As a culture, we love everything about beautiful models. Whether we see them on the page or on the screen, there's something primal about seeing people in their peak physical condition. Of course, there are many negatives to the modeling industry as well. Models tend to promote unrealistic body standards.
You may have heard of the body positivity movement. There have been major pushes for different body types to be represented in modeling, however, it is still an industry that mostly services one body type: thin. Beyond the thin body type, the modeling industry lacks representation of all body types, especially including those with disabilities.
People with disabilities are vastly underrepresented, however, that doesn't mean that there isn't star talent out there. One such person is an amputee model by the name of Shaholly Ayers who isn't letting her disability hold her back from her dream of modeling. Read on to find out more about her.
Shaholly Ayers was born with only half an arm, missing everything below her elbow. This gave her many disadvantages, most of which were created by other people. For example, she was discouraged from many activities, including the basketball team, and even gym class. You can only imagine how those same naysayers acted when Shaholly brought up her dream of becoming a model.
Shaholly Ayers told TODAY Style about some of the discouraging advice she got from agents when she first started: "I talked to one of the agent and she told me, 'There's no way you're going to be a model because you don't have two arms.' I tried to explain - I have a prosthesis, I can wear that - really trying to sell it." It didn't matter what she told them. The good thing was, Shaholly was not about to quit.
That conversation with the agent occurred ten years ago, and if it wasn't for her never-give-up spirit, Ayers may have quit right then and there. She wasn't without her doubts thought. "Initially, I was really upset and mad but I walked back to my place and I realized, you know, I've been told 'no' so many times in my life ... it dawned on me that she just doesn't know how to do it." What she decided to do was take her career into her own hands. Lacking a portfolio of any work, she worked with different make-up artists and photographers to build up a body of work.
She even went directly to stores to offer her services as a model, focusing on boutiques. According to Ayers, it actually worked. Ten years later she has built a solid career as a fashion model.
The agents who discouraged her in the beginning must be eating crow now. Ayers has spent six seasons walking New York Fashion Week, making her a veteran of the runway by now. You may be wondering how she models - does she wear a prosthetic or not. Ayers told TODAY that whether she wears it or not will depend on the shoot. "I'm comfortable wearing my prosthesis or not wearing it, but what I've found is that (directors) are really understanding. They want to be as true about it as possible. They say, 'Would you wear a prosthesis with this, yes or no?'
Ever since she started modeling, people with similar conditions have come up to her giving her their support. "I didn't realize how many parents and how many amputees would come to me ... and share their stories of excitement that they finally have somebody out there that's representing them."