Cover Photo: A photo of Selma Blair in front of the Vanity Fair building, dressed in a flowing black, pink, blue, and mint green gown, posing with her cane.
Photograph by Joe Seer/Shutterstock

The Ugly Beautiful and Other Failings of Disability Representation

Those who spend their lives in bodies others deem unworthy grow accustomed to building our own self-worth.

ThisisAn Unquiet Mind, a monthly column by s.e. smith that explores disability identity and its interaction with the world at large.

It is deeply troubling for able-bodied people to learn that we find beauty and pride in ourselves, not in how we can most align with what nondisabled people think human bodies and minds should look like.

Often, though, this kind of reclamation is associated specifically with glamour and conventional beauty; Lauren Wasser, the model with the golden legs, or Mama Cax, a fierce Haitian model with cheekbones that could cut glass and a collection of stunning, bold prosthetic limbs, often in bright patterns and colors, sometimes minimalist and fierce, other times elaborate and lacy. Any one of them costs more than most amputees can afford.

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s.e. smith is a Northern California-based writer who has appeared in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, Esquire, Bitch Magazine, and numerous other fine publications.