When I first lost my eyesight, I never imagined walking the runway for a fashion show. I was 17 at the time and suffering from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is basically inflammation of my joints that also affects my eyes. At that time, I didn’t see the representation of disability in fashion. In fact, I didn’t think modeling was even possible for a blind woman. I don’t think that a blind person can’t be a model; I quickly realized that no one was providing the community with opportunities like this.
I didn’t think modeling was even possible for a blind woman. I don’t think that a blind person can’t be a model; I quickly realized that no one was providing the community with opportunities like this.
Now, I take pride in creating those opportunities. In the year In 2020, I started a fashion podcast called Fashionably Tardy to bridge the gap between people with disabilities and the fashion industry. Soon, I started getting requests from the fashion industry to do accessibility consulting for both products and product websites. I was inspired to create my own physical collection for the brand NYI – all our designs are based on texture, because that’s how I identify my clothes as a blind woman. I want to make the process easier for other blind people. But all this success aside, I had yet to hit the runway.
Fast forward to December 2022. I got an Instagram message from Brittney Ellis, a blind and huge fashion influencer, who was excited to let me know about an all-blind runway show in New York City in April 2023. I wasn’t at first. I’m sure I want to be in the show, but after talking to the founder of the Not My Eyes fashion show, Annalee Smith, I was instantly sold. Smith is a force on a mission to create more inclusive spaces for the blind in the fashion industry.
A blind, plus-size model herself, Smith made her runway debut in 2011. In 2017, she entered the competition hosted by Ashley Stewart. She didn’t end up winning, but one of the judges saw something special in her and encouraged her to pursue modeling. In the year In 2021, she won the Curvaceous Boutique competition and became the first blind model to become the face of the brand. This allowed her to build a platform to empower other blind people, which is how the Sight Not Fashion Show was born.
The show always promises to be a night to remember – and April’s event was no different. Keep scrolling to recap all of my experiences with blind fashion shows, and if you’d like to get involved, contact the Eyes of My Eyes team at their website. Blind people who want to dip their toes into the world of modeling are welcome, as well as volunteers, sponsors, designers and partners.
Image Source: Courtesy of Natalie Trayvon