“Difficulties break some men but make others.” Nelson Mandela
We all start out so unabashedly unashamed. Whatever makes us unique, different, special we regard without concern; we flaunt without a care.
Then, we (our or child, family member) change. Someone. Somehow. Sometime. Something. And we find ourselves thrust into the world of judgment, or painfully watch as our children face the same. Does it happen to us or do we allow it to happen? No matter. It was always present, but now we care. There, we struggle, sometimes for years, to improve ourselves so our difference isn’t noticed.
If we or our child arrived with our difference and we are fortunate, we hope to return to that place of our early youth, where absorbing external judgment isn’t even considered. If our difference happened along the way, we strive for new functional ability, and ultimately emotional stability.
Regardless, if we are fortunate, we have arrived as a flaunter, able to not only embrace our lot in life, but appreciate its value, and even inspire.
As we turn the page to 2014, I once again choose to highlight those auspicious people that have demonstrated this past year to their family, friends, neighbors and some even to the public at large, that they have learned not to hide, but rather flaunt whatever makes each of them unique and fabulous:
Rion Page “I have to be myself because everyone else is taken Born with arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, a rare disorder that caused a curving of the joints in her wrist as well as almost permanently blind in her right eye, 13-year-old Paige became the youngest contestant and also finalist on the vocal talent show X-Factor this year. Rion was determined at a very young age to sing but soon realized that she was unable to hold a microphone. The challenge did not prevent Rion from pursuing her dream of a professional singing career. “”I just realized I needed to adapt and I was going to have to do things differently than everybody else.” Simon Cowell was so impressed by Rion’s talents, he called her “literally extraordinary,” comparing her promising future to that of another vocalist he discovered via American Idol, Carrie Underwood.
Nikki Kelly “I’m proud to represent those who look differently, but it’s about what you can do and how you celebrate it. I’m just like you.” Born without her left forearm, Nicole Kelly, Miss Iowa gracefully flaunted across the Miss America stage this past Fall. In addition to be a great athlete and a fellow trombone player, Nicole shows the public that she is actually just like everyone else, only different. “I’m here not because I look different but because I have the intelligence, I have the ability and all the things that Miss America needs to have.
Aviva Drescher “The key to surviving the emotional and physical struggle after losing a limb is all in about how you look at life. Sometimes some people have to wear glasses to see. Some people have to wear a back brace so they don’t have pain. Some have to wear special shoes. You’ll be more than Okay….” (To Boston bomb victims who are now amputees) Aviva lost her foot at six years old after getting her leg caught in a farm conveyor belt during a sleepover at a friend’s house. Years later, she chose to have her whole leg amputated below the knee for a better prosthesis fit. Featured on the show, “The Real Housewives of New York,” Aviva describes why she did the show: I took this [role] to show the kids and pre-teens who are in physical predicaments they can do whatever they want to do. At the expense of being a silly caricature, I hope I’m helping people.”
Erik Weihenmayer “Too often, they look through a rearview mirror at their former life, and they focus on what they had before. I am here to help these people get unstuck through inspiration, as well as show them the skills they need to move forward with their lives.” In 2001, Weihenmayer became the first blind person to conquer Mount Everest, which landed him on the cover of Time magazine. Erik was blinded at the age of 13, due to a rare disease called hereditary juvenile retinoschisis. Currently, among all of Erik’s amazing and excellent adventures, he is currently training to solo-kayak the Grand Canyon. According to Weihenmayer, doesn’t do this for all the fame or glory. He is on a quest to demonstrate that a cognitive or physical disability does not have to consign a person to a life without adventure and meaning.
Ryan Haack “I desire to help people realize they are valuable. They are lovable. They are important. They are awesome!” Born without his left forearm, husband and father of three Ryan spends his time these days through his fabulously flaunting blog, podcasts and public speaking appearances to demonstrate how looking different doesn’t mean someone’s life and abilities should be held back. “I’m no stranger to being or feeling different. It’s my goal to help students, especially our younger ones, to realize that we’re all different and not only is that ok – it’s AWESOME!” Ryan is a treasure and his valuable site can be accessed at www.livingonehanded.com
Alexis Wineman “Autism doesn’t define me.” Alexis Wineman took the stage at the 2013 Miss America pageant early this year in Las Vegas. Not only was she the reigning Miss Montana, this fabulous and beautiful flaunter was the first autistic contestant to compete for the crown. Diagnosed at the age of 11, Wineman’s platform is to raise awareness about the developmental disorder. “So many people expect autistic people to all be the same—that it’s a brain disorder so we can’t function in society. I want people to realize there’s a whole spectrum of people who live with autism.”
Rafi Abdurrahman Ridwan “I am a Fashion Designer and yes I’m also a deaf. But let me tell you something, I can hear…..” Now eleven years old, Rafi is Indonesia’s youngest Fashion Designer. Rafi lost his hearing at the age of three months. This past year, Rafi’s fashion designs were featured by Tyra Banks on “America’s Next Top Model” and it is clear that the future is extremely bright for this incredibly talented flaunter (no hearing required!) http://gultz.blogspot.com/2012/02/rafi-abdurrahman-ridwan-he-wil-be-big.html
Chad Miller “I had a funny experience in church. A little girl was scared of my hand. She noticed it when I raised my palms up to say the our father. The next thing I know, the whole pew in front of me is looking. I just smiled and said, God made me different .” The husband and father from the Midwest was born without a left hand. As he wrote in his Guest Flaunt earlier this year: “If I were truly honest, I was more like, ‘Hide it, Don’t Flaunt It.’ Having one hand is something that I have always somewhat hid to most of the world. The only place that I was truly comfortable was around close friends and family.” Chad has come so far since he wrote me the first time, and this past year was even featured on a local news station about his difference. Chad, you rock. http://www.waow.com/story/23911338/2013/11/07/someone-you-should-know-weightlifters
Melissa McCarthy ‘What I found so bizarre is I picked the coat. I grabbed the coat. I covered up. I had a great black dress on but I thought, it comes out in November.” Widely criticized this past fall for wearing a coat on the cover of Elle magazine this fall, actress and comedienne had to defend her choice of wearing a coat to conceal her plus-size figure. McCarthy has been chosen as one of the 2013 top flaunters because she deserves our praise, not our scrutiny. Whether in her movies or during private time as a wife and mom, Melissa is never hiding her weight. In fact, Melissa was so comfortable with her figure, she wasn’t worried about what she should or should not be wearing during the particular shoot for Elle. Melissa McCarthy, keep up the fabulous flaunting!
Jordan Reeves “My heroes are my family.” In 2005, Jordan was born with a full right arm and a left arm that stops after the humerus. This year, Jordan was awarded the WIN (Women’s Intersport Network) for Columbia Inspiration Award received from Jackie Joyner-Kersee who was the keynote speaker for the event earlier this year. Jordan’s amazing mom Jen Lee Reeves blogs about Jordan’s fabulously flaunting life at www.bornjustright.com. According to Jen: “I want Jordan to be proud of her abilities and recognize that when she participates in activities, it inspires people just because she keeps trying. Just being Jordan can be inspirational.”
Tatyana McFadden “My past has made me a really strong woman. It has given me the drive I need.” McFadden was born with spina bifida and paralyzed from the waist down and spent the first six years of her life in an orphanage in St. Peterburg. In 1994, her mother, who was working as the commissioner of disabilities for the U.S. Health Department, visited Tatyana’s orphanage in St. Petersburg, Russia on a humanitarian aid mission, and immediately felt a connection to the strong-willed little girl. That little girl grew up to compete an unprecedented Grand Slam sweep of the Boston, London, Chicago and New York marathons in 2013, and has now put away her racing chair and taken out skis. Tatyana also won three gold medals in track and field at the London Paralympics in 2012, and now will ironically be headed back to Russia to compete in the Winter Paralympic competition.
Happy New Year from my family to yours!