At age 14, Mama Cax was diagnosed with bone and lung cancer that resulted in a leg amputation at the hip.
At age 28, Cax walked the catwalk at New York Fashion Week. Having a disability hasn’t stopped her—she plays wheelchair basketball and goes rock climbing—and she’s a reminder to all of us to be ourselves...unapologetically.
Below, Cax gives her two cents on body positivity, authenticity, and what she’s excited about in 2019.
You made your catwalk debut at New York Fashion Week! Tell us a little about the experience. Were you sights ever set on NYFW?
I started modeling a year ago, and fashion week was never on my radar. There are very few people with disabilities in the fashion industry let alone the catwalk so when the opportunity came up I didn't hesitate. I knew it would be a way to break barriers and help open doors for others by showing it is possible.
You’ve turned a traumatic experience and turned it into something positive. How do you maintain that positive outlook on life?
People often assume that I’m an extremely positive person; the truth is I’m quite the pessimist. But I’m very goal-oriented and ambitious. I think what often keeps me going is knowing that I can’t change the past and the future is not guaranteed, therefore I have no choice but to make the best of the present.
How do you hope to inspire your followers?
I hope I can inspire my followers to dream big and know that they can accomplish whatever they put their minds to.
There’s a big emphasis on body positivity and inclusion in media, especially when it comes to fashion. How do you see social media changing as the movement evolves?
Social media is so unpredictable but when it comes to fashion. It has the power to level the playing field. Before social media, models were recruited at malls and on the streets by “experts” and only a select few (thin, tall, young & white) could be models. Social media has shown the different kinds of beauty that exist while giving a voice to those who have been underrepresented. Unfortunately doctored images of women are still very much present, even in the body positive community. People are seeking diet plans and cosmetic surgeries more than ever and social media is one of the culprits. I think people will continue to chase unattainable bodies (whatever that looks like in the future). I do believe that there are positive bubbles on social media; as consumers it’s up to us to decide if we are going to follow accounts that make up desperate and enviable or follow those who make us appreciate who we are.
What about your work makes you feel the most fulfilled?
Knowing that my words and the things I do have impacted people that I have never met from across the globe.
Whose career really inspires you?
I don’t think I have one specific person in mind. Women in general; those who couldn't follow their passion but raised phenomenal women; and those who valued the sacrifices of previous women and have followed their passion all while using their power and privileges to empower, uplift and protect others.
What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?
Whenever I doubt myself, a friend always tells me “ You can do it, you’re Mama Cax”—which taught me that there is power in owning your story and knowing who you are. Now whenever I have doubt I whisper to myself “I am Mama Cax” it has allowed me to not take anything less than what I deserve.
Where does your passion/drive come from?
When others doubt me or simply tell me I can’t, I get this evil grin on my face ready to prove them wrong.
When you hit a bump or hurdle in your career, how do you find a new road + switch gears to find success?
I have encountered several hurdles but I think i’m relentless and armed with several plans so I always pull through. What has really helped me is having a main goal and whatever obstacle steers my wheels will put me on a different path but my eyes and heart remain on a main goal. It helps to keep reminding myself that this is not a race so it’s ok to slow down.
What’s next for you? What are you most excited for in 2019?
In 2019 I plan on accomplishing a lot but also taking lots of time for self care and pampering myself. I’m excited about some fashion and beauty campaigns I have coming out soon.
I recently started a degree in disability studies, hoping to further my knowledge in order to be a stronger advocate for inclusion.
I’ll be a speaker at SXSW in March furthering the conversation on inclusive design to discuss “How Adaptive Design is Transforming Brands.”
My biggest mission this year is to run the New York City Marathon In November—lots of training ahead but I’m excited to see how far I can push and challenge myself.