You may have seen this Target advert pop up on one of your social media feeds in the last week. The acknowledgement from Jen Spickanagel Kroll, a mum of a little girl who has prosthetic legs has gone viral. Her daughter loves the character Elsa in Frozen and was so excited to see someone in crutches wearing the outfit. But more importantly, it is about kids with disabilities being seen. Here is a quote from Jen;
"In mainsteam culture, perfection is valued. Special needs families exist in a subculture. The challenges we face are shared with those who understand them. And we're virtually invisible to the outside world".
Growing up in the 70s and 80s in New Zealand, I would never have seen an advert like this. And as a red headed, frizzy haired (no decent hair products back then) freckly, crooked toothed, pale and skinny (before pale and skinny was cool) little girl (AND there weretwo of us, me and my twin!), I truly felt like someone who didn't belong in an advert. All I wanted was long brown smooth and straight hair and a tan! It really wasn't an easy time to be a ginga (I do thank Prince Harry and a few others for hopefully carving an easier path for my little red head son).
Finally, we are throwing out the idea that 'perfection' is what we strive for.
It started over a decade ago with those great Dove ads, celebrating 'real beauty' after their global report cited that the definition of beauty had become limiting and unattainable. But recently, I feel there has been an increase in the adverts that celebrate diversity. Check out this great one by Dolce and Gabbana;
A little boy with Downs Syndrome called Ryan has been featured in a number of shopping catalogues and is carving out quite a career for himself. Again this message is so important, because it sends the message that beauty comes in so many different forms, rather than the homogeneity of previous mainstream advertising.
Plus sized models are also in demand, and again, the general feedback is that finally it feels ok to celebrate who you are, rather than aspire to some unattainable ideal (unfortunately this trend is also attracting some criticism; see this article on what Tess Holliday went through earlier this year).
Cam Calkoen, an extraordinary motivational speaker, who gets constant standing ovations, was born with Cerebral Palsy. He says ' I walk and talk funny, what's your excuse'? Another wonderful example of chucking out the ideals of what 'normal' looks like.
After years and years of dying my hair blonde, I have finally embraced being a redhead. I also have a few friends who are joining the growing trend of showcasing their grey manes and saving some big $$ at the hair salon!
What part of you are you not celebrating, because you don't feel it's 'normal'?
There is an absolute allure to someone who fully owns who they are, and welcomes their uniqueness. Once we stop trying to fit in, and be like everyone else, and choose to honour ourselves for who we are, I think the real magic shows up. Sure there will be some people thinking this is all lip service, and the advertisers are simply trying out the latest fad, but I think that this recent activity around celebrating diversity is making a difference in the lives of many like Jen's daughter. Let's face it, if we can encourage our children to accept others in all shapes and forms, that has to be a really positive thing.