Appreciating Seven Celebrities of Color with Chronic Illnesses/Disabilities

With Superfest: International Disability Film Festival 2016 just a few months away, the importance of diverse, capacious, and accurate/meaningful representations, not just in film but also in music, fashion, television, and everyday interactions, has been a topic close to heart at the Longmore Institute. Seeing people who look like you and share your experiences in the media has the dual benefit of contributing to more expansive and relatable stories, and exposing audiences to different bodies, as well as different ways of being in a body. Overwhelmingly, those who are represented as having disabilities, whether in the media or in real life spaces, are white and male. To counter this, we are excited to have compiled a list of celebrities of color with disabilities and chronic illnesses who offer high-profile examples of bringing diversity to the mainstream.  Cropped image of the rapper Missy Elliott with a transparent background; Elliott wears an army green cap with a chevron patch, turned slightly sideways, and a matching army green shirt, large gold hoop earrings, and a flowing side ponytail. She is smiling coyly, and looking slightly up and to the left. Missy Elliott, rapper and producer with Graves' diseaseCropped image of Zoe Saldana, in a black bustier-type top or gown, against a white background with an obscured logo, presumably a step-and-repeat for a red carpet event. Zoe Saldana, dancer and actress with Hashimoto's thyroiditisCropped image of Jillian Mercado modeling for Beyonce's clothing line. Mercado, in a motorized wheelchair, wears blue jeans and a gray pullover sweatshirt, with black lettering that reads, "I twirl on them haters". Jillian Mercado, fashion blogger and model with spastic muscular dystrophyEditorial shot of model Mama Cax in the middle of a city street, with yellow taxi cars on either side of her. She wears a short and billowy royal blue dress that highlights her legs, of which the right is a skin-colored and titanium prosthetic, with a chunky silver necklace. Mama Cax, blogger and model with prosthesis from osteosarcoma Cropped red carpet photo of Halle Berry, in a designer gown and ornate earrings against a step-and-repeat background. Halle Berry, actress and model with diabetesCropped headshot of Montel Williams, wearing a knit brown sweater in a modeling pose with both hands on one shoulder. Williams is looking directly at the camera with a half smile. In each ear he has large diamond stud earrings. Montel Williams, television host and personality with multiple sclerosisCropped image of Stevie Wonder, against a gold and white Grammy's step-and-repeat, wearing black glasses, a black collared shirt, and a big smile. Stevie Wonder, multi-talented musician, songwriter, and producer, and outspoken advocate for disability rights, as discussed in a previous blog post