12 January 2015

Appearance Diversity: Changing the Face of Beauty (#imready for #15in2015)


Through appearance activism by blogging and social media, I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of people doing amazing things to promote appearance diversity. I’ve been chatting to an Australian woman, Catia Malaquias, whose young son Julius has Down’s syndrome (both pictured below). She and Julius are doing a great job of promoting diversity in advertising. Julius has been in three major Australian fashion advertising campaign plus an international campaign for eyewear. Catia works tirelessly promoting appearance diversity on social media. 

 (photo courtesy of The Australian Womens Weekly)

Catia has told me about an international initiative called Changing the Face of Beauty - its aim is to showcase appearance diversity in advertising. This year there is a campaign called #imready for #15in2015 - urging 15 retailers to include models with disabilities in 2015. In early January, Changing the Face of Beauty secured 15 retailers committed to appearance diversity in advertising. So good!

I love this campaign. It is is important that children - and adults - with a range of disabilities and facial differences are included in advertising and the media, and it’s equally important that society sees diversity represented. This will help to normalise difference.

Of course I believe this campaign should be a success in Australia too, and Catia (and others) is doing her bit to ensure it takes off through her social media efforts - Starting with Julius. The Australian hashtag is #15in2015AUS. Are you ready to help change the face of advertising?

Catia put me in touch with very lovely, very committed Kate Discroll - the founder of Changing the Face of Beauty, and she’s written a guest post about the initiative. This is my favourite line: 

"I believe that media representation equals employment opportunities for people living with disabilities."

Meet Katie (pictured here with daughter Gracie).

(photo from Katie's personal Facebook page)

"Changing the Face of Beauty started 3 years ago. It was a conversation between 2 friends Steve English and myself, both of us parents of a child with a disability. We were aware of the lack of imagery and representation in the media and advertising of people living with differences and we wanted something different, we wanted our children to feel valued and accepted in the world we live in. We both felt the media could make that happen quickly. Since I had picked up a camera it made it easy to start showing what was possible to others and that is what we did.

I believe there has been some positive changes in the media here in America. We have a couple shows that now include actors with disabilities. We also have 2 major retailers Target and Nordstrom that include models with disabilities on a regular basis. Although these are all positives I can not get past the fact that my daughter is part of the largest minority in the world and yet the least represented in the media and advertising. It just does not make sense to me.

Changing the Face of Beauty is a conversation and a campaign encouraging companies to include models with disabilities as well as celebrating the companies that do already. Our goals have changes quite a bit since we launched this. The goal now is to show companies what it looks like to have diverse advertising imagery. I regularly hold photoshoots with models of all abilities and create images that show diversity as well as push social media conversations like #imready for #15in2015 . I hope to give a voice to those who are living with a disabilities as well as to the people who question why the community of people with disabilities is not represented. My hope was to influence companies to make the change. Advertisers want to follow trends. They want to meet the needs of their consumers. My thought is if their consumers were asking for change they just might listen.

I absolutely believe adults should be represented [in Changing the Face of Beauty]. The campaign started out with children only because I am a mom of 6 young children, It was easy for me to find other children. Changing the Face of Beauty is about encouraging the representation of all people living with a difference regardless of age.

I believe that media representation equals employment opportunities for people living with disabilities. My daughter was born 5 years ago with Down syndrome. Right now in the United States there is virtually no employment opportunities. Adults with Down syndrome as well as many other disabilities resort to long days at home with their parents with little or nothing to do. I don't want that for my daughter or for anyone else for that matter. I believe the more our society is exposed to all types of people the more opportunities there will be out in the community and that includes employment. The future is being molded right now by imagery. The future CEOs are googling and keeping in touch on social media. I want imagery out there that shows them that diversity includes people with disabilities. I want their eyes to see differences regularly so they are not such a shock when they are exposed to people who might be different then they are in person. These images promote conversation and understanding both of those things are vital to the future of real change and inclusion in our world.

Changing the Face of Beauty is solely supported by my husband and I as well as amazing people and organizations who step in and offer to spread that message. I am always brainstorming with interested people on how we might collaborate to make the biggest impact possible, but the strongest form of support comes from conversation. By talking about expectations of the media and advertising promotes the opportunity of influencing perceptions. I encourage everyone to talk to anyone that will listen about the lack of representation of people living with disabilities in our world. Usually there is someone in every conversation who knows someone else that can really make a profound impact on that issue. The more people talking the bigger opportunity for change."

How can you get involved:

Write to your favourite retailer.
"Hey (your favourite retailer) #IMREADY for change. We want YOU to include models with disabilities in 2015. We want YOU to be part of the #15in2015 . 15 retailers including models with disabilities in 2015. We know you see us. Represent us.”

Follow and talk about the campaign on Social Media.

#ImReadyAUS for #15in2015AUS
#‎ImreadyUK‬ for‪ #‎15in2015UK‬

Changing the Face of Beauty website

(All photos used with permission.)


  1. What a fantastic campaign! I remember a few years back, the Daily Mail in the UK ran a story on a child model who happened to have Down Syndrome and I covered it for Yahoo!7. It was such a sensationalised story, she was just a little girl doing what so many other little girls (and boys) enjoy doing - dressing up and showing off for the camera. Campaigns such as #15in2015 bring us closer to a reality in which diversity in advertising is accepted as the norm on our TV and computer screens, in our magazines and letterboxes, and not cause for a trashy front page story in a tabloid newspaper.

  2. I love this campaign. I have a daughter with epilepsy and am always aware of people being aware of her. Most people welcome changes like this, in fact want changes like this but do not know how to go about it. I think this is just beautiful and in light of every negative thing happening in the world at the moment, I will be supporting it all the way.

  3. A fabulous campaign we should all embrace. I remember a few years back the children's clothing company Eeni Meeni Miini Moh used a gorgeous down syndrome boy as one of the models. Just so cute. V x

    1. Oh I think that was Julius - mentioned and pictured here!

  4. What happened to Steve ?


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