I’m so excited to share this disability rights wedding editorial. Recently I had the chance to take part in Catalyst Wedding Co’s Out of the Box photo challenge. Read more about that on their blog. Ashley, from Ash+OAK floral, and I worked together to make this wonderful shoot come together.
“My dream is to have people with disabilities in fashion magazines, billboards, runway shows, so that the next generation of kids with disabilities do not have to question their self worth. We are all beautiful no matter what ability we may have.” – Gigi
My Inspiration for the Disability Rights Wedding Editorial – Tenderloin San Francisco
I’ve always been drawn to the beauty in the underdog, the underrepresented, and the misunderstood. For me this photo challenge prompted a natural response to the current sociopolitical backlash to diversity, people with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community.
My first step was to put out a casting call for alternative and underrepresented women. I wanted to show a same sex wedding, so when Gigi and Nicole where among my applicants the choice was easy. I’ve looked for disability rights wedding inspiration for brides in wheelchairs but have found very little. Ashley and I wanted to show something beautiful and unique with this. Gigi’s wheelchair is her thrown, she is truly a queen, and her personality is radiant. Decorating the side of the chair allowed her to stay fully functional. And it also created a sense of glamour that every bride deserves.
Nicole expressed that she hardly ever wears makeup unless it’s for modeling, however it isn’t really her style. Since I had decided from the start that I wanted to make the shoot feel as real as possible. So I treated her the same as I would any client. When my clients come to me and express that they aren’t makeup people, I encourage them not to wear it. We did however decide to give Nicole purple brows to match her hair, which she absolutely LOVED!
About Gigi, Disability Rights Activist & Model
My name is Giovana, but most of my friends call me Gigi. I’m an Afro-Latina with a physical disability, Cerebral Palsy, which impacts my legs and left hand. As a result, I use a wheelchair to get around. Life was always an adventure for me. My family originated from Brooklyn, New York. We moved to Berkeley, California, home of the Disability Rights Movement.
As a kid, I never thought I was different from anybody else. My family always reminded me that I was beautiful, amazing, and have a purpose. It wasn’t until elementary school that I realized the staff and students treated me differently. I was the only disabled child in mainstream classes. My mom fought the school to keep me in those classes, and to make things accessible for me. Seeing her fight so hard for me to have an equal and fair education really gave me confidence. And a sense of pride for being an Afro-Latina with a disability.
How the media’s representation of people with disabilities shapes their lives:
Growing up, I was sad and disappointed that there was not any representation of people with disabilities anywhere. I did not see them in fashion magazines, movies…nothing. The very few representations that we, as people with disabilities, did have were pathetic. Whenever there was a disabled character on TV, instead of living life as a fun everyday person, it was usually the “feel sorry for me” or the “overly inspirational” role. Other times, the actor who portrayed the person with a disability was not actually disabled. This scenario further reinforced negative stereotypes. I saw these situations and wanted make a change when I grew up.
Fashion for people with disabilities:
Now as a young woman in college, I fully embrace my disability as I do being an Afro-Latina. My wants, needs, and values are the same as any other young person. I want to have a career, party with friends, travel, fall in love, etc. I want to raise disability awareness and show the world that being disabled is beautiful and strong. So I’m majoring in fashion marketing. This gives me the amazing opportunity to integrate the disability community into the fashion world. My dream is to have people with disabilities in fashion magazines, billboards, and runway shows. So that the next generation of kids with disabilities do not have to question their self worth. We are all beautiful no matter what ability we may have.
How Gigi discovered being a model:
One day, a friend asked me to be a part of her ‘Beyond Beauty’ campaign. It showcased different body shapes and colors. Honestly, I felt petrified, but as the day went on, I really loved it! I remember seeing the photos for the first time and thinking, “Gigi, This is something you can do. Be the representation that you seek and be you authentically.” Since then, I have participated in fashion shoots and shows as a model.
When I got the opportunity to model as a bride for a disability rights wedding editorial, I jumped at it. My parents divorced when I was five years old. I never thought of myself being married, but to being photographed as a disabled bride is something I knew I wanted to do. People with disabilities are somehow overlooked when it comes to love, and even sex, which is silly. We are all human. I want to show people through this shoot that there are people with disabilities who want to get married and have the happily ever after ending. We deserve it!
“I had an amazing time with the team – I’m thankful that they were not only inclusive but creative, talented, and easy going. Hiccups that came up were surmountable and approached so fluidly that that shoot felt like it went perfectly! I had an absolute blast and feel privileged to have been able to take part.” – Nicole
The best part about this disability rights wedding shoot was the response we got while taking the bridal portraits on the streets of San Francisco. The ‘Mayor of the Tenderloin’ district bought us a bottle of champagne, people cheered and congratulated us. There was so much pride, strength and community; it filled me with joy and resilience.
We are changing the world!
Check out this awesome TED talk ‘Why we should care about weddings’ by Jen Siomacco. The co-owner and Creative Director for Catalyst Wedding Co.
The Amazing Vendors for our Disability Rights Wedding Editorial
Photographer: Ella Sophie
Jewelry: Harp Designs
Dinnerware / flatware: CB2
Pastry: Alexis Mosqueda
Balloons: SF Party
Mystery Box Curator: Color Pop Events
Paper: Suite Smith
Acrylic Name Tags: California Lustre
Confetti: The Confetti Bar
Bowtie: Becoming Neckwear
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