JC Penney & Nordstrom Feature Disabled People In New Campaigns


Two major department store brands have thrown their hats in the ring in the name of diversity and better representation for, you know, actual humans.

JC Penney and Nordstrom both revealed new visual imagery designed to be more inclusive of disabled people. How it took these huge brands this long to realize disabled people also buy and wear clothes is beyond us, but hey at least they are doing it and can hopefully lead other brands into doing the same.

As part of the Today show’s #loveyourselfie series centered around positive body image messages, JC Penney revealed their new Manhattan window display featuring mannequins like you’ve never seen them before. There is one in a wheelchair, a man with a prosthesis, and a larger woman.

No word on whether they were influenced by the awesome video made by Pro Infirmis in Germany who made a series of unique mannequins molded on the actual bodies of disabled people to show that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. Either way, it is a great move by JC Penney. According to comedian and actress Maysoon Zayid (who happens to have cerebral palsy and gave a hilarious TED Talk breaking down misconceptions about it), people with disabilities are the largest minority in the world and they are the most under represented in entertainment.

It seems the same goes for fashion, and seeing these major players offer something unique means they are trying to shift things in a different direction and appeal to a wider audience. Because, hello, it could lead to more sales. According to Meg O’Connell, a partner at the consulting firm Global Disability Inclusion, “people with disabilities represent a significant marketing opportunity, with $225 billion in discretionary spending.”



Nordstrom are the other iconic department story getting real with their visuals, by featuring 3 disabled models in a new campaign. In their July catalog, featuring upcoming fall fashion, they have included models who have prosthetics, who have limbs amputated and even one model in a wheelchair. Her name is Jillian Mercado and you may recognize her face. She was the bright-haired beauty featured in Diesel’s ‘Reboot’ campaign, and since then has had no end of work and media attention because of the bold move by the denim label.

Jillian has been very outspoken about how she loves that a model with her look can re-define the conventions of beauty and inspire others that there is no reason why a disabled man or woman can’t promote and represent major clothing companies.

“My aim is to give hope to people who are maybe saying ‘My life is over’ because they are disabled. You can totally do it, nothing should be stopping you,” she told the Daily Mail back in January about being a new fashion role model to many other people with disabilities.


Nordstrom have apparently been using disabled models since 1997, but in an age where everything has the potential to go viral, it is more important than ever they, along with other brands, step up as leaders in the fashion world.

“Identifying companies that utilize models or actresses with disabilities has been like finding a needle in a haystack,” said Meg O’Connell in a press release about the campaign. She added, “is a leader in this space and has been a long-standing supporter of disability inclusion not only in their advertising but also in employment and accessibility in their stores.”

Nordstrom spokeswoman Tara Darrow said using the models is “really about reflecting the customers and communities we serve. We serve diverse customers and it’s an opportunity for them to see themselves when they’re looking through the book or online. … We don’t promote it or go out and talk about it. We just think they look great.”

Well we think it is important to promote it because how will anyone know? We get that they don’t want to call attention to something which should just be seen as normal in society, a clothing store using disabled as well as able-bodied models and mannequins. So it’s up to us as the media and conversationalists to spread the word in our communities.

What JC Penney and Nordstrom are doing is showing their customers that these aren’t disabled models, they just models. Three cheers for all the brands out there who are willing to turn up their nose at the old boring standards of beauty, and create a space where everyone can feel like they belong.



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