Model: Mary Vaccaro
C6 / C7 Quadriplegic

Graphic Designer / Marketing

At times, there are events in a person’s life that are so incredibly powerful and life-altering, that he or she is not the same person after that event. For me, June 11th 2012 will forever be remembered as a life-changing day; I instantly became a quadriplegic from a bizarre series of events that left me with more questions than answers.

For an independent girl who loved to throw parties, had a passion for cooking and a closet filled with the latest and greatest, this abrupt change was not just a bump in the road, but more like a physical and emotional sinkhole. No more dinner parties, I couldn’t cook, and my fabulous wardrobe was sadly switched out for hoodies and leggings and makeup rituals had to be relearned using the 4 fingers that still worked (with the goal of not looking like a 4-year-old applied it). I felt ugly, insecure and loathed the mirror. I constantly struggled with issues of health, logistics, dependency, autonomy, self-worth and so on. Being paralyzed, I quickly found out that not walking was the least of my worries. I was faced with a complex set of issues too long to list and exceedingly difficult to deal with. It was (and still is) incredibly hard adjusting to this new reality. Saying I was overwhelmed is an understatement.

I always thought people were staring at me. I became a bit of a hermit, staying home was easier and much less exhausting than going out. Hiding away was easier than going through the arduous process of getting ready. In my mind, the end simply did not justify the means.

I’ve come across other stories of paralyzed people, hoping to find a sliver of hope. More than once, I read the phrase “this is the best thing that’s happened to me” and that they’ve had some sort of transcendental experience. I can tell you with 100% certainty that this is NOT the best thing that’s happened to me. I can say, however, I’ve learned to appreciate different things in life that I didn’t always prioritize before my injury: people and relationships are definitely more important than possessions, good health should never be taken for granted and everything doesn’t always have to be perfect. I slowly started to insert myself back in to the living and ignored what I perceived as stares. Self-acceptance is very complicated and hard to achieve, even among the able-bodied. Enter in…the Bold Beauty Project. I was finally excited to do something a little out of my new “comfort zone” but was skeptical about what I would produce as the end result. I was absolutely blown away when I first saw my photo. I couldn’t believe that the person in the photo was me. Working with Claudio, my photographer, could not have been a better experience. His thought-provoking ideas and eccentric vision culminated in what I perceive as a stronger person that I thought I was. Little by little I’m chipping away at my insecurities, and the Bold Beauty Project brought me that much closer to where I need to be.


Photographed by Claudio Napolitano