Model: Lauren Beller
Arthrogryposis, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Learning Disability, Mental Health Disorders
Beauty is a trait I’ve always recognized unconditionally in other people, but never in myself. It was a word that seemed ridiculous to even consider using. My self-esteem was so low; it felt almost non-existent. I somehow had endless compassion for others and reserved none for myself and honestly felt that was what I deserved.
I’ve always understood that beauty consists of more than appearances; it’s about your energy, actions, intentions, and passions. Beauty can be found in every human, but we’ve oversimplified the abstract to become tangible. Beauty is physical; it’s sex appeal; it’s thin, white, fit, young, and able. This debased definition has hurt all of us, and people with disabilities may understand this pain more than most.
In 2014, I was featured in a documentary entitled “The Last Taboo” (available on Amazon Video), which sought to explore the intricacies of how disability and human sexuality interact. As a person with a disability who is also obese, I am often cast into a false identity of asexual, lazy, gross, and greedy. Additionally, I’m not your stereotypical image of femininity. I’m just me, but it’s a relatively equal mix of masculine and feminine energy, but as a woman, I’m expected to act a certain way, wear certain clothes, like certain things, and be submissive.
In my Bold Beauty photo, I wanted to play with the mix of all my different sides, all of the elements of me I’m coming to accept as beautiful. My parrots are like my children, and my compassion and dedication to them says a lot about who I am. Eli is an African Grey who will turn four while this exhibit hangs, and Popcorn, a yellow Indian Ringneck, turned eight at the end of March. She is a rescue, and just as I have a disability and thrive, she has epilepsy and is still saucy as ever.
In my day to day life, I am an advocate for disability rights and positive sexuality education, but mostly I try to be an example of the power of love and compassion amongst people. (Dirty hippie, I know!) I am an avid reader, and all of the books you see in the background of my photo are about subjects we don’t discuss enough in the interest of comfort.
“My new favorite shirt is illegible to you since Eli was demanding that I turn the page so he could keep reading. I’ll tell you what it says, because I’m a person with a disability, I am fat, defy gender norms, and I am… A shameless slut.”
Photographed by Rich Dunoff