I Walked in an All-Blind Runway Show, and It Changed My Relationship to Fashion
When I first lost my eyesight, I never would’ve imagined walking the runway for a fashion show. I was 17 at the time and dealing with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, which basically means the inflammation that causes my joint disease also attacks my eyesight. At that point, I hadn’t seen any disability representation in fashion. In fact, I did not even think modeling was a possibility for a young blind woman. It’s not that I thought a blind person wasn’t capable of being a model; I just realized very quickly that no one was giving the community those types of opportunities.
I did not even think modeling was a possibility for a young blind woman. It’s not that I thought a blind person wasn’t capable of being a model; I just realized very quickly that no one was giving the community those types of opportunities.
Now, I’m proud to be creating those opportunities. Back in 2020, I started a fashion podcast called “Fashionably Tardy,” to bridge the gap between people with disabilities and the fashion industry. Soon after, I began to get requests from the fashion industry to do accessibility consulting for both products and brand websites. I was also inspired to work on my own physical collection for my brand NYI – all our designs are based off textures, because that’s how I identify my clothing as a blind woman. I want to make the process easier for other blind people. But all this success aside, I still had yet to make my runway debut.
Fast forward to December 2022. I got an Instagram message from a blind, plus-size fashion influencer named Brittney Ellis, who was excited to let me know about an all-blind runway show happening in New York City in April 2023. I initially wasn’t sure I wanted to participate in the show, but after speaking to the founder of the Not My Eyes fashion showcase, Annalee Smith, I was immediately sold. Smith is a powerhouse with a mission to create more inclusive spaces for blind individuals within the fashion industry.
A blind, plus-size model herself, Smith’s career on the runway began in 2017, when she entered a contest hosted by Ashley Stewart. She didn’t end up winning, but one of the judges saw something special in her and encouraged her to pursue modeling. In 2021, she won the Kurvacious Boutique contest and became the first blind model to be the face of the brand. This allowed her to build a platform that empowers other blind individuals, which is how the Not My Eyes Fashion Showcase was created.
The showcase always promises to be a night to remember – and the April event was no different. Keep scrolling for a recap of my experience modeling for an all-blind fashion show, and reach out to the Not My Eyes team through their website if you’d like to get involved. Blind individuals looking to dip their toes into the world of modeling are welcome, as well as volunteers, sponsors, designers, and allies.