[image description: a collage of three photos. The first photo starting from the left is a selfie of Lizzie wearing a jean jacket, black shirt and gold necklaces. She has a full face of makeup and is smiling at the camera. In the middle is a photo of Annie. The background is a floral wall. Annie is wearing a floral black top. She has a full face of makeup and is smiling at the camera. Jillian is the last photo to the right. She has a full face of makeup on and is looking at the camera with a “soft” expression.]
Disability and Latinx identity are often not shown together (#DisabilityTooWhite), but these three disabled Latinas are changing that. Their converging identities challenge how society views disabled Latinxs and how disability is being represented.
1. Lizzie Velasquez
Lizzie Velasquez is a 29-year-old Latina who was born with a rare syndrome. In 2006, when she was 17, someone posted a video of the Texas-born mexicana on YouTube, calling her “The World’s Ugliest Woman.” From there, Velasquez began speaking out against bullying and has become a global motivational speaker, activist, author and social media personality. The Latina’s credits her parents for letting her know that it’s OK that she has this syndrome, but it doesn’t define who she is. Because of the love and support from her family, Velasquez wrote a book called “Dare To Be Kind,” which encourages people to accept all parts of themselves and, by doing so, create a “culture of kindness” and a more compassionate world.
2. Jillian Mercado
Jillian Mercado is an Afro-Latina who has taken the fashion world by storm. At the age of 13, she was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a genetic disease that causes progressive weakness and loss of muscle mass. Having always been interested in fashion, Mercado never saw people in magazines that used mobility aids like she does. That all changed when she went to an open casting call for a Diesel Jeans ad campaign and landed the gig that launched her modeling career. The New York-based dominicana became the disabled representation in magazines she wished to see. She’s currently signed with acclaimed IGM Models and is continuing to land ad campaigns with Target and other major brands. She’s giving disabled Latinas all over the U.S. a chance to finally see themselves in magazines, where their beauty is celebrated — mobility aid included.
3. Annie Elainey (Segarra)
Annie Segarra, known as Annie Elainey online, is a content creator on YouTube who centers her work on activism and art. You may have seen the 27-year-old queer disabled creator-activist, whose pronouns are she/they and prefers the Latinx gender-neutral identifier, challenge society’s ableism with her buzz-generating “The Future Is Accessible” shirts. Segarra, who has Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a connective tissue disorder that can be inherited, is passionate about educating people on disability rights, LGBTQ+ rights and talking about her love for Frida Kahlo. Because of EDS, the Peruvian-Ecuadorian spends significant time in bed, reminding herself of Frida, who also lived much of her life in bed. She draws strength from knowing that another queer disabled Latinx shared an experience similar to hers.
Tell us about other disabled Latinx you know representing us in a kickass way in the comments below!