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Mama Cax is the amputee and activist who slayed the Savage x Fenty show

We catch up on her beauty routine, using her blog to come to terms with her disability, and what it was like being one of Rihanna’s army of models

It goes without saying, but Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty label – the recently launched diverse lingerie line – has changed things up for those who aren’t the unattainable size of a Victoria’s Secret model. 

Putting her money where her mouth is, the singer staged her latest collection during NYFW, hosting a giant production featuring the likes of Cara Delevingne, Bella and Gigi Hadid, alongside others like YouTuber and model Loey Lane, Ceraadi, Margie Plus, and Jayla Korian. That’s without even mentioning the hundreds of dancers and performers like Big Sean, Tierra Whack, and Migos. 

Among them, was model and amputee Mama Cax who first made fame via her blog of the same name – that saw her open up about her disability, as well as talking about travel, fashion, and lifestyle. “Around the age of 15, I was diagnosed with bone cancer which lead to me having my right leg amputated,” she shares. “That story is what landed me on social media, to share my story and get young women to love themselves and embrace their bodies.” 

Here, we speak to Cax about her Savage x Fenty appearance, acting as an ambassador for amputees globally, and when she feels most beautiful. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you grew up? How did you come up with the name Mama Cax? 

Mama Cax: I’m originally from Haiti. I was born in New York but I moved to Haiti at an early age and I finally moved back to New York when I was just 15. Mama Cax is my blogging name which I came up with about six years ago. I wanted to stay anonymous on the interweb. I started blogging about travel, fashion, and lifestyle in general but with the lens of accessibility and inclusion overall. 

What was it that made you decide to share your story in the first place? 

Mama Cax: It was mostly because I knew I was going through such a hard time accepting what happened. I just knew other people had to be going through similar situations. I wanted to be transparent with my followers. I didn’t expect it would turn out the way it did, gaining so many followers, touching people who could relate, and helping people whose stories were not necessarily familiar, but the message itself was something that uplifted them. 

How did that help you come to terms with your disability? 

Mama Cax: It absolutely gave me confidence. I’ve always seen myself as someone who is broken or depressed or always willing to give up, but to a lot of those people I was this confident girl who was not afraid to show her prosthetic. They wanted to be like me or wanted their daughters to see what they could achieve with their prosthetic and not be afraid to show who they are. 

What made you decide to wear more decorative prosthetics? 

Mama Cax: I realised that it was taking so much energy to keep up the appearance that I didn’t have a prosthetic. I always dreamt of being able to buy something that was very realistic so that no one would know. But the reality is, whether people knew or not, it didn’t change the fact that I had one. 

So, instead, I thought: ‘What if I stopped trying so much?’ From then on, I found a way to make it look more interesting and look at it as a piece of art as opposed to something that I had to be ashamed of. 

How did you then move into modelling? 

Mama Cax: I’d say it was purely sheer luck. I was studying international relations and I started working at the Mayor’s office. Shortly after, I decided to start my Master’s and after I completed my masters I got a message asking to be included in a beauty campaign that was shooting in LA. 

I flew to LA, shot the campaign; the focus was using make-up to talk about diversity and different kinds of beauties. I thought the project itself was very empowering to me and I knew that it would mean so much for so many women who buy make-up and never see themselves represented. I saw a little opportunity to make a difference in fashion or modelling, but obviously, that’s easier to say when you’re in it and trying to get to it is another battle.

Do you find that people stare? 

Mama Cax: For sure, yeah. Sometimes it’s in an admiring way and sometimes not. Having had it for 10 years, it’s easy for me to tell which it is. I’ve used the same coping mechanism since I was a teenager though, just blurring out my surroundings. 

It doesn’t matter how old you are, sometimes it does get to you! There are 40- or 50-year-olds who still hide their prosthetics because they don’t like the look or they don’t want to show it off. It’s always nice interacting with kids who have questions though. 

Do you have a beauty routine? 

Mama Cax: I have many! I’m obsessed with skincare overall and in the winter even more. My skin gets a bit dry and dull, so I love to do a clay face mask and then a proper hydrating face mask. And then a massage with my jade roller, not sure what it does but… I pack on some vitamin C boosters and serums and just some heavy hydrating lotion after. 

When do you feel most beautiful? 

Mama Cax: Right after this routine really! It’s really the idea that you’re taking care of yourself. 

How did you starring in the Savage x Fenty show come about? 

Mama Cax: I got word about it a week prior to the show that I was being considered and they wanted me to come in for casting. Obviously I was super excited not knowing what to expect, but not too excited because 75 per cent of the time I don’t get the job. I went to the casting and there were thousands of girls, it was around fashion week, so we’re talking the crème de la crème of the industry – some of the top girls. I found out four days before the show I was going to be in it. 

Can you tell us more about your experience of the show? 

Mama Cax: Then I went to my fitting and it was so hectic. Everyone was backstage or behind-the-scenes tailoring the outfits to make sure they were perfect. The first outfit I tried on I wasn’t feeling at all – I felt too exposed. It didn’t go well with me whatsoever. Having a prosthetic and wearing lingerie, it has to be the perfect fit and coverage. 

I wasn’t into the first three outfits I tried and at that point, I thought I wasn’t going to walk because I couldn’t see how they were going to bend the rules for me. They called the person in charge or assigning the outfits and they said: ‘We’re just going to wait a little to try and find you the perfect fit.’ Finally, I tried on the outfit that I ended up wearing; it was perfect and made me feel comfortable and sexy. All the curves I wanted covered were covered and I just felt fierce. It was just magical. I hate walking shows, so being able to still make an appearance, but being one of the seductresses in the window was perfect for me. 

How did it feel to be accommodated in that way? 

Mama Cax: It just shows that you’re being represented well. Often when you work with a brand, you can tell if you’re being tokenised, rather than being represented for who you are. All of those tiny details show you’re being thought of as a person, instead of just there for visibility. 

To arrive on set and there’s my shade of make-up, somebody who knows how to handle my hair, an elevator to need if you can’t take the stairs – those are the things that matter! Especially from a lingerie line that prides itself in being for every kind of woman and they demonstrated that they really would find the perfect outfit for everyone there. 

“Often when you work with a brand, you can tell if you’re being tokenised, rather than being represented for who you are. To arrive on set and there’s my shade of make-up, somebody who knows how to handle my hair, an elevator to need if you can’t take the stairs – those are the things that matter” – Mama Cax 

How have you seen diversity change in the beauty and fashion industries? 

Mama Cax: It’s much better and more forward-thinking than it was 10 years ago but there’s still so much more work to be done. When I think of the media in general – magazines, movies, and commercials and such – it’s still very much elitist on who they decide can play a certain role. There’s still a very huge gap and lack of disability inclusion and sometimes you see disability being represented or being visible but not well represented. 

It’s important that people know disabled people are multidimensional. We’re not just the best friend of the main character or computer whiz sitting on a chair. It’s how people perceive you, how you show people with disabilities without focusing on their disability. 

Do you like focusing on your disability when you do interviews? Or would you rather people talked about other things? 

Mama Cax: I mean it depends! It depends on what the interview is about, what the goal is. It’s possible for me to talk about beauty or my favourite product without going into my whole story, but if the purpose is to talk about how I came to where I am today and what my goals are and you know making a difference in the disability community, then I think it’s very valid to refer to it.

What do you think the future of beauty is? 

Mama Cax: I don’t know what it is, I’m hoping the future of beauty is more than the surface. It’s inclusive, it’s diverse, it’s a true representation of people from different walks of life. I want people to see beauty as more than just what you see on the surface.