From Role Model to Runway Model
Reader's Digest US|March 2021
A disabled activist won’t let Twitter trolls stop her from seeing herself as she really is—a star
Nara Schoenberg

As a teenager in the 1990s, Melissa Blake was interested in fashion. Unfortunately, fashion wasn’t much interested in her.

Blake, who has a genetic bone and muscle disorder and stands a little under four feet tall, couldn’t find jeans or dresses in her size. Paging through Glamour and Cosmopolitan, she didn’t see a single person who looked like her, and it hurt.

“That would have been a game-changer for me,” says Blake, who had 26 surgeries before age 17 to treat her Freeman-Sheldon syndrome. Because of her condition, she can walk short distances with difficulty but sometimes relies on an electric scooter. “When you’re a teenager—disabled or not— you deal with issues of self-esteem. If I had seen someone who looked like me, I would have felt really seen.”

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