The beauty and fashion industries have often been accused of being racist, ageist, size-ist and elitist. Then all of a sudden you’ll hear about how a slew of designers used plus-sized models in their shows. Or that cosmetics companies are portraying a wide range of ethnicities in their advertisements. Which is all great, even if it’s being done in baby steps or for publicity purposes. But there’s one group that hasn’t received a lot of love in the ad pages that’s about to get its day: paralympians.
In what can only be coincidence, two high-profile companies are using two high-profile paralympic athletes as ambassadors. Both athletes, Aimee Mullins and Oscar Pistorius, were born without fibula (lower leg bones) and had their legs amputated below their knees. Both of them walk–and sprint–using high-tech prosthetic devices.
Aimee Mullins is no stranger to the world of fashion and beauty. In 1999, she’s the one who famously walked the runway for Alexander McQueen on those exquisite carved wooden legs. She ran on prostheses and was a high-ranking athlete in college and competed in the Paralympic Games in 1996. After this she became McQueen’s muse, and did some modeling and acting–she even made People’s “World’s 50 Most Beautiful” list. And now she’s back, having been named a new face of L’Oreal Paris.
Oscar Pistorius, a South African athlete, is the fastest man in the world without legs, nicknamed “The Bladerunner.” Thierry Mugler hired him to do video and print ads for its men’s fragrance, A*Man, which is Angel’s counterpart.
The L’Oreal ads with Aimee Mullins haven’t been revealed yet, so it’s unclear if they’ll show her legs or make any sort of reference to her challenges. She’s a gorgeous and elegant 35-year-old woman in her own right, so it will be interesting to see how L’Oreal uses her. The A*Man ads are visually very futuristic and modern, and a perfect fit for the Mugler brand. Pistorius wore custom-designed blades for the ads–his “disability” was put front and center as an artistic statement.
We can’t really be cynical about either one of these campaigns–good for Mugler and L’Oreal Paris. As celeb makeup artist Billy B told WWD’s Beauty Inc this month about Mullins, with whom he worked at Cannes this year: “She has this unbelievably inspired story and is this amazing person, and she doesn’t have legs! And I’m bitching because I broke my YSL glasses on the plane. It puts things in perspective.”