Amputee Model Shaholly Ayers Is Challenging People’s Assumptions About Disability
This model is a role model, first and foremost.
Every young woman or man with dreams of landing the cover of a magazine encounters those moments—the ones where doors are literally and figuratively slammed in your face.
For model Shaholly Ayers, years of bullying in school ultimately turned into the courage she needed to walk into a modeling agency at age 19.
“Everyone was picking on me, from my classmates to my teachers, and it made me feel like a horrible person even though I knew I wasn’t. It was in that moment that I thought, ‘What can I do to change people’s minds about me and how they look at disability?’ and I knew that it had to be something visual,” Ayers recently told Shape Magazine.
I'm truly spoiled. Living and working in Hawaii for over a decade I have become used to working with talented artists. So much so, that I tend to take collaborative efforts such as these for granted. I am truly blessed to have worked with the most amazing photographers, makeup artists, and stylists on the island! It's been so fun and fulfilling to create works of art with you all! Photographer @richimages808 Makeup: @girlwiththewingedliner Designer: @kinizamora ………………………………….. A big THANK YOU to all of the artists I've worked with over the years! ❤❤❤❤ You!
Ayers is a congenital amputee, born days after a large hurricane hit the coast of Florida. Born to adversity, Ayers is proof that anyone can overcome their struggles. She’s already been featured in The New York Times, Glamour.com and GQ Italia, and her portfolio is only growing.
She’s even strutted the catwalk during the last three seasons of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City—the Academy Awards of the fashion industry.
In many photos, you don’t notice the fact Ayers is missing her right arm. But some companies are choosing to showcase her diversity. Check out Ayers modeling in Nordstrom’s anniversary sale catalog wearing her prosthesis. Ayers posted, “A HUGE thank you to @nordstrom for the amazing opportunity to model for your current #anniversarysale catalog.”
A HUGE thank you to @nordstrom for the amazing opportunity to model for your current #anniversarysale catalog. And thank you @global_disability_inclusion For your statement! It's thinking like yours the will help reshape the world! . . "We commend Nordstrom for its leadership role in featuring diverse models in their catalogs," said Meg O'Connell, President of Global Disability Inclusion. "Many in the fashion industry are hesitant to feature models with disabilities. Shaholly is the perfect example that beauty and disability are not mutually exclusive." . . . . #shaholly #amputeegirl #model #nordstrom #inclusion #disability #bodypositive #fashion #acting #awarness #ashleygraham
Ayers told Today she doesn’t feel the need to wear her prosthesis all the time. “I use it more as a tool,” she said. “I use it for working out primarily, kayaking, doing things outside.”
As she gains momentum in the industry, Ayers is using her experience to help young people with similar experiences. She is a partner of Love 4 Limbs, a resource website for amputees.
She’s also a brand ambassador for consulting firm Global Disability Inclusion, LLC. The firm helps businesses realize their possibilities for diversity inclusion.
Ayers says the first agency she approached about getting into modeling told her it would never work out. Bet they’re regretting that now!