Bold Beauty in DC

Bold Beauty Transforms in DC

Bold Beauty Project debuted in Washington DC October 2015. Ten years ago, I co-created this amazing photography exhibit that showcased disabled women’s beauty, sensuality and empowerment. It changed my life; I posed semi-nude, started public speaking about sex and dating with a disability, got published and even did a TEDx talk.

We collaborated with a stellar committee in DC and this time our profits benefited United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of DC & N. Virginia. The same concept we did in Miami was followed in DC.

Robert, me and my whole family flew up for the weekend. Over two hundred people jammed the Anacostia gallery in DC. Champagne and appetizers I never got to try were being passed around. There were more wheelchairs than able bodied people, well, I could be exaggerating here, but it definitely felt like it. We could barely walk, the area was so tight. Robert lugged my wheelchair from the other side of the room so I could rest my aching feet. I’m always stubborn about sitting down, and often forget to, especially when I’m excited, mingling and drinking.

The diverse crowd oohed and ahhed about the gorgeous, creative photos. I couldn’t wait to see the photos printed and hung, but I was excited to meet the models. I spoke to a bunch of them on the phone and edited all their bios. I met the girl who had CP; she was stunning laughing on the couch with her service dog by her side. Nadia’s story of hiding, not being into make-up or fashion nor seeing women in fashion magazines that didn’t look like her mirrored mine. She felt ready to alter image, stating image is powerful as it is superficial.

It was cool being on the outside and seeing the model’s reactions. I felt like I was reliving my unveiling night all over again, the emotions, the energy, the diverse crowd, all so similar to my time nine years ago. Being on the other side and the organizer, this time I was present to the experience and reveled in what I had co-founded. The models were excited, grateful, dynamic, beautiful and expressive. Many of them stayed in front of their photograph the whole night, acting like the superstars they were that night, with the clicking of the iPhone’s and cameras non-stop!

When we birthed this idea years ago, we’d always imagined it spreading and being replicated. We knew our project was special and hearing all the models stories and transformations about their experience of being a model for a day confirmed it for me. This is why we did this and I couldn’t be prouder.

Who is Shelly Baer

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