Today in Black History, let’s take a look back at a woman’s whose name is not one referenced often in households, but whose made its mark in many.
Mary Beatrice Davidson Kenner was an African American inventor who found a love for innovation at a very young age. Stories about her illustrate a who from a younger age imagined all sorts of household appliances. One story a six-year-old Kenner recalls a time in which the little girl would often wake up to the comings and goings of her mother in the early mornings for her day job.
“So I said one day, ‘Mom, don’t you think someone could invent a self-oiling door hinge?’” Kenner said according to GOOD BLACK NEWS. “I [hurt] my hands trying to make something that, in my mind, would be good for the door,” she said. “After that I dropped it, but never forgot it.”
Kenner ultimately chased her love for inventions all of the way to adulthood even despite the racial prejudices that threatened to hold her back.
According to Good Black News, in 1931 Kenner graduated high school and went onto attend the prestigious Historically Black College: Howard University. Unfortunately, she was ultimately forced to leave because of financial pressures. ut was forced to drop out a year and a half into her course due to financial pressures. Despite the discouragement she might have felt, Kenner held jobs as a babysitter and as a federal employee and pursued her inventions during her spare time.
At the time, as similar to today, Kenner’s biggest obstacle in the way of pursuing her inventions was money. At the time, and even today, obtaining a patent can be extremely expensive. Still by 1957, when Kenner was 45 years old she earned enough money to obtain her first patent, one she had created for sanitary napkins. At the time, when women still used cloth pads and rags for their periods, Kenner imagined an adjustable belt with an inbuilt moisture-proof napkin pocket. The idea insured a cleaner experience with sanitary napkins and worked to ensure that less menstrual blood would leak and stain clothing.
“One day I was contacted by a company that expressed an interest in marketing my idea. I was so jubilant,” Kenner once explained. “I saw houses, cars, and everything about to come my way.” A company rep drove to Kenner’s house in Washington to meet with their prospective client. “Sorry to say, when they found out I was black, their interest dropped. The representative went back to New York and informed me the company was no longer interested.”
While Kenner’s inventions never actually sold in stores, her inventions did make an impact. The innovative African-American woman, continued to chase her inventions throughout her entire life and ultimately filed five patents total. That’s more than any other African-American woman in history.
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Thanks to ableist movies like “Me Before You,” “Split” and “The Shape of Water,” when most people think of disabilities they often associate it with all things depressing, scary or pitiful. Mainstream media consistently portrays disabilities in a way that have led many of us to believe that those in the community only come with one story and one shade: ones that are depressing and white. Fortunately, the stories of the disabled community are so much diverse, they’re beautiful, fierce, many are positive and all come in the many different skin tones that contribute to Fenty Beauty’s existence.
Here are nine Disabled Latinas who are challenging beauty standards and showing the world how beautiful and diverse Disabled Latina beauty is.
1. Tamara Mena
Born and raised in Leon, Mexico, Mena immigrated to the United States at 13. The bilingual motivational speaker, actress, and model advocates for disability rights by frequently sharing her experiences on Instagram. When Tamara was 19, she suffered a car accident that left her paralyzed from the mid-chest down. The accident also caused the death of her boyfriend. In the years following the incident, Tamara has worked as a public speaker and encouraged others in the community on how to thrive in the face of a derailment. She participated in the famous beauty pageant Nuestra Belleza Latina as the first woman to be in a wheelchair in the competition and is one of the first Disabled talents to work with Ipsy. These days, she continues to use her voice and style to show young Disabled Latinas that they can achieve their dreams.
2. Jillian Mercado
This Disabled Afro-Latina has been killing it on the runway and in front of the camera since her modeling career took off when she landed an ad campaign with Diesel Jeans. Born with muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease that causes progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass, Jillian has used her voice to highlight how she and others have grown up with a severe lack of disabled representation in the fashion world. Since this New York Based Dominicana’s ad with Diesel Jeans, she has been signed with IMG models and has worked with Target and other large major brands. She’s definitely one to keep an eye on in the fashion world.
3. Marimar Quiroa
This Selona/Latina is killing the makeup game on Instagram and YouTube with her vibrant use of eyeshadows to create signature looks. Marimar is a 23-year-old Latina born with a facial tumor called “Cystic Hygroma.” She uses sign language to communicate with her followers on YouTube and Instagram and spreads a message to others to embrace their beauty. Growing up Marimar felt she needed to hide her face but after discovering makeup, she has embraced her features and found a passion in being a makeup artist.
4. Christina Feliz
Christina Feliz Martinez is a makeup artist and professional model based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Inspire by her Latinidad, chronic illness, and love for makeup, she uses her platform to share looks that she creates that celebrate it all. Because of her chronic illness, she has retired from modeling full time but does shoots occasionally. These days, she’s mostly focused on her work as a full-time makeup artist who highlights beauty products that can be a benefit to the chronic illness community.
5. Dru Presta
Standing at 3ft 4in, this Puerto Rican-Sicilian model born with a form of dwarfism is on a mission to change the fashion industry one photo at a time. Dru grew up in Reno, Nevada where she experiences bullying and isolation from her peers. Determined to not let the ugliness of others affect her, Presta uses her platform to show her audience that sexy can come in many sizes.
6. Annie Segarra
Annie Segarra, more commonly known online as Annie Elainey is a Disabled Peruvian-Ecuadorian Latinx with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) which is a connective tissue disorder. On YouTube, Annie creates videos that bring awareness to EDS but also speaks about the intersection of being disabled and Queer. Their platform has become a safe space for Disabled LGBTQ+ to feel seen and supported. When Annie isn’t creating videos, they’re slaying on Instagram with their #disabledandcute fashion looks. Their photos show outfits paired perfectly with their mobility aids.
7. Jessica Ruiz
Jessica Ruiz is a Puerto Rican-Irish makeup artist based in Philadelphia whose main tool in creating looks for her clients is her mouth! Born with arthrogryposis, a condition that doesn’t allow her joints to move “normally”, she learned how to apply makeup with her mouth by holding the tools between her lips. She made makeup accessible for herself and after being rejected by a beauty school because of her disability she said “girl bye” and began a career for herself as a makeup artist. Her biggest break came when she had the opportunity to work at the Philadelphia Small Business Fashion Week where she was the lead makeup artist for the event. Jessica is making a name for herself as a disabled Latina MUA, and won’t be stopping any time soon!
8. Elsie Tellier
Living with Cystic Fibrosis (a terminal illness that affects the respiratory and gastrointestinal system), this Mexican-French Canadian uses her wheelchair to show off her love for fashion and her personality. After finding clothes that were comfortable and made her feel good while being in her chair, she began painting her wheels with pictures of galaxies and flowers to match her aesthetics. She uses her mobility aid as a fashion statement that challenges society’s absurd beauty standards. Tellier has said that her big goal is to see fashion brands make fashion accessible for those who use aids like wheelchairs, crutches, canes etc.
9. Giovanna “Gigi” Giscome
This Afro-Latina from New York City and based in San Francisco Bay Area combines her love for fashion and modeling with her disability rights activism. Gigi has said that as she was growing up her parents taught her to love her disability but she soon noticed that that outside of her family atmosphere often revealed how uncomfortable they were with her disability. While she personally felt fine about being disabled she knew she wanted to change the mindset of others and did so with the help of fashion. Modeling and becoming a fashionista is Gigi’s way of fighting beauty standards which typically only showcase white, able models. Her fashion choices make a statement that both she and her disability are beautiful. Her photos show that she can bring it when it comes to high fashion with jaw-dropping looks.
10. Sofía Jirau
Sofia Jirau is a 22-year-old Puerto Rican model with Down Syndrome. She is, to say the least, a true jefa whose recent appearance on the runway at a New York Fashion Week show is undoubtedly a game-changer. While walking the runway this past week, the model lived out her dream of not only modeling in New York but also shaking up its fashion scene. “When I was little, I looked myself in the mirror and said, ‘I’m going to be a model and a businesswoman,’” Jirau told People in an interview.
Machismo in the Latinidad can make many spaces difficult for women to break in. However, the boy’s club has never stopped Latinas from making their mark and owning just how amazing women can be. A prime example of this is the Luchadoras who excel in the male-dominated world of Mexican wrestling. Lucha Libre was started all the way back in 1863 by Enrique Ugartechea, the first Luchador.
Ugartchea developed Mexican wrestling based on the wrestling of the Greco-Romans. The high flying maneuvers and theatrical drama was an instant hit with sport fans. The sport spread from the regions of Mexico up to the United States during the 1930s and 1940s. At first, Lucha Libre was only a guys sport but women eventually began making room for themselves in the macho sport. Today, Luchadoras wrestle in every major league and even have their own. In 2000, Lucha Libre Femenil, an all-female promotion company, was established.
Now, there is no shortage of extraordinary Luchadoras to entertain and inspire us. Here are some of the most boss mujeres in the business:
Mystique became interested in the world of Luche Libre because her boyfriend was a big fan. After showing her videos of wrestling matches, the Mexicana decided she wanted to train and begin wrestling. She took inspiration from X-Men character Mystique for her name but her persona is straight out of Japan. Dressed like a masked ninja luchadora, Mystique has fans all over the world, especially in Mexico and Japan.
Wrestling out of California, this Luchadora is a newcomer who made her debut in August 2018 with the Empire Wrestling Federation. Vulcana takes her name from famous strong woman Miriam Kate Williams. Active in the late 1800’s through early 1900’s Williams’ stage name was also Vulcana. Vulcana is all about showing the strength of women. By using her own power, her goal is to bring the knowledge of the ancestors back into Lucha Libre.
3. La Hiedra
Nicknamed La Nueva Reina del Escandalo, La Hiedra is a Luchadora from Northern Mexico. Two years after her debut, La Hiedra advanced to the final of the Quien Pinta Por La Corona. Though she didn’t win that title, the Luchadora has had great support with Lucha Libre fans. Since 2015, La Hiedra has wrestled with Lucha Libra AAA Worldwide and has also appeared with the International Wrestling Revolution Group.
Luchadora Sanely started out as a mystery woman during the 2015 CMLL Bodybuilding Competition. She was so impressive during this appearance that it earned her a debut with Consejo Mundial Lucha Libre. Sanely isn’t just a boss Luchadora, she’s a legacy! Her father, grandfather, brother, and brother-in-law are all Luchadors. In fact, Sanely’s nickname is La Dama del Guante Negro after her father’s stage name, Mano Negro.
5. Baby Puma
Baby Puma is another bit of proof that Lucha Libre runs in the family. Her father is the famous Luchador Ultratumba and her sister is Lady Pumba. Wrestling since 2008, Baby Puma has made a name for herself separate from her famous familia. Wrestling at the Arena Femenil, Baby Puma’s high energy moves have earned the Luchadora her own legion of loyal fans.
Lluvia is a fishnet-clad Luchadora who wrestles with CMLL. Utilizing her signature move, the Octopus Cradle, she claimed the title of Reina Tag-Team Champion alongside Luna Mágica in 2011. Family is very important to Lluvia. In 2017, the Luchadora became a mama! She’s also from a Lucha Libre family. In fact, her sister is #3 on this list, La Hiedra.
7. Magic Girl
Magic Girl is a Mexican Luchadora who trained with stars of Lucha Libre like Pantera II and El Diablo Jr. Her first experience wrestling was at a sports festival. Magic Girl was so good that the audience threw money into the ring at the end of the match. Lucha Libre is also a family event for Magical Girl. Although, she was the one to inspire her father, Blasniety, to train and perform as a Luchador.
Sexy Star started her career as a Luchadora under the name Dulce Poly. However, it’s under stage name Sexy Star that she’s done her best work. The Latina is a three-time AAA Reina de Reinas Champion as well as a AAA World Mixed Tag Team Campion. Despite her huge success, Sexy Star chose to leave the world of Lucha Libre. In 2017, the Luchadora allowed herself to be unmasked so she could work on her new career as a boxer.
9. Lady Flamer
19-year-old Lady Flamer might be young, but she’s already a champion. Among her victories, the Latina won the LLF Championship and LLF Tag Team Title alongside Lady Puma. The daughter of the Red Flamer, Lady Flamer was the first of his children to train in the family business. She was the surprise Luchadora in her debut match during The Crash at Auditorio de Tijauana.
10. Goya Kong
Goya Kong is a plus-sized Luchadora who uses her size as a strategy in the ring. She uses humor in her performances just as her Luchador dad, Brazo de Plata, did in his wrestling. The Luchadora started her career with AAA but switched to CMLL in 2010 when her father also changed leagues. In 2013, Goya Kong won the Trofero Arena Coliseo 70 Aniverserio Championship, beating the Luchadora who unmasked her the previous year.
Danah is the younger sister Luchadora Goya Kong. Starting her career as Muñeca de Plata, her debut name was a call back to her father, Brazo de Plata. Danah spent several years as a part-time Luchadora with AAA and CMLL. However, in 2015 the Latina debuted anew with Lucha Libre Elite as a league regular.
12. Lady Shani
Lady Shani is kind of a big deal. She is the current AAA Reina de Reinas Champion and the 2017 winner of the Producciones Cordero Copa Femenil. She began her wrestling career with the name Sexy Lady and was a ruda or villain. Her fans didn’t seem to mind her role as a bad girl, though. She has adoring fans over the world.
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