
Stop presenting perfection as something to aspire to.
This is more than equal opportunities for disabled models. This is about the mental health of young people, our future. I want every young person to accept their individuality, be confident in their own skin and have the complete freedom to be themselves, no barriers. Fashion and diversity have the power to transform lives.
I never realised I was disabled until I started modelling. I was suddenly put in a box. Labelled and defined. I suffered exclusion, prejudice and inequality. When I started modelling 9 years ago, there were not any models like me working in the industry. It was not cool, trendy or accepted to be disabled.
I felt invisible.
I felt flawed.
Did this make me want to give up? Never!
It opened my eyes to all the ignorance, false stereotypes and negativity that surround disability.
This made me feel even more determined. There was no way I was going to give up when I had so much work to do, so many attitudes to change, so many perceptions to transform, so many barriers to break.
Diversity is beauty. I feel many people are fed up of being sold a false image. The divine feminine is showing us there is another way of being in this world. We want truth, inspiration, authenticity, weird and wonderful realness.
Can disability be something to aspire to? YES!
With one billion disabled people in the world, each and every one of those people wants to feel beautiful, confident, fashionable and included.
It is time to feel empowered by the images we see of disabled people. Let's show disabled people for who they truly are and recognise and rejoice beauty from all walks of life.
If nothing else Mr & Mrs Advertiser, Mr Beauty Brand, Miss Fashionista it will boost your revenue... but let's not allow money to be the reason for inclusivity ... seize the opportunity for the right reason, to reflect the society we live in, to celebrate diversity, and long may live the purple pound in your account and with your new found purchasers.