As a child, Shaholly Ayers wasn't allowed to participate in gym class. When she was a teen, coaches said she couldn't be on the basketball team. In college, she tried to find work as a model, but again the answer was "no." Ayers told TODAY Style:
I talked to one of the agents. And she told me, "There's no way you're going to be a model because you don't have two arms." I tried to explain — I have a prosthesis, I can wear that — really trying to sell it.
After agencies turned her down, Ayers started her modeling career without an agent, building her portfolio locally. Her hard work paid off, and in 2015 she walked in the New York Fashion Week. She has appeared in the Nordstrom catalog three times.
I'm comfortable wearing my prosthesis or not wearing it, but what I've found is that (directors) are really understanding. They want to be as true about it as possible. They say, 'Would you wear a prosthesis with this, yes or no?' For the first Nordstrom catalog, I was wearing a long coat. I don't think (the prosthesis) even fit under that. With activewear, I wear the prosthesis every time.
A HUGE thank you to @nordstrom for the amazing opportunity to model for your current #anniversarysale catalog. And thank you @global_disability_inclusion For your statement! It's thinking like yours the will help reshape the world! . . "We commend Nordstrom for its leadership role in featuring diverse models in their catalogs," said Meg O'Connell, President of Global Disability Inclusion. "Many in the fashion industry are hesitant to feature models with disabilities. Shaholly is the perfect example that beauty and disability are not mutually exclusive." . . . . #shaholly #amputeegirl #model #nordstrom #inclusion #disability #bodypositive #fashion #acting #awarness #ashleygraham
Ayers is hopeful for the future of people with disabilities in mainstream media.
When I was a child, it was really difficult. We didn't have amputees like Amy Purdy on Dancing With the Stars or people with disabilities on TV at all. In the past five years, I've seen a big shift…to be more inclusive for people with disabilities. We do change lives for children, and hopefully we're educating people.
#Repost @kakrike.bikinis ・・・ We believe in self love and picked @shahol1 to be apart of our brand because that's exactly what she stands for. This beauty is gorgeous, bright, and a strong role model. We are so bless to have such a person as a #kakrike girl 💕 #beyou #love #bikini LOVE OUR AMPUTEE MODEL! 💜 . . . #selflove #selfacceptance #model #rolemodel #disabled #bodyposi #amputee #model #photooftheday #empowerment #o #selfloveisthebestlove
From the Broken doll series. We shot this during a time when disability was not prevalent. Prior to this I either consciously hid my arm or photographers would ask me to hide it. Jenny was one of the first photographers I worked with that told me to be myself and encouraged my difference! I ❤ you Jenny! Photographer @jennychenphotography . . . . . #creative #fun #model #amputee #bodypositive #adaptive #fashion #makeup #shoes #disability #diverse #instagood @photooftheday #empower #different #prettydifferent