A Model For Diversity In The Industry

Last October, MidWeek featured 29-year-old model Shaholly Ayers on our cover. This week, I’m happy to share an update to her story.

Last Wednesday, she flew to Italy to model for designer Antonio Urzi at Milan Fashion Week. She was home for only a couple of weeks, as she had just returned from New York, where she walked the runway in the prestigious Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, also for designer Antonio Urzi.

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Shaholly Ayers walks the runway for designer Antonio Urzi at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York last month PHOTOS COURTESY GLOBAL DIVERSITY INCLUSION

Her pictures even made international press, including in GQ Italia, Cosmopolitan, UsWeekly, Washington Post and more.

Born with a partial right arm, Ayers hasn’t let her disability stop her from reaching her dreams, including becoming a fashion model. Last year, Nordstrom selected her as one of the models for its popular anniversary catalog that was shot in New York, as well as its winter catalog.

For the runway in New York, FTL Moda collaborated with Fondazione Vertical in featuring disabled models from across the world. Ayers had two looks in the Feb. 15 show: a black cutout minidress and a white hooded outfit.

“I had never walked a cat-walk before,” she says. “To have my first runway experience at Mercedes-Benz Fashion

Week was an absolute dream come true. What also made this experience so important is that I participated in a historic moment. This is a milestone for the fashion industry and humanity as a whole. By including diverse models on the runway and in print, the fashion industry is encouraging us to accept the imperfections in others and in ourselves.

“I do hope that shows such as this open the minds of many, and lead as an example to the rest of the workforce. Differently abled is just that — it’s recognizing we may perform differently but we are capable of performing.

“I am so thankful to my sponsor Global Disability Inclusion, Models of Diversity and Fondazion Vertical for pulling together because this wouldn’t have happened without their collaborative efforts.”

Ayers, who is signed with Wilhelmina Hawaii and works at Ann Taylor, spent three days in New York and three days in Milan. For both shows, she was told that the Antonio Urzi, who has designed costumes for Lady Gaga, created special pieces just for her.

“New York was an exciting and fun experience,” she adds. “I met models from all over the world who were overcoming their own challenges and issues of adversity. I felt like this was such a important moment not only for us and fashion but a real message to society.”

yting@midweek.com