Freelance writer Keah Brown is making headlines with just three words: #DisabledandCute.
Brown, who has cerebral palsy, took to Twitter on Feb. 12 to declare, "I want to shoutout my Disabled brothers, sisters, & non-binary folks! W/ #DisabledAndCute," posting a collage of four images of herself. The goal was simply to share a bit of her own journey of self-love and acceptance. "I made this hashtag to sort of celebrate the fact that I felt cute in my body for the first time," she told Self. But the reaction to her tweet was an outpouring of support and tons of responses.
"Sickle cell ain't never kept ya girl down," said @laelahndifon as she used #DisabledandCute. "Oh hell yeah I am #disabledandcute. Treating a fusing spine with chemo, biologics, and lipstick," said @hannahmosk. The hashtag sparked conversations and new friendships among the participants, but it also spotlighted an important, often-underplayed issue in the United States: lack of inclusivity of those with disabilities.
According to the United States Census, one in five Americans has a disability, but it's very rare to see that figure reflected in mainstream media. There have been some small victories: designer Carrie Hammer has been celebrated for using her New York Fashion Week runway as a platform for women of all abilities, including Karen Crespo, a quadruple amputee, and Dr. Danielle Sheypuk, who uses a wheelchair. Katie Meade, who has Down syndrome, was named the face of Beauty & Pin-Ups in 2016. More often than not, though, those with disabilities are often portrayed as caricatures. To see yourself represented like that can be soul-crushing and contributed to how Brown saw herself growing up.
"I realized I was different, and I took it immediately to be this terrible thing," Brown said to Self. "I never had that representation growing up where I saw other disabled people and knew other disabled people, especially other disabled black people."
We're hoping that the success — and visibility — of #DisabledandCute will help prove to all that the two terms are far from being mutually exclusive. Brown shared that meeting and talking with other people with disabilities on social media went a long way toward helping her self-esteem. And you know what they say: positivity is infectious. Keep reading to see some of the empowering tweets.