Chicago, IL, March 8, 2021
Easterseals Ambassador Stephanie Thomas, a disability fashion stylist and creative director in Los Angeles, is leading an initiative to change how the world defines and views women with disabilities during Women’s History Month in March. With a group of disabled women and photographer Brad Swonetz, Thomas is recreating magazine covers of iconic women of color like, Naomi Sims, Jennifer Lopez, Selena Quintanilla, Lena Horne and more. The campaign launches on March 8th, recognized as International Women’s Day, to celebrate these BIPOC female trailblazers with disabilities as iconic game-changers and history makers.
In 2004, Stephanie Thomas developed her Disability Fashion Styling System™ which guides her work as the founder of Cur8able™, a social enterprise using fashion styling as a tool to eradicate negative perceptions of people with disabilities (PWD). Thomas has followed clothing and retail trends for PWD since the early 90’s with one goal in mind - solving dressing challenges. Although starting a business was not Thomas’ desire, in 2006, while working as a morning-drive radio deejay, she became frustrated by the number of in-store clothing options designed for pets and the lack of clothing options designed for wheelchair users. So she launched The PJ Deejay campaign, and it lasted a year, concluding with a fashion show featuring women with and without disabilities, and Thomas’ inevitable journey as a social entrepreneur began. In 2010, she launched her first website about dressing with disabilities. In 2015, she changed the name of that website to Cur8able.com, and it wasn’t until 2018 that she finally turned her life’s work into a business. Today, Cur8able, LLC has six ambassadors, Thomas dubs the “Cur8tors,” who post weekly on Cur8able social media platforms. These Cur8tors are the women Thomas styled and Swonetz photographed for the campaign in Los Angeles.
As a model for the shoot herself, Stephanie, a congenital amputee missing digits, recreated the 1969 Life Magazine cover of model and trailblazing wig-and-beauty entrepreneur Naomi Sims. Thomas says this cover meant a lot to her, being born in 1969 and growing up in the 70's where there were not very many women with dark brown skin featured as models. Sims blazed her own trail going on to become one of the most iconic models of her time. After five years in the industry, she decided to move into the wig and beauty industry, filling a niche by creating products for Black women. Although different paths, Thomas also sees herself as an outsider who has fought to create a space for people with disabilities in the fashion industry.
“This Cur8able production is an example of how I use fashion styling to challenge ableist perceptions. I style to honor disabled bodies, not hide them, not apologize for them, and not make people feel sorry for them,” Thomas states.
Thomas was named an Easterseals Ambassador earlier this year, one of six women with disabilities who are national influencers and leaders in the disability community. They are partnering with Easterseals, one of the nation’s leading nonprofit providers of services and advocacy for the one in four Americans living with disability today, to highlight issues that affect the disability community and affect change in assuring equal representation and inclusion of these 61 million Americans.
Driven by its purpose to change the way the world defines and views disability, Easterseals makes profound, positive differences in people’s lives everyday through its life-changing services and powerful advocacy. For more than 100 years, Easterseals has served as an indispensable resource for individuals living with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and their families. Together, our Affiliates in communities nationwide serve 1.5 million people annually through a variety of services including early intervention; autism services; inclusive childcare; medical rehabilitation including physical, occupational, and speech therapies; behavioral health services; workforce development programs; adult day services; respite; transportation; and more. In schools, workplaces, and communities, we’re fostering environment where everyone is included and valued – making a real and positive impact on us all. Join us in ensuring that everyone – regardless of age or ability – is 100% included and 100% empowered. Learn more at www.easterseals.com.