Before Laura Johnson and Zoe Proctor started Zebedee Management, they noticed a few things: how few people with disabilities they saw in fashion ad campaigns and the media. And then when they saw them, it was as if they were symbolized. This was bizarre, considering people with disabilities are the largest minority group in the United States alone.
“It doesn’t make sense to us…why not provide equal opportunities?” says Johnson. “Most people are directly affected by disability or have a disabled family or friend, so it makes sense for companies to represent them in their advertising or media.”
So Johnson, a social worker, and Proctor, a performing arts teacher for people with learning disabilities, teamed up to set up a modeling agency which is now the UK’s leading specialist modeling agency for disabled people.
“We found that there were few agencies that could offer a specialized service to people with disabilities,” Johnson said in an interview with Microphone. “The media has taken giant steps to be more representative of a diverse society, but disability seems to be the last taboo. We believe people with disabilities should have the same opportunities as everyone else and want it to be the norm for people with disabilities to be seen in advertising, television and film.
All of Zebedee’s clients — ranging in age from toddler to adult and who are actors, models, and performers — have disabilities, and the agency offers services like companions for photoshoots. and events, and workshops so that everyone at Zebedee understands what is going on in front of their customers.
“We’re very busy developing model portfolios, running skills development sessions, and running events or campaigns,” Johnson said. “We submit our models to work through all major casting centers and are constantly looking to make new contacts through sales, marketing and social media.”
In an effort to change the way people view people with disabilities, Zebedee has set up a new campaign called #EverybodyBeautiful which shows their models with various disabilities – invisible, visible, physical and learning – in simple swimsuits. black.
“There have been a number of campaigns that seek to challenge this narrow image of beauty, but very few that embrace disability,” Johnson said. “Often, body positivity campaigns overlook disability. The body we are supposed to have a positive opinion about is almost always the valid body. This body can be fat or thin, black or white, from different cultural backgrounds, tall or short, old or young, but it is almost always capable.
“We want it to be the norm that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as others within the industry.”
Johnson continued, “We want it to be the norm that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as others within the industry. We also want to take this opportunity to encourage awareness and acceptance of disability, and we hope this will then lead to a better and more inclusive society.
Johnson and Proctor know that parts of the media — and fashion in particular — have made an effort to include more models with disabilities, like Chromat having Lauren Wasser walk on during a recent NYFW show, for example. But seeing someone with a disability is still rare.
What should be changed so that this is no longer the case?
“I think there needs to be an institutional shift in industry thinking in terms of recognizing that people with disabilities are also beautiful and can add something fabulous to their advertising and their media,” Johnson said.
“We will continue to work hard to bring about this change – and we are confident it will happen, as we are already seeing our models getting bookings for Disney, London Fashion Week, Matalan, BBC, Rankin’s Hunger Magazine, River Island and The Early Learning. Center. We have many more New Years bookings and we have a number of things that have yet to be released.
Maybe 2018 will be the year models and people with disabilities get the kind of exposure they’ve long deserved.