Mama Cax Walks The Runway In A Prosthetic Leg To Represent The Disabled Community And The Fashion World Is Loving Her
Unless you’ve been living under a rock these past few months, you might’ve heard about that incredibly inclusive and body-positive lingerie show that our lord and savior Rihanna threw for Savage X Fenty. The show featured models of all shapes and sizes, women of different ethnic backgrounds and walks of life, were cast to take part in a fashion show that celebrated the female body in all its iterations. Amongst these women was Mama Cax, a Haitian-American model who suffered a leg amputation and who’s a huge activist for disability in fashion.
It goes without saying, but Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty label has changed things up for those who aren’t the impossibly small size of a Victoria’s Secret model.
The singer staged her latest collection during NYFW, hosting a giant production featuring the likes of Cara Delevingne, Bella and Gigi Hadid, alongside others like YouTuber and model Loey Lane, Ceraadi, Margie Plus, and Jayla Korian. That’s without even mentioning the hundreds of dancers and performers like Big Sean, Tierra Whack, and Migos.
Caxmi is a model who’s blog gave her celebrity status.
Among the models, dancers, actors and performers, was model and amputee Caxmi, who first gained notoriety via her blog of the same name —that saw her open up about her disability, as well as talking about travel, fashion, and lifestyle. “Around the age of 15, I was diagnosed with bone cancer which led to me having my right leg amputated,” she shared in an interview with i-D. “That story is what landed me on social media, to share my story and get young women to love themselves and embrace their bodies.”
After experiencing her own depression and body issues, she made it her mission to teach girls to love themselves and know their worth.
Diagnosed at 14 with bone and lung cancer, she lost her right leg soon after with an amputation at the hip. “This condition opened up a completely new vision for me, I started writing a blog to talk about body-positivity. This has become my mission to give girls like me a voice and encourage them to love each other as they are. Perhaps it seems a trivial phrase, but it is a really profound concept in reality.”
In the intervening years, Cax has found her sense of self—and her sense of style.
This year, she made her New York Fashion Week debut on the Chromat runway wearing swimwear. She then went on to walk for Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty and landed the cover of Teen Vogue, along with two other voices in the disabled community, Jillian Mercado and Chelsea Werner.
The response to her incursion in fashion has been overwhelming, and she wants to keep going, “So that any doors I open, stay open.”
“The messages I’ve been getting since [the story dropped], I’m getting chills just talking about it,” Cax said to Vogue, “I was doing an event the other day with a lot of girls with limb differences and in wheelchairs,” Cax continues. “They never see someone who looks like them on the cover of a magazine or on a runway, so for them, it means quite a lot.”
Another thing they might not typically see: A one-legged woman surfing.
“I was very athletic before my surgery, and after I wanted to keep that going, so I found different adaptive sports,” says Cax, who got into wheelchair basketball and rock climbing. “Surfing was the next thing that I took on. I’m still learning, still pushing myself.” Organizations like Surf For All and Challenged Athletes Foundation are good starting points for people with disabilities.
As her career continues to rise, she wants the brands, magazines, and labels she collaborates with to think about what it actually means to commit to representation.
In the past few years, brands have been quick to release campaigns that loudly proclaim a celebration of diversity and inclusion. And sometimes they’re just words —especially when it becomes apparent that companies are more interested in tokenizing for sales than inviting marginalized groups into their communities.
But Cax makes sure to keep working only with the brands who put their money where their mouth is and don’t just tokenize women.
While she treats every job and runway as a piece of “the bigger picture” (that is, a chance to empower those living with disabilities and to educate others), she also appreciates brands that are genuine in their intentions. “If I go on set and everything’s accessible and I have my foundation that’s my color, then I’m being represented well,” she says. “They’re thinking about me as a person and my needs. If not, then I know they didn’t care much.”
“I think some brands think it’s not fruitful for them to design for a specific group,” says Cax. That’s simply untrue; according to Nielsen, more than one in three households in the U.S. have a member who identifies as having a disability, and this community holds a collective $1 billion in spending power.
Beyond designing products with these customers in mind, Cax also raises the point that brands should also think about the shopping experience in the store. Making spaces more accessible and not using the changing stall for people with disabilities as a storage room would be a good start.
This year has made one thing clear: Women are showing up, stepping up, and taking what they deserve. From politics to pop culture, women aren’t just leveling the playing field—they’re owning it. And Cax has taken the fashion industry by storm, whether it’s on the runway, in an Olay ad, or on Instagram, Mama Cax brings a breath of fresh air and an important message: that women with disabilities deserve to be represented equally.