Storytelling Matters

The Live Art and the Power of Words

Archive for the tag “disabilities”

Of Mannequins and Princesses

Mannequins and princesses. They have more in common than a penchant for wearing fancy duds.

Two web links were shared with me recently. And though the links are different, they are thematic mirrors of each other.

The first is a video depicting the construction of mannequins. These mannequins were designed to reflect the bodies of disabled people. With exquisite precision, models were measured and mannequins were made in their exact physical proportions. When the mannequins were completed, they were dressed in high end clothing and displayed in the window of an upscale store.

The most gripping moment in that video is when one of the disabled models passes by the mannequin created in her likeness. She stops and gazes at it from top and bottom. Then she smiles with a satisfaction that squeezes my heart every time I see the video. That woman saw herself reflected in the world.

Finally.

The second link was an article about a five year old girl with leukemia who is facing her next round of chemotherapy. Devastated at the thought of losing her hair again, the child told her mother that she won’t look like a princess anymore.

Arrangements were swiftly made with a photographer and a party planning company to do a photo shoot of the little girl. In spite of the fact that she was balding from the effects of chemo, she dressed up like a princess in a flowing, shiny dress. The model who came to the photo shoot was similarly attired in a shimmering princess gown. She was also wearing a bald cap. The little girl’s smile and delight sent tears of joy down the faces of those present, especially when the child said, “She looks like me.”

Seeing ourselves as part of the world is important to us. It is not hype or new age fluff. #Colormyshelf, for example, is a Twitter hashtag devoted to sharing children’s books that feature characters of color. Human beings want to see themselves in books, in stories, in role models, and advertising. Adults and children need this.

Not only do people hunger to see themselves reflected in the media, but able-bodied children need to see that disabled people are part of the human landscape. White folk should see way more than themselves reflected in literature and advertising. And why can’t beauty standards be inclusive of good hair days, bad hair days, and no hair days?

Writers can write with this intention. Artists can create with this intention. Our language can shift to accommodate this intention. And in the meantime, anyone who can speak can tell stories that include people of all abilities, looks, and heritages. Spoken stories allow listeners to manufacture the pictures in the stories – pictures of themselves and others. The more we do this, the less it will seem like news and the more it will become an everyday, natural part of life.

Use words and create visuals with the same impulse that sparked the creation of uniquely shaped mannequins and a family’s princess moment of glory. That is what mannequins and princesses have in common.

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Copyright 2015 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

Photo Credit:
By thebrandery (Flickr: The Brandery Winter Edition 2010) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Reimagining Beauty – D is for Determination

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Reimagining Beauty – D is for Determination

I admit it, reimagining beauty as determination may seem a bit counterintuitive at first. It might conjure an image of someone’s nose on a grindstone (seriously, I mean, ouch!). The idea of a stony-faced, focused, sweaty person who might even be grunting as she or he labors toward a goal is not exactly attractive. And yet, what athlete who was in Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics didn’t have moments of just that?

Determination produces a person who conceives goals and then has the “stick-to-it-iveness” to achieve them.

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but rising every time we fall.”

Often attributed to Confucius, this phrase embodies and emboldens determination. Achieving such glory is a beautiful indeed. Yet wanting it is only part of the equation. The path to glory is rife with challenges; those who stumble or crumble and then rise out of the ashes to try again are determined people. Pounding through in spite of the obstacles – climbing, trying a new path, pushing, whatever it takes – determination is the fuel that helps us manifest our hopes and dreams.

Not only is it an admirable quality, but determination is beautiful when seen. There is a moment when a person turns his head, sets her mouth firmly, then trains the eyes in the direction of a goal. The moment of resolve, that instant of physical and mental commitment is an incandescent, bell-ringing moment of inner and outer beauty, in full sync.

Determination is the cornerstone of achievement. Hardworking artists striving to ‘make it’ and students attempting to get high grades to get into college are determined. They are determined in the service of long term goals.

But determination is a hallmark of those living with challenges, like people with disabilities, people with illness, and those facing hardship. People who live life to its fullest despite illness and disability are determined. Those who strive against the tide and in face of hardship, are beautiful indeed.

Writers and storytellers have the opportunity to share all the qualities that make people beautiful. Determination is surely one of them. Tell about such people, write about them, help the world know the beauty of their wonderful, beautiful efforts. If we are determined, we can reimagine beauty.

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Copyright 2014 The Storycrafters. All rights reserved.

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