We all arrive so unabashedly unashamed. Whatever makes us unique….different…special –we regard without concern. We flaunt without a care.
Then, we 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 2018, I once again choose to highlight those auspicious people that have demonstrated to their family, friends, co-workers and some even to the public at large, that they have purposefully chosen not to hide, but rather flaunt whatever makes them unique.
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.
In 2012 model and former basketball player Lauren Wasser lost her right leg after contracting a rare, life-threating condition caused by Toxic Shock Syndrome (bacterial toxins from a tampon in 2012). In 2017 she is now is faced with also losing her left leg due to related pain. Rather than allowing herself to become limited due to her physical difference, Wasser has become a tireless spokesperson, fighting for better education for women about TSS. Recently she advocated for legislation that will require the National Institutes of Health to conduct or support research to determine the safety of ingredients in feminine hygiene products. “My legs were everything. I had no idea what my life would be without them,” said Wasser. Choosing to make the most of her life experience, she then added, “I think this is my purpose and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
At the age of eleven Harnaam Kaur first noticed hair sprouting on her face, chest and arms and was in a constant battle to try and remain hair-free. Harnaam’s facial hair is caused from a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Due to her appearance, Kaur was bullied repeatedly by her peers during her youth. But that was then. Now at age 26, Kaur has decided to fully embrace her condition and even was included in the Guinness World Records as the youngest woman in the world to have a full beard. Now a model and the first woman with a beard to walk the runway at London Fashion Week, Kaur reflected on her Guinness record and said: “I hope those who read or see my record can take away positive inspiration and realise that no matter who you are or what you look like, you are officially amazing.”
Many fellow flaunters join our DHIFI movement based on being a parent of a child born with a visible or invisible difference. As of a year ago, Jimmy Kimmel’s placement on our Best of the Flaunters list was not something foreseeable to us or to him. This past May, Jimmy bravely announced that his newborn son, William “Billy” Kimmel was born with a congenital heart defect, called Tetralogy of Fallot that was preventing his lungs from getting enough oxygen. This news meant that Billy would have to have two open-heart surgeries before the end of the year and then another as a teen. Faced with this new reality, Kimmel decided he had the opportunity to share his family’s personal trauma with the public to raise awareness about the importance of children’s healthcare. DHIFI praises Jimmy Kimmel for sharing his own personal family story while still having the strength to keep positive in a public forum even during the most difficult of circumstances. As Kimmel described it on his show recently, “Billy is doing great– this is amazing: He had an operation a week ago. They say he’s probably on track to win at least a bronze medal in the Olympics in 2036.” And then added, “Daddy cries on TV, but Billy doesn’t. It’s unbelievable.”
Rebel Wilson as “Fat Amy”
Being a flaunter means unconditionally accepting oneself, despite the judgment of others. Watching Rebel Wilson’s depiction of Fat Amy (er…Fat Patricia) in any of the Pitch Perfect movies can easily show us what it means to be a true fabulous flaunter and role model. Fat Amy loves her plus-sized body and embraces every inch of it with pride. She teaches us the power of humor in lifting spirits, knows how to make a joke, take a joke, and live life to the fullest with a captivating positive attitude. Furthermore, Fat Amy never lets anyone bring her down. She never lets the haters hurt her, but instead she brings herself up. According to a recent interview promoting Pitch Perfect 3, Rebel Wilson explained Fat Amy’s fierce and fabulously flaunting attitude further, stating “It’s all about female empowerment.” To us, although she may only be a character in a film, Fat Amy’s confidence and self-love makes her a role model for us all.
Nine-year-old Roman Hathaway was our DHIFI & Scholastic Kids Flaunt 2017 winner and deserves this special recognition. In his piece, “Made Just Right,” Roman describes what his life is like having Tourette’s Syndrome and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. But beyond describing the symptoms of each, Roman bravely and insightfully provides readers how having Tourette’s and OCD fundamentally impact his life experience. In his essay, Roman showed us all already that he has gained the maturity from his life experience to provide important advice. According to Roman, “I want to help other kids understand that some kids may be going through something, so you should treat everyone nicely–even if you don’t understand why they’re acting that way.”
Singer and actor Selena Gomez recognized the value of being the most-followed person on Instagram (127 million and counting!) and decided to share with her many fans the fact that she underwent a kidney transplant this past Fall associated with complications of her having lupus. Instead of keeping this information private, she chose to become a “Lupus Warrior” and used her platform to share the website of the Lupus Research Alliance to attract broad attention to the autoimmune disease. And it is clear Gomez plans to continue sharing her experience living with Lupus going forward as well. “It was what I needed to do for my overall health,” wrote Gomez, who explained that the transplant was related to her ongoing battle with Lupus. “I honestly look forward to sharing with you, soon my journey through these past several months as I have always wanted to do with you.”
Known for being the tremendously talented front man of amazing Grammy-award winning band Maroon 5, as well as a married father of one (with another on the way), Adam Levine could certainly have let us believe that his life was nothing but picture perfect. However, Levine has chosen to share a more revealing light about his own life experience. Diagnosed with ADHD in his early teens, Levine described his struggles growing up. “The diagnosis helped explain the challenges I was having in school, including my difficulty focusing, sitting down and getting my school work done.” But even beyond being outspoken about his diagnosis, Levine has worked with the Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) and related organizations. Embracing a fabulously flaunting attitude, Levine guides people by sharing that, “ADHD isn’t a bad thing and that [you] shouldn’t feel any different than kids without ADHD. Always remember there are others going through the same thing.”
Maysoon Zayeed is a writer, actor and comedian who happens to have Cerebral Palsy. Zayeed’s TED Talk, “I Got 99 problems…..Palsy Is Just One,” (filmed several years ago) continues to reach a wide global audience. Zayeed encourages us all to laugh along with her as she brilliantly influences us all to accept someone not despite but even because of his or her difference. In addition to her fabulously flaunting nature, Zayeed is co-founder of the New York Arab American Comedy Festival and runs workshops for disabled and orphaned kids in refugee camps. According to Zayeed, a natural leader and motivator, “If you’re disabled, and you’re trying to achieve your dreams, accept the fact that you have to work 500 times more than the average bear next to you. Stop bucking for sympathy, put on your titanium legs, and run!”
Charles Price was the winner of our DHIFI and Family Promise contest this year. Price, who lost his father at the age of three and lives with his mom and two siblings, bravely wrote in his winning essay about his invisible difference–being sensitive– and how other kids call him a “wimpy punk.” In addition, Price describes a life where “A lot of people like to make fun of me because of how I look and dress, but I don’t get offended.” At the age of twelve, Price has already learned a very valuable lesson that deserves our recognition—to not worry about what others think of him. According to Price, “When other kids hurt my feelings it hurts on the inside, but on the outside it doesn’t matter. I ignore it and mind my own business. I know I’m smart. I know I’m a good person and that’s all that matters.”
Amy Wright was CNN’s 2017 Hero of the Year Award recipient. Both of Wright’s children were born with Down Syndrome which prompted Wright to become an advocate for people with special needs. When Wright and her husband learned that 70% of disabled individuals are unemployed, they decided to become a part of the solution — for their children and others.
In 2016, Wright opened Bitty &Beau’s, a coffee shop in South Carolina that employs 40 disabled employees named after her own two kids. Upon accepting her award, we melted when Wright made certain to remind all that her children “were not broken.” She later added, I want you to know, because I know you are watching, that I would not change you for the world, but I will change the world for you.”