While Tiffiny Carlson hasn’t yet strapped on a pyrotechnic metallic bra and fired it off in public like her pop star of choice Lady Gaga, she is providing the world with an entirely different form of fashion — wheelchair confidence.
At the age of 14, Carlson suffered a C6 spinal cord injury during a diving accident, leaving her without the ability to use certain parts of her body, including her legs. “Sad yes, but life moves on,” she says about the circumstance on her website, BeautyAbility.com. Initially created in the late '90s by Carlson as an AOL Hometown Page for her to share fashion tips with fellow women with a disability, Carlson eventually bought the domain in 2003 and created one of the first ever websites to discuss both beauty and disability topics. Since then the site has become a popular place for people with disabilities to relate, gain confidence and feel sexy at the same time.
“My confidence as a woman with a disability was not something that happened overnight,” admits Carlson. “Three years after my injury I met a dynamic paraplegic woman who inspired me and showed me, through simply living her life, that I could still have everything I wanted. It’s so important for people newly injured to have mentors, even silent ones —like the one I had — to realize we are just as amazing as if we were able-bodied.”
What really makes BeautyAbility.com unique is Carlson’s unrelenting passion for giving people who live a similar lifestyle to hers a bevy of information through several multimedia formats. There is the No Free Rides podcast that features interviews with inspiring individuals with a disability, the “Dear Tiff” advice page, humourous and heartfelt blogs, and disability news stories from around the world. However, it can be argued that the most impactful part of BeautyAbility.com are the YouTube videos.
Carlson’s “The 10 Commandments of Life in a Wheelchair” is as inspirational as it is funny and direct. Meanwhile, the bulk of her additional videos are poignantly and specifically designed to show women that a disability shouldn’t limit their ability or desire to doll themselves up just like anyone else. Watch “The Im-perfect Makeup Regiment” — it’s a video to behold.
“I meet countless women who just feel lost, a half a woman because of their disability — and it’s ingrained in them,” explains Carlson. “I feel like it’s my mission in life - my self-made mission that is, since I don’t believe in fate or that my injury happened for a reason. I just feel that I need to share my story of overcoming the low self-esteem monster with as many people as I can.”
In addition to Carlson’s hugely successful BeautyAbility.com, this blonde fashionista makes a living as a freelance writer in Minneapolis. She’s had stories published at Nerve.com, Disaboom.com, Chloe Magazine, not to mention Playgirl. It’s worth reading her articles simply to see her confident and fearless approach to life on display.
“You must make the best of what you got. I can only move my biceps, wrist muscles, shoulder muscles, my neck and of course my head/face — and I haven’t walked for 17 years,” concludes Carlson. “None of the physical matters though. If you let your disability siphon your hope and/or happiness, you let your disability win. I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I’m letting that happen.” jp