Model: Joy Pearl Peloso
Cerebral palsy, partially blind

When you are young and in school, life can be dictated by “labels” people give each other and even themselves. Since six months old, when I was diagnosed with CP, one of my labels was “disabled.” For many years, I let that label define my life. I struggled through health issues, constant therapy, and bullying. But don’t worry, this is a happy story. As I matured, I thought a lot about spiritual matters like past and future lives, souls and reincarnation.

I went through some key events in my life, and I felt like a phoenix rising. Losing my grandmother, Pearl, at age 7 was one of the first of those events. The day of my photoshoot with Robert Zuckerman was another. I went into the shoot feeling uncertain, but Robert immediately put me at ease. We laughed, sang, and had a blast the whole afternoon. He even brought along a model so I could take a turn behind the camera under his guidance.

That day was a new birth as I began to learn to love myself. Robert and I referred often to the day as a “lovefest.” We became super close and, since he had no children, I became his “Daughts” and he became my “Pops.” I was able to see myself in a new light. This confidence was transformative. I eliminated “disabled” from my vocabulary, as Pops taught me we are “differently-abled, not disabled.” He guided me to be a more authentic version of myself. I began going by my middle name, Joy, as I felt it suited me better. I put myself in the dating world, and I met the love of my life, Vince. Pops took our engagement photos from his hospital bed. Sadly, it turned out to be the last time we saw him.

While preparing for our wedding, I found a love for dancing. I modify moves so I can do them and am working on building up a social media presence with our dance instructor who has become a dear friend. Vince and I got married on Oct 22, 2022. I took the opportunity to change my name legally, and I am now Joy Pearl Peloso. My rebirth feels complete. I know Pops is proud, and I am forever grateful for having him in my life!


Photographer: Robert G. Zuckerman