Following in the footsteps of model Ashley Graham, amputee model Shaholly Ayers is breaking beauty barriers. The brand ambassador for Global Disability Inclusion, a consulting company specializing in providing disability inclusion strategies and solutions to global companies, has graced the runways of New York Fashion Week and Milan Fashion Week and is currently featured in the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale catalog.
“We commend Nordstrom for its leadership role in featuring diverse models in their catalogs,” said Meg O’Connell, President of Global Disability Inclusion. “Many in the fashion industry are hesitant to feature models with disabilities. Shaholly is the perfect example that beauty and disability are not mutually exclusive.”
Born in Florida and based in Honolulu, Ayers wants to improve diversity overall in the fashion industry “to make people think about what they find attractive.” She wants to open minds and encourage greater acceptance and understanding of all individuals.
A congenital amputee, Ayers was the first model ever to walk a runway without a prosthetic at New York Fashion Week. This is the third time she has been featured in Nordstrom’s national catalog.
“Reflecting the customers we serve in our ads and catalogs is important to us and we continue to look for more opportunities to do that,” said Nordstrom Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Scott Meden. “We’ve had a long history of incorporating diverse models into our catalogs, including those with disabilities. We do our best to reflect the diverse communities we serve.”
Ayers is also deeply invested in changing social perceptions of beauty and disability. “It’s about showing, visually, that a person with a disability, a person who is an amputee, is still capable,” she said. “I still should be considered beautiful despite my missing limb. That shouldn’t be a reason why I can’t model.”
Ayers moved her way up in the fashion and modeling industry through hard work and determination. When she first started out over a decade ago, agencies did not want to hire her because of her disability. Ayers persevered, networking and building up her portfolio.
Since then, she has walked runways both nationally and internationally and appeared in the pages of GQ Italia, GQ Japan, US Weekly, The Sun News Paper, The New York Times, and the Guardian, among other outlets. She is the co-founder of Limbs for Love, an organization that helps at-risk youth overcome adversity and find the strength and beauty we carry in all of us.