We all start out so unabashedly unashamed. Whatever makes us unique, different, special we regard without concern; we flaunt without a care.
Then, we (or our child) change. Someone. Somehow. Sometime. Something. 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. Consumed by the opinion of others, we might struggle, sometimes for years.
As we turn the page to 2017, 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.
These phenomenal individuals have not only achieved unconditional self-acceptance, but appreciate its value so fully that just by being themselves they inspire others to do the same.
If you haven’t yet seen the awesome and talented Chrissy Metz on the critically acclaimed show, “This is Us” (NBC), it is more than worth your while in 2017! A star of the show, Metz has had to deal with some hate, in the form of mean-spirited comments from online bullies who criticize her weight. DHIFI applauds Metz’ awesome and flaunt-worthy attitude, including when she recently described in an interview her how she’s not about to let haters bring her down — or show any willingly stoop to their level. According to Metz, “The way I stand up to bullies is with kindness and love….because I think that’s what they really need. They’re misunderstood and probably really upset themselves.”
Born without hands, DHIFI first learned of Anaya, age seven, when she won a national handwriting contest! From an early age, Anaya got the message from her family that she could do anything. Strong and independent, according to Anaya’s teacher, she is a very determined little girl. When she wanted to draw, she learned how to balance a crayon or marker between her arms. Not only are her art skills beyond a first-grade level, she is even considering a job as a scientist or astronaut! DHIFI recognizes Anaya for her fierce determination and heart of gold.
In March 2012, Bekham Zobrist, now age seven, learned he had a rare eye cancer. The only choice to save his young life was to remove his eye. Afterwards, as if he hadn’t suffered enough trauma, his friends and t-ball teammates began to call him freak, making fun of his difference. A cousin of Cubs baseball player Ben Zobrist, in response, last Christmas Bekham begged his parents for something that would actually purposefully make all of them stare—a prosthetic eye with the Chicago Cubs logo! When he bravely showed his peers, they were duly impressed. And this year, just to make everything even more sweet, not only did the Cubs win the World Series— Ben was named as its MVP! DHIFI applauds Bekham for his awesome flaunting attitude and making the most of his life experience.
In 2016 Don’t Hide It Flaunt It once again partnered with Scholastic and initiated its “Kids Flaunt” contest to 4th grade students in New York and California and also this year New Jersey and Illinois! Prompted by the theme, “The Things That Make Me Different Make Me, Me,” Rayyan Sayeed from IL earned his Best of the Flaunters 2016 nod by winning this year’s contest with his fabulously flaunting piece, “Flaunt Your Differences” about living in the U.S. as a Muslim from India. Despite experiencing others mocking him sometimes, Rayyan works to educate other kids about his differences, promoting an environment of understanding rather than judgment. According to Rayyan, “Instead of feeling left out I stand up for myself and flaunt my differences. I hope everyone can live together peacefully.” We couldn’t agree more.
Prompted by his grandfather, Ohio native Simmons, age 15, taught himself how to play piano at just 10 years old. Born with three fingers on his right hand and one finger on his left, Simmons also has no bones below both knees. As talented as he was playing for his family, Simmons began posting videos of himself on Facebook performing. His talent caught the attention of Korean pianist Yiruma, scoring him an invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Stated Simmons after crushing it at Carnegie this past May, “I want everyone to know that if you set your mind to something you really can do it,” he added.
Twenty-three-year old Megan Bomgaars happens to have Downs Syndrome, but that fact certainly hasn’t held the talented star of the A&E docu-series Born This Way back! Bomgaars, who grew up dreaming of a career as a dancer or singer, was an easy choice as a best of the Flauntersof 2016, when we learned that she has never been one to shy away from the spotlight. According to Bomgaars mother, Kris, “She believes in herself and won’t let anything hold her back.” We can’t wait to see what the future holds for the beautiful and talented Bomgaars.
A fashion designer by profession, Mindy’s personal life took an unexpected twist when she and her husband Greg learned their middle child, Oliver, was born with Muscular Dystrophy. While that news was not something Mindy could change, she realized something ironic. Oliver’s fashion choices were limited as a result of his difference. For example, he couldn’t even wear jeans like his friends since they wouldn’t fit over his braces. That was several years ago. Fast forward to 2016, Mindy is now the founder and President of Runway of Dreams, an adaptive clothing line that partnered earlier this year with Tommy Hilfiger. Because of Mom-flaunter Mindy’s fierce determination to help her own son and countless others, children (and soon adults) and their parents now have access to functional and fashionable clothing! Mindy has been named as one of 2016’s TODAY style heroes. DHIFI can’t wait to see what else Runway of Dreams does to help millions of people and believes Mindy is simply a hero…period.
James Durban certainly flaunted his spectacular vocal chords while on American Idol in 2011. Now a husband and father to two young children, James continues to be singing and touring, having just released a new album, “Riot on Sunset.” However, it was in 2016 James came out much more vocally in a different way—by discussing how he manages his life, family and career with Tourette’s Syndrome and Asperger’s Syndrome. Despite having to deal with sometimes obvious tics, James’ awesome attitude landed him on the DHIFI 2016 list deservedly. “But despite being ‘born different,’ I am actually now grateful for my condition because it gives me a chance to help others who might also have disabilities. My aim is to be a role model to them.”
When Misty Copeland joined the legendary American Ballet Theatre (ABT), she was the only African-American female dancer in the company; and for the next eleven years, it would remain that way. And although she’d make history in 2007 by becoming the first African-American female soloist in two decades,—in June 2015 Copeland became the first African-American performer to be appointed as an American Ballet Theater principal dancer. This past year in May 2016, Copeland even inspired a Barbie doll wearing a costume reminiscent of the one she wore in Firebird. The doll is part of Barbie’s heroes program which honors female heroes who break boundaries. According to Misty, “You Can Do Anything You Want, Even If You Are Being Told Negative Things. Stay Strong And Find Motivation.” DHIFI is honored to include Misty Copeland in our 2016 Best of the Flaunters list.
DHIFI first learned about Jacob April when he recently wrote a Runway of Dreams flaunt (essay) for us. Born with Cerebral Palsy, Jacob shared with us the past struggles he’s had with dressing himself independently. Invited to join Mindy Scheier of Runway of Dreams at the White House this past Fall to describe his own personal success due to the new adaptive clothing line made available, Jacob has demonstrated what can only be described as a winning outlook on life and fabulously flaunting attitude. He more than deserves everyone’s praise and certainly to be included in our 2016 list. In his essay, Jake wrote, “While I cannot stop people from making assumptions about me and my life, I am so grateful to have been given the gift of living even more independently than I was before. These days I hope people notice the clothes I am wearing instead of recognizing my difference. Because after all, I’m just living my life perhaps looking different, but always feeling like myself.”