Model: Renee Lopez
Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita
I was born with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, a deforming condition where joints become fixed and movement restricted. By the age of 15, I had undergone 32 corrective orthopedic surgeries.
I was in an elementary segregated Special Education class. I felt I was something to be ashamed of. My mother was my first advocate, and I was mainstreamed. In high school, I was acutely aware of cheerleaders and proms, and often experienced periods of self-loathing. The University of Texas was extremely difficult, but I earned my Masters Degree in Education.
Living with a disability meant dealing with social services and demeaning caseworkers. Those experiences continued as I entered the workforce. When I was hired by the Texas Rehabilitation Commission as a Disability Examiner, I took off like a rocket, having been on the receiving end.
Currently, I spend my time on my spirituality and healing old wounds. I have found self-confidence and my voice, speaking as an advocate for people with disabilities. I am now living my life’s purpose, finding my true self, the strong, wise, independent woman with a clear voice and a clear head ready to move mountains.
I chose Frida Kahlo for this project. When I first saw her art, I felt I knew her. Her depictions of physical pain were like nothing I had ever seen. But it was the strength in her face that appealed to me most. “How could I be strong like her?” I use to think. Thus, began my journey to find it.
Photographed by Heather Bonham