2.26.2019

Why Is Selma Blair So Important Right Now?



Quick. Name three famous style icons with visible disabilities. 

Stumped? Me too. Is it because there are no trend-setting celebs with disabilities? Is it because people who look sick can’t be fashion role-models? Did you at least name Iris Apfel? 

Following last Sunday’s Vanity Fair Oscar party, I’m happy, relieved, and inspired to say I can now name at least one Hollywood fashionista who’s proving that Multiple Sclerosis and disability can be categorically beautiful. 

After going public with her MS diagnosis last October, actress Selma Blair has been peppering her Insta feed with pictures that include a cane. This is a BFD because we don’t typically see disability represented in LaLa Land, or in media in general, at least not in a positive light. Sure, we see villains and victims, heroes and monsters. Lazy tropes that are used to advance the stories of the main characters; stories that don’t really have anything to do with the real life experiences of people actually living with disability. 

Which is why Selma’s Oscars moment was such an important moment for disability visibility. 

As a society we’re conditioned to believe all kinds of negative stereotypes about disability. The words that are often associated with the chronically ill include things like weakness, burden, victim, sad, other. These messed up ideas about disability – and in particular mobility aids – had a lot to do with my own anxiety and shame over being seen with a cane when I’d first started to need one.  

And then Selma shows up at the VF party, winning the night with her Ralph & Russo gown and cape, proudly supported by the ultimate accessory, a custom, patent leather, pink-diamond studded, monogrammed cane by Asprey. 

#want 

Selma’s bad-ass cane was next level; that’s Hollywood. Maybe this degree of bling isn’t realistic or practical for everyone, but fashion is about fantasy, fashion is aspirational. And isn’t it wonderful for those of us in this community to have at least one fab example of the best of what disability can look like?

Of course, some of the tabloid media are still trying their best to spin this story into a tragedy. One headline screamed, “Selma Blair bursts into tears as she’s forced to walk with cane after MS diagnosis.” Fuck you, The Mirror. That is not how it went down. That stunner of a cane did nothing to diminish Selma. 

It empowered her. 

Selma herself described the moment as “indelibly marked in my heart”.

Furthermore, Selma outright rejects the notion of victimhood. “There’s no tragedy for me”, she told Vanity Fair. Open about the real struggle of living with MS, she doesn’t hide how hard it is, but more than that she doesn’t hide herself. This is a woman in the public eye, a working actress and mom, whom we, mere mortals with MS and other chronic illnesses, can look at and say, “Holy shit, that looks like me”. 

Finally. 




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11 comments :

  1. You hear about celebrities with MS when they are initially diagnosed...but they disappear from the scene afterwards.

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    1. This feels different to me somehow. She has put herself out there at a particularly vulnerable time (being in the middle of an exacerbation). And, even if she does fall off the map, she has already contributed a tremendous amount in a very short time.

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  2. Totally agree! Think I need to get some bling and some glue for my sticks! Who says you can't have fun with a disability:)

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    1. I'm hoping that the cane-makers out there are inspired to start providing some cooler options. I for one am not that great with a glue gun.

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  3. Neil Cavuto. Montel Williams. Jack Osborne. Jamoe Lyn-Sigler. Teri Garr. Clay Walker. Ann Romney. Janice Dean. All have MS. None as vocal and poised on openly discussing MS and how it affects them. She is marvelous at voicing what MS is and isn't. A huge thanks to her.

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    1. I think we put these huge expectations on celebs and forget that they're people too. Nobody with MS owes it to the cause to put their health and lives on public display. But when they do it, and especially the way Selma has, wow, what an impact. I'm sorry she has MS, but grateful she's on my team.

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    2. Don't forget Richard Pryor.

      JE

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    3. Indeed. Considering the rates of MS in North America, I have a feeling there are several more recognizable names that have not gone public with their dx. I can hardly blame them.

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  4. Forget about the cane. I lust after the dress!

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  5. And great job with the column. Nailed it, as usual.

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    1. Thanks Kristin. She really did look perfect.

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