New York Fashion Week is back after an 18-month pandemic pause, and Runway of Dreams will be right in the mix. The adaptive fashion pioneer will host its annual Fashion Revolution show tomorrow night at the Glasshouse, featuring new lines from Hilfiger, Zappos, Kohl, JC Penney, Target, and Stride Rite.
No organization puts people with disabilities on center stage quite like Runway of Dreams. The seven-year-old foundation provides a unique showcase for the beauty, talent, charisma, and personal flair of the disability community. Tomorrow night’s models will include at least five people with limb difference, one of whom just happens to be featured in the new print edition of Amplitude. We’ll start with him, then introduce you to four other amputees who will be strutting their stuff tomorrow night.
If you can’t attend in person, you can still see the show virtually on Sunday night, September 12. Register here for Global Premiere (it’s free). And we’ll be keeping an eye on the organization’s Instagram feed, just in case any visuals from the Glasshouse happen to turn up there. Cue lights and music:
Chase Merriweather (Zappos Adaptive)
It’s fun watching The Chaseman grow up, even if it’s happening way too fast. We got to see him compete this summer at Move United’s Junior Nationals, where he added a bunch of medals to his wardrobe. A quadruple amputee since toddlerhood, Chase has got the moxie and the moves for the fashion big leagues. Now 11 years old, he’s a natural fit for Runway of Dreams. Check out his story in the September edition of Amplitude, then read more at the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
On Instagram: @the_chaseman
They said it: “Just because I have no hands doesn’t mean I do nothing, doesn’t mean my Mom and Dad help me, and doesn’t mean that I can’t do sports.” . . . . . “To be The Man, you have to beat The Man.” . . . . . . “Thunder is good, thunder is impressive, but it is lightning that does all the work.”
Tessa Desi (Zappos)
When you think “lingerie model,” you don’t usually picture a 30something above-knee amputee with two kids. But Tessa Desi (full name: Tessa Desiderio Snyder) more than pulls it off. An amputee since age 11 (osteogenic sarcoma), she started modeling seriously about two years ago and has repped brands such as Savage X Fenty, Third Love, and (now) Zappos Adaptive. With more than 35K followers on Instagram, she exemplifies self-love and positive body image for all women, not just those with limb difference.
On Instagram: @tessadesi
They said it: “Society puts pressure on women to look certain ways. I never even considered modeling in my future. It took me 15 years just to become comfortable wearing shorts in public. I never imagined that I’d be modeling for lingerie companies, inclusive brands, and in a position to help the new generation of amputees adjust to their new life. The one thing I’ve learned is you don’t get to choose your body, but you get to choose how you feel in it.”
Joshua Lhila (Tommy Hilfiger)
After losing his right leg in an accident, Lhila worried that limb difference would derail his budding career as a model and actor. Over time, he found that it added another layer of interest to his already-unique look. After a string of successes in his native India, Lhila relocated to New York seeking fresh opportunities. A NYFW veteran, he has graced the cover of mags such as Vogue, modeled high-fashion brands such as Valentino and Mont Blanc, and turned up in a Bollywood movie or two.
On Instagram: @joshua.lhila
They said it: “The world is imbued with a vast variety of beautiful shapes and unique colors, both in nature and in human beings. Everything in this infinite universe is an inspiration to me. . . . To appreciate our uniqueness, and not be tied down my norms or preexisting beliefs—that to me is the meaning of ‘your own kind of beautiful.'”
Ryan Fitzpatrick (JC Penney)
This wheelchair basketball whiz is no stranger to the limelight. In the last 12 months he’s appeared in a video alongside other kids with disabilities for President Biden’s inauguration; attended the NBA Draft in person and met league commissioner Adam Silver; done photo shoots for Tango Hotel; and shot training videos for the Challenged Athletes Foundation. Fitzpatrick also walked the Runway of Dreams during last week’s NYFW virtual show. He’s a key player on one of the nation’s best junior wheelchair basketball teams and Team USA scouts already have him on their radar, so remember the name.
On Instagram: @rjfitz13
They said it: “It’s important to always feel comfortable with yourself, and it’s not about what makes me different but the difference I’m going to make.”
Mariama Diallo (Zappos)
A native of Guinea in western Africa, Diallo lost her right arm above the elbow in a childhood accident. She grew up wearing long sleeves to conceal her limb loss and avoid the indignities that people with disabilities often face in her homeland. Now a realtor in the US, she helps other African immigrants achieve home ownership and set down their roots in America. This appears to be one of her first modeling gigs.
On Instagram: @i_am_mariama1
They said it: “When I was pregnant with my daughter, I worried because I didn’t know how I would be able to take care of her with just one arm. When I bathed her for the first time, I cried. I looked into her eyes and told her ‘we are going to do this.’”