Madison Lawson - AKA Wheel Chair Barbie
Q1) Tell us a little about yourself!
It sounds odd that being constantly stared at would make you feel unseen. When the image people paint of you doesn't match the image of who you really are, it can be really difficult to even see yourself sometimes. It's easy to be lost in the labels you're given, the girl in the wheelchair, quiet, different, and maybe I was all of those things at once, but it was the pieces of me that people couldn't see that made me the person I was, the person I wanted to be. Fashion was something that gave me the true ability to be seen and not just looked at. Instead of people coming up to me to ask about "whats wrong with me?" they were asking how I did my eyeshadow or where I got my outfit. I felt noticed, truly for me, not for something I didn't choose. So I started posting about my journey and I was able to form real connections with girls worldwide facing similar challenges and follow incredible women who are making it work and thriving in thrones of their own. After I graduated high school, I decided to go away to college and graduated in December from the University of Missouri, the number one journalism school in the country.
Q2) Tell us about what you do, and why you do it
I have a podcast called The Obvious Question where I talk about what it is really like to have a disability in my life and how disability affects people in the obvious and not so obvious ways. I answer some of the most common questions and tell you just about everything you could possibly want to know about my life. Even some stuff you probably didn't want to know. I cover topics like love, sex and dating, salon accessibility, the fashion industry, mental health, and more. It will make you laugh, it will make you ugly Kim K cry, and just about every emotion in between.
Q3) What makes you feel courageous?
I feel courageous when I do something somebody assumes a person with my disability cannot. They thought girls like you don't go to dances, they don't move out of their house, they don't go to college, they don't have friends, they don't get featured in international fashion campaigns, they don't win national awards for their work. I have done all of these things and I am only just getting started. But it isn't the big things that make me feel proud, it's the subtle ways I refuse to sit still that really take bravery. The days when I keep going when the rest of the world finds it more logical for me to stop.
Q4) What is one thing you wish you could tell your 16-year-old self?
Stop being so scared of outgrowing things. You don't need to keep shrinking yourself to fit places you don't feel like you belong. The truth is you don't belong to those places. You will find your people, don't worry. The love will be so big you won't even know what to do with it all. Stay true to your heart, it's the strongest part of you. Also love yourself girl! I wish you could see how beautiful you are and how beautiful you will become. I know you are self conscious about what everybody thinks about you and what you can't do, but let them underestimate you. when they see all the things you can't do, you're going to show them over and over all the things you can.
Q5) What is one piece of advice you can give a fellow lady who might be lacking courage?
Don't wait for permission to love yourself. You are your own biggest fan and you know yourself better than anyone. Never give others the power to define how you feel about yourself. You truly can do anything you set your mind to. I know it's cliche but it doesn't matter how others define you. In the words of Carrie Bradshaw, "In a world filled with labels, the only ones that matter are the ones you allow to stick." So be the girl in the wheelchair, be the quiet girl, the weird girl. Be ready to really show them what that label really means. Surprise them. You are going to do all the things you put your whole heart into.