Today’s hero is Emily Davison, aka YouTuber Fashioneyesta. The 21-year old was diagnosed with septo-optic dysplasia when she was 18 months old and is blind in one eye and has roughly 10 percent vision in the other. She also runs a successful YouTube channel and blog where she talks about fashion and beauty, reviewing her favourite products and talking about how annoying it is when she’s told she “Doesn’t look blind”. She’s clever, charming, and more stylish than I could ever hope to be. She’s badass, basically.
She was inspired to start the channel after being told repeatedly that she was “Too pretty to be blind”, and found that people were sceptical of her visual impairment because she wears make-up and dresses nicely. This is obviously horrific, but also unsurprising when the celebrities and beautiful made-up models we’re shown day after day are all able-bodies and sighted.
It’s no big secret that the world has a real diversity problem. If you’re not thin and white, then you’re going to find it twice as hard to get on the cover of a magazine, to get the top job, or even to get the job full stop. This issue is particularly noticeable in the media and fashion and beauty industries as they’re so heavily focused on image and frequently do things like use black skin to sell a foundation which only comes in caucasian shades or Photoshop able-bodied models rather than using disabled ones to promote the Paralympics.
But there’s more to diversity than skin colour and body size. Most of the images we’re presented with are also of heteronormative couples, cisgendered people, and able-bodied people. When we do see these people they tend to fit very narrow modes of what a gay, trans or disabled person can be, which prevents any young LGBT+ people from having role models but also means that ignorant (and plain stupid) people end up telling blind teenagers that “You’re too pretty to be blind” because they haven’t even considered that someone with a disability can be attractive or fashionable, too.
Things are getting better. Slowly. New York Fashion Week had a number of shows that prioritised showing LGBT models, models of all different body types and models of different skin colours. Miss America now has its first openly lesbian contestant. The recent Maltesers advert which showed actress Storme Toolis giggling with friends over how her cerebral palsy accidentally took her date to the next level (not that her paramour seemed to mind) was hilarious, and a perfect example of how the media can be inclusive and lighthearted — Reddit user Emily remarked that “I have been waiting my entire life for something that says "It's okay to laugh at yourself. It's okay to be sexual.” And Maltesers just did that in thirty seconds”.
It’s so easy to be more inclusive. Emily is doing an amazing job of breaking down stereotypes with her channel, but this isn’t something we should be leaving to YouTubers. We need to do more to show that you’re never too fat to be a CEO, you’re never too dark-skinned to be on the cover of a magazine, you’re never too gay to be held up as a beauty ideal, and you’re never too pretty to be blind.