Pioneer

Breaking down
stereotypes

Cacsmy Brutus, New York City, New York, US

“For a long time, I wanted to hide it away, as something I was ashamed of,” says Cacsmy Brutus – aka Mama Cax – about her leg amputation, which she had at the age of 14, after getting bone cancer. “Now I want to display it, and make it a part of fashion. I want to show the world who I am.”

The Haitian-born model, blogger and motivational speaker, now based in New York, has seen her image displayed on a billboard in Times Square. But for her, it’s as much about the message as it is the action. “It’s great to break stereotypes,” she says. “I’ve always had a mission of making spaces more accessible. Not just physical spaces, but movements – things where people with disabilities aren’t always included.”

“I’ve always had a mission of making spaces more accessible”

It took a while for Cax to get to this point. “I was devastated after my amputation, but also relieved,” she says. “I was grateful to be alive, but concerned about so many other things. What will I be able to do in life? How will I cope with a new body?” She took a degree, worked for the Mayor’s office in NYC, undertook a Masters, and travelled in Europe. It was there that she got spotted for a fashion shoot, and signed with a modelling agency. Cax now combines this with her blogs, which traverse “travel, fashion, accessibility, disability, and inclusive design”.

“I’ve turned my
passion into work”

Cax displays her prosthetic leg proudly in photo shoots. But for her, getting body positive messages over is more important. “For young women everything around you is policing how to look. I made my look a truth, because it was the only way to free myself. But I make the point that body positivity isn’t something you can achieve overnight.” Meanwhile, she will continue to blaze a trail. “I’m very lucky,” she says. “For me, I’ve turned my passion into work. I love every part of what I do.”

 

Photography by Christina Holmes