19 LGBTQ+ disability rights advocates that are redefining the fashion industry

You better work! (Covergirl!)

From left to right, images of LGBTQ+ disability advocates Chella Man, Pansy St. Battie, and Jillian Mercado
Image: Instagram @chellaman, @pansystbattie, @jillianmercado

For so long, the world of fashion has remained exclusionary to those with disabilities. Despite the push for a more inclusive fashion industry that takes into consideration factors like age, race, and body type, the industry continues to lack when it comes to making space for fashion for those living with disabilities. That’s where our list of ultra-stylish LGBTQ+ disability rights advocates working to change the fashion industry comes in. 

Whether they’re posing for photographers on the red carpet or filming OOTD (outfit of the day) videos for TikTok and Instagram, these 19 LGBTQ+ disability rights advocates are serving up fashion on a silver platter. 

Annie Segarra (she/they)
Segarra is an American Latinx YouTuber and artist, as well as an advocate for LGBTQ+ and disability rights. Through her platform Segarra advocates for body positivity and media representation for marginalised communities. In 2010, the advocate created a Tumblr account called Stop Hating Your Body that was used as a space for queer people with disabilities to share their stories of insecurity, body-image, and self-love.

The advocate, who was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome at 26 years old, designed and produced a t-shirt with the text “The Future is Accessible,” a play on the 1970’s t-shirt slogan “The Future is Female,” after noticing that the 2017 Women’s March lacked visibility and accessibility for women living with disabilities. 



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Drag Syndrome
Next on our list of LGBTQ+ disability rights advocates in the fashion industry is Drag Syndrome, a collective known as “the world’s first drag troop featuring highly addictive drag queens and kings with Down’s Syndrome.” After coming to popularity on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, Drag Syndrome, which features the drag talents of kings and queens like Lady Mercury, Lady Francesca and Horrora Shebang, has since been featured at high-profile drag events, including RuPaul’s DragCon convention. 



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Jessica Kellgren-Fozard (she/her)
Kellgren-Fozard is a successful British YouTuber with more than one million subscribers whose videos focus on disability rights and awareness, LGBTQ+ history, and vintage fashion. In 2008, Kellgren-Fozard joined the cast of the BBC’s Britain’s Missing Talent, a modelling reality series for disabled women. Kellgren-Fozard placed third in the competition. 


Kay Ulanday Barrett (he/they)
Kay Ulanday Barrett is a poet, performer, educator, food writer, cultural strategist, and a trans, gender non-conforming disability rights advocate based in New York City. In addition to having his work published in high-profile magazines such as Vogue, Curve, and NYLON, Barrett similarly works with a number of trans rights organisations in New York, such as the Trans Justice Funding Project, the Transgender Law Centre, and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. 



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Pansy St Battie (he/him)
Next on our list of LGBTQ+ disability rights advocates in fashion is Pansy St. Battie, a burlesque performer and model who uses a wheelchair due to his joint hypermobility syndrome. St Battie describes himself as a “non-binary model, showbabe and aspiring patron saint of glitter”. I

n a recent interview with The Vintage Woman magazine, St Battie had this to say about fashion, disability, and their non-binary identity: “For me, fashion is a big part of the way I interact with the world. So is my disability and my experience as a non-binary queer person. In many ways, they’ve all helped me gain confidence in each other. I think the biggest part is that my fashion and style made me enjoy being looked at. I’m always going to be looked at and scrutinised. When I dress up and trick out my wheelchair, I feel like I’m the shit. Regardless of what anyone else thinks or why they’re looking at me, I feel like I’m worth looking at, so I’m happy to let them enjoy it.”



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Bri M (ze/zir)
The brains behind the Power Not Pity podcast, “a podcast that centres and celebrates the lived experiences of disabled people of colour,” Bri M began a career in podcasting and political agitation after receiving a multiple sclerosis diagnosis in 2016. Bri describes zirself as “a proud Black, Jamaican-American, queer, non-binary, disabled alien-prince from the Bronx”.



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Ruby Allegra (they/them)
Allegra, an Australian content creator and wheelchair user, got their start in the fashion industry when they became a licensed makeup artist in 2013. Since then, the content creator has amassed a sizeable following on their Instagram account @rvbyallegra, a page dedicated to body positivity and self-care. 

In an interview with Bustle magazine, Allegra said that they had recently taken an interest in the plus size fashion community. According to Allegra, they found it “really interesting to learn more about the fat acceptance movement and all of the amazing plus size models that [they were] seeing coming onto social media platforms”.



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Stevie Boebi (she/her)
Boebi rose to fame as a YouTuber before founding her own production company, Boebi Productions. In addition to having amassed more than 744K YouTube subscribers, Boebi describes herself as “your fave international queer peer educator”. On her YouTube channel, Boebi creates content catered towards queer women and speaks candidly about her experiences as a person with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.



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Yvie Oddly (she/he/they)
Known for her eclectic fashions, Oddly was the winner of Season 11 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. During her time on the series, Oddly spoke candidly about her Ehlers-Danlos syndrome diagnosis, a connective tissue disorder that, for some people, results in hypermobility. While Oddly’s disability allows her to stun audiences with her super-flexible drag performances, the queen admitted in an interview with Them magazine: “Going on season 11 was the first time I really felt my body starting to disintegrate…I felt myself not being capable of things, whereas every time I’d gotten on a stage in my life before then, I felt invincible. I felt capable of doing anything.”

Oddly has since spoken out against the show and the ways in which her disability was handled by producers. 



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Chella Man (he/him)
Chella has made a name for himself as an actor, model, artist, YouTuber and advocate. On his socials, Chella speaks candidly about his experiences as a deaf, trans, Jewish and Asian person of colour. In addition to his modelling for brands like Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger and Yves Saint Laurent, Chella has similarly appeared in the DC Universe television series Titans as the mute superhero, Jericho. 



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Carson Tueller (he/him)
Carson Tueller is a speaker, presenter, and personal development coach. When he came out as gay, Tueller couldn’t have anticipated that later the same year, he would suffer an accident that would lead to a spinal cord injury that would paralyse him from the neck down. Following his accident, Tueller was inspired to become a life coach discussing his experiences as a gay disabled man. Tueller quickly gained traction on Instagram and later appeared as a model at New York Fashion Week with the Runway of Dreams Foundation. 



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Aaron Rose Philip (she/her)
In 2018, Philip made history when she became the first-ever Black, transgender, and physically disabled model to be signed by a major modelling agency, Elite Model Management. Since then, Philip has appeared as a model on the pages of high-profile fashion magazines like ELLE, Allure, and Paper

In 2022, the model, who is a wheelchair user due to her cerebral palsy, once again made history when she became the first wheelchair-using model to walk for a major luxury fashion brand when she took to the runway at Moschino’s spring/summer 2022 fashion show. 



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Eddie Ndopu (he/him)
This South African disability rights activist is one of just 17 advocates appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations for the Sustainable Development Goals initiative. Ndopu began working in advocacy following a spinal muscular dystrophy diagnosis. Since then, Ndopu has been named one of Powerful Media’s 50 most influential people with disabilities in the world. 

In 2021, Ndopu took to the runway at New York Fashion Week sporting looks designed by Amanda Nguyen. In an Instagram post reflecting on the experience, Ndopu wrote: “Growing up in South Africa my dream, for as long as I can remember, was to one day become a world-famous fashion designer. When my hands became too weak to continue sketching the dresses I had been day-dreaming about between the ages of 12 and 16, I had to dream a new dream. And so I did.”



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Lilac Vylette Maldonado (she/her)
The co-founder of the grassroots disability justice group, the Los Angeles Spoonie Collective, Lilac Vylette Maldonado, describes herself as “a community organiser and culture worker who identifies as sick and disabled, neurodivergent, Two-Spirit, Chicanx femme”. As well as being a self-proclaimed “fashionista,” Maldonado works tirelessly as an advocate for racial, gender and disability justice, as well as LGBTQ+ intersectional rights and body autonomy. 


Dr Sami Schalk (she/her)
As an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, Dr Sami Schalk is also the author of the 2022 book Black Disability Politics. In addition to advocating for the rights of LGBTQ+ disabled people of colour, Schalk also shows off her teacher-core outfits on her Instagram (@fierceblackfemme) using the hashtag #TeachingLooks.


Willow Pill (she/her)
Fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race will recognise Willow Pill as the winner of the series’ 14th season. In addition to being a fashion icon both on and off the show, Pill uses her platform to discuss her ongoing struggle with cystinosis – a rare genetic disorder involving the build-up of cystine, an amino acid, in the body. 

Pill spoke candidly about how her condition had affected her gender identity on Twitter/X, saying: “During quarantine I started to explore my feelings about my illness and unpack a lot of medical PTSD and self-hatred. But only in the last year have I really started to realise that I’m not happy with my gender identity either… I’m still not sure where I fit on the spectrum, for now I just say trans femme, but I also don’t have to know now … A lot of people with illnesses and disabilities are not able to take hormones, even if they want to. Estrogen, particularly, can cause a lot of increase in side effects of the medications you’re currently on and I’m already on a lot.”


Julian Gavino (she/they)
Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Gavino is a trans, disabled model more commonly known as “The Disabled Hippie”. In addition to working as an LGBTQ+ and disability rights advocate, Gavino has appeared in ad campaigns for Tommy Hilfiger and Maybelline, as well as making history as Abercrombie & Fitch’s first trans disabled model. In addition to appearing as a model on the long-running fashion reality television series Project Runway, Gavino took to the runway at New York Fashion Week in 2021 with the Runway of Dreams Foundation. 



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Jillian Mercado (she/her)
Mercado is a model and actress who is also a wheelchair user due to her spastic muscular dystrophy diagnosis. In 2014, Mercado appeared in her first-ever ad campaign for the fashion brand Diesel. Since then, Mercado has been featured as a model in magazines like Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Posture, as well as in ad campaigns for Target and even Beyonce! 

Mercado claims that she owes her career in fashion to her mother and father, who was a dressmaker and shoemaker respectively.

In 2019, Mercado joined the cast of The L Word: Generation Q, playing the role of Maribel. 



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Ryan O’Connell (he/him)
O’Connell is an American writer, actor, director, and LGBTQ+ and disability rights activist living in Los Angeles, California. In addition to writing and starring in his 2019 Netflix series Special, O’Connell is the man behind the 2022 best-selling novel Just By Looking At Him. Following his success as a writer and an actor, O’Connell has starred in fashion-forward photo shoots with publications like Interview, As If, and Portland Monthly magazines. 



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That rounds off our list of LGBTQ+ disability activists in the fashion industry!

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