Sundance Channel’s “Push Girls”:”When You Can’t Stand Up, Stand Out”

27 Jun
intro1pushgirls

Photo from sundancechannel.com.

“If you can’t stand up, stand out!” is the motto of Push Girls, the Sundance Channel‘s reality program focusing on five wheelchair-bound women in Los Angeles. (The fifth, Chelsie Hill, makes her debut this season).  None was born disabled; all encountered traumatic accidents or medical conditions as young women. As a result, each is either paraplegic or quadriplegic. It’s an attractive group; in fact, a couple are downright gorgeous as well as gutsy. If you’re feeling down and need something to make you believe in the resilience of humankind, this just might be the show for you.

Models, Wives, Athletes

Like non-seated women, the stars of Push Girls–Auti Angel, Angela Rockwood, Tiphany Adams, and Mia Schakewitz–have been wives, athletes, and models.  As season two begins, Auti and her husband are struggling to keep their marriage together. Model Angela and her ex, who have divorced amicably, have decided that she will keep her lovely Los Angeles house; adaptive athlete Tiphany, along with Mia, practices going down stairs in her chair in case of fire–an instructive scene for anyone who is fully ambulatory and may not realize the difficulties involved. In a girls’ night out scene, Tiphany even rides a mechanical bull.

Aside from the ladies’ being confined to wheelchairs, the situations they face are very much like those other women face. That’s the point.

A Healthy Dose of ‘Tude

Unlike the stars of other reality shows, the Push Girls show us the challenges and victories of their lives, without becoming Debbie Downers on the one hand or demanding that viewers worship them as heroes on the other. Nor do they expect every gesture they make (“Hey! I just tweezed my eyebrows!” ) to become newsworthy. They simply are what they are, with a whole lot of attitude to help them along and lift up the hearts of their audience. As the season progresses, you’ll find there isn’t much the ladies won’t try. Limitations? Not too evident.

Thanks, Sundance

Not since the 2005 documentary film Murderball has there been a video presentation about the disabled evoking this level of inspiration. My only excuse for missing the first season of Push Girls is that my basic-expanded cable lineup doesn’t include the Sundance Channel, but I was fortunate enough to stumble upon the show while researching something else. No worries:  we can all watch it at sundancechannel.com.  With Sundance’s help,  disabled women are gaining more constructive time in the spotlight. Hear, hear!

Miss Iowa 2013: A True Inspiration. Disability In the Spotlight

11 Jun
disabled beauty, disabled inspiration, disabled fashion, wefly2, beauty pageants

Being born without a forearm  hasn’t slowed down 2013’s Miss Iowa,Nicole Kelly–or lessened her beauty. Photo from the Miss Iowa Facebook page.

“Beauty is Everywhere” is wefly2’s slogan. In Nicole Kelly’s case, one doesn’t have to look hard to find the beauty– or the inspiration. While there have been fashion shows for the disabled in London,  a disabled beauty pageant winner in the US has been unheard of. But Nicole Kelly has made it happen.  Mike Krumboltz of the Upbeat (Yahoo! News)    tells her story (reprinted here in its entirety):

The Story

“Nicole Kelly, the newly crowned Miss Iowa, plans to use her title to help advocate for people with disabilities, reports the DesMoines Register.

Kelly, 23, was born without her left forearm, according to her biography at MissIowa.com (note: site has been intermittently down). Photos can be viewed at the Miss Iowa Facebook page.

After winning the title, Kelly spoke with CBS-4 News. ‘It was shocking and overwhelming—just like that your life changes,’ she said.

‘As I grew up I learned to counterbalance the initial stares I received from people with an outgoing personality that would not give into”‘no,'” Kelly wrote on the pageant site. This means that I tried everything. From baseball, to dance, to diving—there’s nothing I would not try. I found my passion within a world where I was giving people permission to stare: the stage.’

According to Kelly’s biography, she’s currently studying directing and theater management at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. She hopes to work on Broadway.

“If you would have told me a year ago that ‘pageant queen’ was in my future I would have laughed,” she wrote. “Giving voice to a platform is a great honor and I am excited to continue my adventure of speaking out and touching lives.”

Kelly will compete in the Miss America pageant on Sept. 15 in Atlantic City, N.J.”

The Inspiration

“I tried everything…would not give in to ‘no'” until “…I found my passion.” There’s a lesson here, whether one is disabled or not.

For everyone who has been mocked or fallen in the dirt amid jeers; for every kid chosen last for a team; for anyone who believed “I can’t” and turned away from a reachable goal, look at Nicole Kelly and take heart. It doesn’t even matter if she wins Miss America this year; her victory in the Miss Iowa pageant shows stunning progress, both for her as an individual and for society. I, for one, intend to watch her on Sept.15.

To the Garment Industry: Less Polyester, More Cotton, Please

7 Jun
An Arizona cotton plant. Photo from tucsonsentinel.com.

An Arizona cotton plant. Photo from tucsonsentinel.com.

It never fails. Thumbing through a catalogue, I’ll get all excited: “What a stellar outfit! Those colors would be so flattering, and I could get a lot of use out of it!” Then I read the description: “Oh snap! It’s 100% polyester.”

Once again, the garment industry has saved me money. Although the wildly popular synthetic works well in blends, such as poly-rayon-spandex in career pants and poly-cotton interlock in t-shirts, I can’t stand full-strength polyester against my skin. Of course, there’s a backstory here.

Body Odor

My mother used to buy me lovely-looking polyester dresses and skirt outfits. I wore them faithfully. Unfortunately, she tended to call me aside, as she felt a mother should, and tell me I should change deodorants and laundry detergents because she noticed I, and my clothes, didn’t smell nice. I was flummoxed. Having my mom insinuate I stank to high heaven was deflating enough, but I was a clean person who took joy in my daily showers and wore clothing only once before washing it.  Was it my weight or diet? Was I doomed to turn into a garbage can when I tried to look good? Visions of Mom pursuing me with a can of Lysol at family gatherings entered my head.  I sent for Kleinert’s dress shields, which helped a little. I also noticed Mom didn’t comment on my b.o.when I wore cotton or other natural fabrics, but it took awhile to figure out why.

Putting It Together: Stacy and Clinton to the Rescue

Years later, I was watching an episode of What Not To Wear (one of my favorites).  Style experts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly were conducting the customary sort-and-toss of their current client’s wardrobe. Holding up a pair of  dark polyester pants, one of them asked, “Where would you wear these?” “Out dancing,” the lady replied. “You must smell good by the end of the night,” Clinton laughed, explaining that polyester doesn’t breathe.

Bingo!

It wasn’t me; it was the fabric that had trapped my perspiration and not vented my skin, so to speak. I had been shying away from 100%v poly anyway by the time I saw this episode, but now I knew why. Although people perspire in different quantities, eliminating toxins through sweat is normal and bound to happen unless you have a medical condition. Working out? Sweat is desirable. Living in Phoenix, in 100+ degree heat, or New Orleans in 85 degree heat with 85% humidity? Sweat happens. Unless you are wearing one of the newer polyester or nylon garments that wick away moisture, poly keeps sweat next to your skin.  Being disabled and moving more slowly down the sidewalk simply gives one more opportunity to sweat in the summer.  What’s the solution? Mine is wearing cotton.

In Praise of Cotton

Crisp or soft, depending on the treatment, cotton is breathable and comfortable, lending itself to casual, in-between, and dressy outfits with ease. It comprises many fashion classics: jeans, tees, button-down shirts and blouses, shorts, cardigans, summer dresses. That isn’t even a comprehensive list.  Because I live in a warm climate, I focus on staying cool in the spring and summer and layering clothing in the winter, when days start out chilly but grow warmer. Sweat? Cotton both absorbs and vents it.  Admittedly, my love of cotton doesn’t stop with my outer wardrobe. I prefer cotton socks, underwear, pajamas, and sheets (no slinky satin for me). After working in a hospital and seeing their cotton blankets, I was thrilled to find  one in assorted colors in the Brylane Home print catalogue. I am a cotton fan all right. My body says “Don’t fence me in when you cover me,” and cotton fits the bill.

No Knocks To Other Naturals

Other natural fabrics have their benefits, of course. However, silk does not fit my budget.  Wool is fantastic, but  not often needed in Phoenix. Linen? Wrinkle city, although textile designers are blending it with other fabrics to lessen that tendency. Flax and hemp? Getting there, but still a bit expensive for me. More power to anyone designing breathable couture. Who says fabulous clothes have to make you sweat?

Some Clarification

My home state since 1972,  Arizona, grows cotton; however, I am not a spokesperson for the industry. It may sound that way, but  I don’t even know anyone in that business. In addition, I realize my mom spoke out of love. For her generation, cotton meant lots of ironing and effort; polyester and other no-iron synthetics were a godsend. I was a busy young teacher, and she simply wanted to share that godsend with me by helping me look good in pretty, low-maintenance outfits. My intent was not to criticize her, and I was often over-sensitive in those days anyway.

Polyester is popular, or the fashion world wouldn’t be using it. It has a silky hand and probably takes dyes easily to form any patterns designers wish on the fabric. Its no-iron smoothness and drape are appealing. A former colleague wore it often; she also carried a bottle of Febreze to ward off body odor. That worked for her. Me?  I find the stuff aversive. I’ll opt for cotton.

Nail Nirvana: My Pet Splurge (Pssst–Find Yourself One)

2 Jun

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manicure, disabled shopping, gel polish, Time for You Too Salon, disabled fashion, wefly2

Red and black nails with silver sparkles by Kristine at Time for You Too in Scottsdale.

Let’s face it. Everyone has a favorite fashion habit or treat that makes them feel a bit special and adds cheer to their day. For us disabled women, a little splurge now and then is a needed pick-me-up, and it need not cost anything.  When I have the funds, my favorite treat is a manicure with gel polish, sometimes with silver or gold sparkle.  As you may have gathered from other posts, my look is mostly classic-casual: lots of black clothing and naturally-colored short hair. Yet I like to think I have just a trace of wildness or rebellion in me, although I want to be careful how I show it. No way will I deck myself out like a cane-bearing cougar (it’s just not me) or a drop-your-jaw Person of Wal-Mart (booty, boobs, and vajayjay barely covered or sticking out? Really not me). So I stick with my clothing style and let my nails be a focal point. They look great even when I’m not feeling my best, and remind me that something is pulled together and stylin’ when my day is not going smoothly.

Hooked Since the ’80s

I can’t remember why I decided to get my first manicure back in the late ’80s, but once I did, I was hooked. Back then, the main choices for sparking up nails were silk wraps, polish on natural nails, and acrylics. I tried the latter two over the years. Now I go for the long-lasting gel polish over my natural nails. It is completely dry when you leave the salon, and lasts a good two or three weeks. I can do housework wearing it and not fear chipping or peeling.

Wearable Art

My work does not forbid artwork on nails, thank heaven, so I let owner-operator Jennifer or nail tech Kristine at Scottsdale‘s Time for You Too use their imaginations and paint me up. Often, I do opt for a single color if my mood so dictates. To me,  nail polish is wearable art that can be changed at will. If your travels take you to Scottsdale, check out Jennifer or Kristine. Both are talented, and the salon is not far from Old Town Scottsdale or ASU in Tempe.

On a Budget, The Brain Kicks In

Of course, when funds are tight, I skip the  $32 manicures and every other splurge that costs money. I take charge of my own nails and  enjoy freebies, such as classic novels on my Kindle, photos on Tumblr and all the fun boards on Pinterest, not to mention IFB and the fashion blogs. The ultimate fashion organ is the brain anyway. I’m not a covetous person, so I can peruse photos and say “That’s cool!” without feeling “I must have it.”  When I feel more secure about my bank balance, I return to the salon for my dose of nail nirvana.

Disability-related

Gel manicures are the splurge that works for me. However, I have two pain-free hands with ten fingers. Your treat has to fit your needs and tastes. Do you enjoy decorating your assistive device, or having someone apply makeup for you?  Perhaps you prefer volunteering in your community. Whatever treat you select–and I do think you should have one–it should make you feel better. A blip of feeling better is good for the brain and puts a smile on your face; how beautiful is that?

On the Passing of a Friend and Fashion Inspiration

11 May
angels, art, images

Image courtesy of angelfire.com.

He may not have known it, but my late friend and former colleague Tom Cole lifted me out of the fashion doldrums when we started socializing (we taught English at a local community college). I was floating along, on post-divorce auto-pilot, happy to be working and paying my bills but not thinking much about my appearance. This was about to change.  A classically natty dresser, fond of Ralph Lauren shirts and assorted neckties accompanied by trousers and sports coats in neutral colors, Tom had a degage elegance that emanated from within and was merely emphasized by his smart clothing. He was equally classy in jeans and a polo shirt.  When we started going to Rattlers’ games and out for drinks afterward, I figured the usual team t-shirt and jeans outfit was woefully inadequate. To solve the problem, I wrote in my journal about what I needed,  then hit the stores.

Building a Better Wardrobe

As I  have indicated in other posts, I have peripheral neuropathy and other foot problems which restrict my choices in footwear. In 2004, when I was diagnosed and Tom and I began our semi-regular outings,  I developed my “uniform” of black pants with a variety of tops, or dark-wash jeans for casual occasions. For games, I chose tops in team colors that looked chic enough for a sojourn to a downtown bar after the game along with jeans or black casual pants.  For dinner and movies, I substituted somewhat dressier tops and pants. Phoenix is casual, so these outfits were appropriate.  If I hadn’t become friends with Tom, there’s no telling what I might be throwing on my body now!  His effortless style made me analyze my own and attempt to rise to his level, disability and figure type notwithstanding.

The History

Intriguingly, Tom had a fashion muse years ago. I asked him how he had learned to dress so well, and he credited a former girlfriend from the 1970s. “I was walking around in leisure suits, and she said, ‘Oh no you don’t!’ ” he recalled. Leisure suits on him? Incredible. I can’t even imagine. I applaud that woman, whoever she is, wherever she is; Tom’s taste never wavered, even when I suspected, near the end of his life, that he wasn’t feeling well.

The Legacy of a Friend

The most important legacy, of course, is not Tom’s clothing choices, but his friendship, masterful teaching of English, and love of family. An intensely private person whose kindness and high intelligence became evident after one got to know him, Tom was a natural gentleman who lifted up those around him. The overall tone of any setting improved just from his presence, and I don’t mean that in a snobbish way. He had an inherent courtesy and consideration that flowed, unpretentiously, from every pore. Hundreds of students benefited from his subject-matter knowledge and precise planning; I was fortunate enough to enjoy his friendship for the past nine years.  Thank you, Tom, for your gentleness, intellect, humility, and loyalty. In your case, the terrific style on the outside really did represent what was on the inside.

Hats: Add Sun Protection to Your Warm-Weather Fashion Statement

8 May
sunn protection, disabled shopping, summer hats, disabled accesssories, wefly2,hats

Straw hat, no brand available, regifted from a neighbor.

Self-portrait in straw hat.

Self-portrait in straw hat.

Living in the skin cancer capital of the US (Arizona), I am always concerned with avoiding harmful rays and staying relatively cool. While using sunblock is important, donning a hat that keeps the sun off both the face and back of the neck is also helpful. For disabled women who may be waiting for public transportation or otherwise spending time outdoors in sunny climates, wide-brimmed hats are useful as well as stylish in the heat. I recommend straw or cotton for breathability.

While my own recently acquired straw hat came from a former neighbor who never wore it and  no longer wanted it, I have noticed straw and canvas broad-brims displayed in unusual places, such as Walgreens and Sprouts. When I thought about this, I asked myself, why not? These stores do cater to our health. Other venues and catalogs, of course, carry them as well.

Baseball Caps Won’t Cut It

As popular as they are, baseball caps keep the sun off only the face, not the back of the neck. Landscapers and other outdoor workers may tuck a short towel under the backs of their caps to ward off the sunlight and absorb perspiration, but if you want a more stylish look, these hats just won’t cut it. I also saw a rapper on MTV sporting a baseball cap with a hoodie pulled over it, but I confess the look didn’t do much for me. Practically speaking, however, the hoodie-cap ensemble would keep the sun off. It depends on your aesthetic, and my age may be showing here.

But I Don’t Look Good in Hats

You probably aren’t used to wearing a hat and feel more self-conscious than you need to.  But despite America’s love of hatless freedom (except for the baseball cap), fashion history has had many periods in which everybody wore a chapeau of some kind, regardless of how they looked. You are going to remove your hat when you go inside for that lunch date, movie, or sporting event anyway. If it makes you feel better, look at my pic and have a giggle. I may look as if I have fallen off a 19th-century hay wagon, but I am melanoma-free. Chortle away!

Heeding the Wake-Up Call

Bicyclists and light-rail riders in Phoenix have been putting on hats during their trips, so the trend seems to be taking hold. Good job, ladies! For light-skinned people of Northern European extraction, like me, the Arizona sun can wreak havoc with our pale complexions. A hat is a necessity as well as a fashion statement. Olive-skinned people are not exempt from skin cancer, and even those of African descent carry a slight risk of contracting it. In addition, our bright sun poses another problem in late spring and summer, no matter how you travel: visibility!  The light is so piercing that at certain times of the day, you cannot see well, even with sunglasses. The extra shade of a hat brim helps here too, especially if you don’t have a hand to put up to shield your eyes. So if you are outside during the day for any reason, you really need protection. Plop on that hat and rub on some sunblock, or have your caregiver do it, even on a cloudy day. Your skin, eyes, and hair will thank you.

For Texas and Massachusetts: We Are Thinking of You

22 Apr
Time 4 U Too Salon, manicure, gel polish, fashion nails

Gel polish by Jennifer, owner-operator, Time for You Too, Scottsdale. Jewelry, old.

To our countrymen and-women in Texas and Massachusetts:

No one deserves the devastation you have just gone through. And while no amount of well-wishing, flowers, or even prayers can bring back your loved ones or your communities, please know that your fellow Americans are thinking of you and holding you near our hearts.

We observed a moment of silence (and tears) for you at the Arizona Rattlers arena football game last night. Although this small gesture cannot heal the scars on your land or in your souls, you are not forgotten. May your pain lessen with each day.