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What does it take for an amputee to become a world record breaking track star and an Alexander McQueen runway model?
Aimee Mullins has it in spades. She needs to. At age one, both of her legs were amputated below the knee due to missing fibula bones. But that did not stop her. At first she impressed through academics. She was chosen by the Department of Defense for a full academic scholarship to Georgetown. At 17, she was the youngest person to hold top-secret security clearance at the Pentagon.
"Confidence is the sexiest thing a woman can have. It's much sexier than any body part."
Then in August 1995, Aimee, a natural athlete despite being paralytic, decided to become a runner. Georgetown track and field coach Frank Gagliano, who had trained five Olympians, saw Aimee's determination and skill, and agreed to coach her. One year later at the 1996 Paralympics, she set world records in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, and long jump.
In 1998, TED, a nonprofit that brings inspirational and innovative people together in its yearly conferences, invited Aimee Mullins to speak. The audience was captivated by her youth and go-getter attitude. She even charmed the fashion crowd, who saw her prosthetic legs as art, displaying her on the front covers of Dazed and Confused and i-D magazines. Avant garde London designer Alexander McQueen was touched by her story, and made a pair of carved wooden legs for her debut at his show as a runway model. Currently, she balances her speaking engagements with acting roles in films ("Quid Pro Quo," "Marvelous, " "September").
"Poetry matters. Poetry is what elevates a banal and neglected object to a form of art. It can transform the thing that may make some people fearful to something they can look and look a little longer and maybe understand."
Aimee's lesson is positive body image. She could have been a shrinking violet hiding behind prosthetic legs, but she stands tall, adjusting her height from 5'8" to 6'1" at whim to commend attention. She is not afraid of her disability. She embraces it, and uses it to the best of her advantage.
"I want to do projects that challenge people's ideas of beauty and the myth that disabled people are less capable, less interesting. I want to expose people to disability as something that they can't pity or fear or closet, but something that they accept and maybe want to emulate. To me, beauty is when people radiate that they like themselves."
Words to live by, by an inspiration.