Disabled model uses her platform to advocate for more diversity in the fashion industry

Disabled social media star and activist, Shelby Lynch, in her wheelchair.

Disabled fashion and beauty influencer, Shelby Lynch, uses her platform to dispel myths about living with a disability.

Lynch, 24 from Leeds has a muscle wasting condition called Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2 and uses a wheelchair to move around, a ventilator 24/7 to help her to breathe, and needs support with day to day activities.

She said: “I am just a regular 24-year-old that’s disabled and needs extra accommodations, that’s literally it. I don’t want to be treated like a child just because I am disabled.”

With over 460,000 followers on Tik Tok, and nearly 40,000 Instagram followers, she aims to change the perception of disabled people by talking about sex and fashion.

She started her YouTube channel at age 17, creating clothing hauls and GRWM (Get Ready With Me) videos, and from there began vlogging and speaking about her disability, and body confidence.

She credits her former carers Meagan and Lucy who introduced her to the body positivity movement, and helped to teach her how to love herself and her body:

She said: “Whenever they used to come on shift, we would say three things that we loved about ourselves. The more we did it, the more things were added to the list. If you hear something repeated enough, you will start to believe it. So, I am glad and grateful to them for ensuring that I heard so much positivity about myself and that I was able to start giving that to myself. Getting validation from others made it easier for me to validate and adore myself”.

In October 2017 she took part in clothing brand, Missguided’s inclusive #Keeponbeingyou campaign, which featured 16 different models who were all chosen to represent the brand, including Munroe Bergdorf, singer Seann Miley Moore and photographer Emma Breschi.

Having not been part of the original line up, Shelby decided to still show her appreciation for the campaign which celebrated individuality, by posting her own Instagram photo in a new Missguided hoodie she had purchased herself, which led to the brand asking her to be part of the campaign.

After being thrust into the spotlight, and successfully engaging and educating her thousands of followers on her specific disability and what it is like to be disabled generally, she has received lots of positive mainstream media attention, however she has also experienced the cruel side of social media trolling. She says her strong loving upbringing, and community support encourages her to continue in her mission to make fashion more accessible and the fashion world more inclusive and representative of disabled people.

She said: “Before being on social media, before I had started modelling and being interviewed by mainstream media, I was enveloped in care, understanding and love. It is what encourages me to continue doing what I do. Having that foundation has enabled me to be able to continue this journey because I know how truly important and impactful it is. I am excited to do more things like this, being able to live my life out loud. Wear clothes, my hair and makeup that are all ‘out loud’. I know that I have a solid base and community that will always have me and hold me”

Shelby uses her unique style and show stopping looks to show the world that disabled people and those who are not the stereotypical idea of ‘perfect’, can be fashionable pretty and sexy:

She said: “I feel like people have a certain view of what disabled looks like and I don’t think I fit that look. They’re always so shocked that I dress really well and that I’ve got colourful hair I don’t fit into that little box of frumpy disabled person”

To Shelby, fashion is a form of self-expression, which she felt she often had no control of as a disabled person throughout the earlier part of her life:

She said: “Being disabled, a lot of my life has been quite medicalised, and there has been little that I’ve had control over. Decisions about me and my life were often made by, and in consultation with, other people, even down to the clothes I wore, which were picked out for me. It wasn’t until one of my very first shopping trips with my grandma, Carmen, that I was given an opportunity to make this choice for myself finally, for me to express myself through what I wore. Clothes are not only fun for me, but they’re an area in my life over which I also have control. Building outfits and looks and putting different pieces together had absolutely nothing to do with my disability or hospital appointments. I have always wanted to use my clothes and fashion to stand out. When you are disabled, it’s like people only know you for your disability”.

With the extreme lack of role models across the fashion industry for those with disabilities, Shelby wants to fill that gap, and be the role model that she didn’t have, for the younger generation of aspiring models with disabilities:

She said: “I am thankful that my love of fashion, makeup and beauty has allowed me to create the life I always wanted to live. While it is not always easy doing what I do, especially considering my disability, I do know that it’s important that younger Disabled people see someone like me, with my wheelchair and ventilator, being able to do fashion shows and being on the cover of magazines”

Lynch thinks non-disabled people also need to do more to support the cause and learn more about disabilities and advocate for those with disabilities:

She said: “It’s important to call out ableism because otherwise it’ll just get worse for us in every aspect of our lives, that’s why it’s so important that the more disabled people talk about it and the more abled people are our allies.”

Support Shelby by following her socials:

https://www.tiktok.com/@shelbykinsxo

https://www.instagram.com/shelbykinsxo/

For more news on disability awareness, visit our blog.