My Twelve Pairs of Legs

The concept of beauty is always changing and evolving. What was once beautiful is no longer considered so – at least in the magazines.  There was a time when the body of Marilyn Monroe was the absolute ideal, then the stick figure of “Twiggy” was the IT physique. It is impossible to keep up with such a fickle industry – and you shouldn’t have to. All women are unique and beautiful.

As you will come to realize, I am quite a fan of inspirational talks. I love to hear other’s perspectives and open my mind to new experiences. The TED Talk “My 12 Pairs of Legs” did just that. Aimee Mullins was born without fibular bones and had both of her legs amputated below the knee when she was an infant. She learned to walk…then run on prosthetics. Today, Mullins is a model, actor, fierce champion sprinter (competing in the Paralympics) , and an advocate for women, sports, and the next generation of prosthetics. In her talk, she discusses her experience with prosthetics, and starts a new conversation on beauty, asking what is beautiful and what does having a “disability” mean to one’s identity.

Mullins mentions the fact that after she speaks people will come up to her and say, “Aimee, you are very beautiful – you don’t look disabled.” To this, she replies, “that’s great, because I don’t feel disabled.” So what does beauty mean in our society then? Do you need the “it” body of the moment to be beautiful? Or can you simply be yourself and find beauty in that?

Mullins prosthetic legs offer her amazing superpowers: speed, beauty, and an extra 6 inches of height (that’s right – she has a pair that can help her go from 5’8” to 6’1”…. lucky!). To her, she is not disabled, so why would we see her that way? This is about redefining the concept of beauty to include more experiences and viewpoints. Fashion Designer Alexander Mcqueen was interested in this conversation, and had Aimee walk the runway in one of his shows wearing a pair of hand-carved wooden boots (legs) that looked like whimsical sculptures. No one knew these were legs and not boots.

Aimee also appeared in a documentary where several other unique pairs of legs (e.g. glass legs) were created for her – all with little purpose other than to spark conversation. Aimee’s “12 Pairs of Legs” became art – and art and poetry make things beautiful. The point of this dear readers, is that by making her legs into art, she invites others to look and look a bit longer to the point where another may understand her experience, and come to see that she is in fact “superabled” not “disabled.”

Do not be afraid of what is different. Be curious about others experiences and embrace your uniqueness. Individuals with prosthetics were once seen as disabled but with new technologies, these individuals are now able to become the creators of their own identities. These individuals can continue to change their identity by designing their body from a place of empowerment. This is true potential. Potential in our society.

So what is beauty to Aimee Mullins? “It is our humanity and all the potential within it that makes us beautiful.” Let’s hope we see more of these figures in fashion. They are a true inspiration and help share a message to embrace who we are to the fullest. Let’s change how we view “disability.”

Check out Aimee Mullin’s talk here:


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