Often, when one mentions the word “prosthetics” in reference to mainstream media, what might come to mind are crude, antiquated designs, akin to Captain Hook’s hook or the pirate “peg-leg.”
However, Sophie Oliveira Barata is a specialist consultant and founder of the Alternative Limb Project, which is an enterprise focused on designing and producing artificial limbs for amputees by utilizing cutting-edge technology such as 3-D printing/modeling and electronics. The Alternative Limb Project creates prosthetics ranging from a variety of styles, from humanoid to sci-fi.
Within mainstream media, there are often limited and inauthentic portrayals of the disabled community. Those with disabilities are portrayed as the substance of tragedy.
Oftentimes, media tends to showcase disabled individuals as the subject of pity and suffering, such as the film “Me Before You.”
Regarding this film, many disabled critics pointed out the damaging tropes and messages in the film that suggest life as a disabled person is not worth living. This equates a disabled person’s life as less valuable, less vibrant than a non-disabled person’s life. However, nowadays, more disabled celebrities are challenging these stereotypes, defining their own image within the public realm.
For instance, Viktoria Modesta, singer, song-writer, alternative beauty model, and one of the Alternative Limb Project’s most famous clients, in her famous music video, “Prototype”, opens with the line, “Forget what you knew about disability,” finishing with her iconic black spike leg in a dark aerial-like ballet.
Originally, Modesta’s life had been defined by a lack of choice, undergoing at least fifteen surgeries for her leg, which had been affected by an accident caused by a doctor’s negligence at birth, before having to fight physicians for five years to agree to her decision for a voluntary below-the-knee amputation.
For Modesta, the limbs she uses, designed in collaboration with Barata, serve as extensions of her unique artistic image. This includes a prosthetic leg, made with Swarovski crystals, she performed with at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
In regards to her unusual aesthetic, Modesta saw her prosthetics as an artistic opportunity, quoting on the Alternative Limb Project site,
“My natural curiosity and strong belief is that it’s important to take control of your own body and most importantly improve it or reflect your personality through altered body image.”
For the innovative designer herself, Barata saw the importance of allowing her clients to choose their aesthetics in order to provide them with a sense of self-determination and agency. In a 2015 TEDMED talk, Barata discussed how patients for whom she created realistic-looking limbs were given a sense of “self-confidence, body balance, and most importantly, control.”
Barata also mentioned how not every patient desired that same realistic design. Some preferred designs that were more personalized to their specific tastes and interests.
As quoted on her website,
“Working with amputees, I realized how important it was to produce a bespoke limb; creating a hyper-realistic limb wasn’t just about looking real but also being unique, just as bodies are unique.
With the Alternative Limb Project, I wanted to take this idea to the next level and look at how we could design limbs as an expression and as an exploration into the re-imagining of the body.”
For each client, Barata’s process involves individual consultations, including colors and style, measuring, check-fitting, and sculpting desired ideas into reality.
Within our society, there are often stigmatized notions surrounding disability. There are limited perceptions of what members of the disabled community can and cannot do, how they should act, and what they look like.
For individuals like Viktoria Modesta, a powerful performer who has refused to cater to society’s expectations for people with disabilities, her incredibly designed prosthetic only serves to create part of her unique artistic image.
Platforms like the Alternative Limb Project help provide freedom of self-determination to amputees. This helps to affirm the autonomy and agency of those whom society often fails to recognize or respect. It also acts as a brilliant fusion between art and scientific innovation, as well as part of an empowering movement for body diversity and expression.
Claire Coder Sheds the Stigma on Menstruation
Not all men are aware of women’s menstrual cycles and the importance of having menstrual products at a reachable distance. In addition, there is a stigma about menstruation that needs to be dismantled. Coder and her team at Aunt Flow work to #ShedTheStigma and educate the public about menstruation.
During a Columbus Startup event, Coder unexpectedly got her period without the supplies she needed. So, she had to leave the event filled with majority male participants to go buy tampons.
To address the inequity with a sustainable solution, at age 18, Coder founded Aunt Flow. Since its establishment in 2016, the business works towards its mission to ensure that “everyone has access to quality menstrual products.”
To accomplish its mission, the team at Aunt Flow provides 100% organic cotton tampons and pads to companies and organizations at no charge. Requests for menstrual products can be made on the Aunt Flow website. Coder believes that menstrual products should be made readily available for free since it is a necessity.
“Toilet paper is offered for free, why aren’t tampons and pads?” Claire states.
Launching a start-up is no easy work. She worked odd jobs to raise $1.5 million in order to stock and fund over 350 businesses and schools.
When the business was launched, what were some of the greatest fears? How and when were the fears overcome?
One obstacle with a B2B [business to business] menstrual product business is that some decision-makers—primarily men—don’t always see the need for products in their bathrooms. Because they’ve never personally had a period, they don’t always view tampons and pads as bathroom necessities, like toilet paper. However, the large majority of the operations and facilities, people, office managers and other business owners we’ve worked with are certified FLOW BROS. They get why freely-accessible products matter: they support menstruators AND help business’ bottom lines.
Aunt flow provides women with organic tampons and pads, which is quite different from major menstrual product brands. What is the importance of using organic ingredients?
Transparency is key when it comes to what we put in our bodies. Unfortunately, the FDA currently classifies tampons as ‘medical devices,’ and major menstrual product brands are not required to disclose their ingredients. If we take the extra time to go for an organic apple, why would menstruators want to put chemicals (including rayons, dyes, and toxins!) into their bodies? Our tampons and pads are made from 100% organic cotton and contain no dyes, perfumes, or other WEIRD stuff.
What advice do you have for aspiring female entrepreneurs?
Always believe in yourself and Google something when you’re not sure!
One of your accomplishments is being an advocate for making people comfortable when talking about menstruation. What are some initiatives that you have taken to advocate for this cause?
From the beginning, Aunt Flow has aimed to get people talking about menstruation and why menstrual stigma sucks. To #ShedTheStigma, we refer to our products as ‘menstrual products’ and ditched the term ‘feminine hygiene products.’ The latter implies that getting your period is somehow dirty or gross, when it’s just another normal bodily function. This verbiage is also inclusive of everyone who gets a flow, not just cisgender women. We use this same inclusive language on our social media to make people comfortable when talking about menstruation.
You have also stated that you are a “proud college drop-out.” How did you make this decision? What influenced your determination?
I have always had an entrepreneurial instinct, and I didn’t feel like college was giving me the tools needed for genuine social impact. I dropped out of college after one semester to fight for menstrual equity, and the rest is history!
What is a fun fact about you that not many people know?
I owned a company in high school called, “There’s a Badge For That” where I made trendy buttons, magnets and compact mirrors with different designs on them. I was a top seller on Etsy as a sixteen-year-old!
What are the future goals for the company?
Our team wants to ensure EVERYONE has access to quality menstrual products. Soon, we want to see our products supporting people in 1,000 businesses and schools.
Coder exhibited her entrepreneurial instincts early on. Her experience enhanced her career as a successful entrepreneur, who sheds the stigma on menstruation.
By: Kahyun Kim
Meet Shani Syphrett, The Innovative Strategist Empowering Women of Color
Even if you’ve never heard of Shani Syphrett, you’ve probably been impacted by her work. She’s the mastermind behind the branding and marketing strategies that keep some of the biggest brands and corporations around the world connected to the public via field-tested brand building, experiential marketing, customer acquisition, and customer retention strategies. In layman’s terms, she’s one of the people responsible for keeping them up to date with their rapidly-growing and ever-changing consumer base.
She’s also the founder of Jamila Studio, a launchpad serving women of color that encourages and empowers them to share their stories and drive themselves forward through accessible one-on-one mentoring, brand coaching, and peer mentoring networks.
We caught up with Syphrett to learn more about her role as a strategist, the influences and impact associated with her work, and what it means for her to empower women of color and drive their success.
You’re a Brand and Marketing Strategist for companies such as Samsung, Nike, McDonald’s, Refinery29, and Gap. How do you help these well-established companies step into the future of marketing to and serving their customers?
My philosophy around brand and marketing strategy is serving the right customers with the right product at the right time. Much of what I bring to the table for the companies that I work with is getting them to step away from any assumptions they have about the customers they are trying to chase and examine who the qualities of their product or service are uniquely positioned to serve at the moment. Many times that means abandoning putting their customers in demographic boxes and looking at how they actually behave in an internet-connected, barrier-breaking world.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a Brand Strategist?
To me, it’s all human ecology – the relationship between people and their natural, social, and built environments. I would say I fell into strategy because of my innate curiosity and empathy and a few people in my life who entered in at just the right times to advocate for me and push outside of my comfort zone. I’ve always wanted to solve problems and I am lucky to be able to do that every day.
Why do you think it is important to offer support and additional resources to Women of color and intersectional identities, at large. How have you seen intersectional identity groups benefit from tailored support?
I see the work that I do for Women of color as something I am uniquely positioned to do. My experience often puts me in positions where I am the only one who looks, thinks, or acts like me. At first, it depressed me because I felt isolated and misunderstood. Now I see it for what it is: my obligation to open the door and bring others with me. And we all need that. No one succeeds all on their own. We move so much further when there is someone ahead of us, or someone who has access, who is specifically looking to help us. I made a decision to be a resource for Women of color and I see the fruits of that decision both big and small.
In 2015, you founded Jamila Studio as a consulting firm and project studio that helps high-performing women of color to thrive. How have you seen Jamila studio serving and empowering women through these endeavors? How important do you think Jamila studio is in their journey towards success?
I like to think that Jamila Studio provides creative capital and people capital for Women of color and, hopefully, soon, financial capital. What originally was a container for me to house all of my freelance creative work turned into a way for me to provide scalable support for a largely ignored market: innovative women of color. The one-on-one advising, coaching, bootcamp-style teaching, monthly meetup, and digital publication are an ecosystem that helps me reach women at different stages of their journeys. Maybe they’re just starting out and need confidence boosters and general direction. Maybe they are launching something new and need the right strategy behind them. Maybe they’ve already reached a certain milestone and need the co-sign, or connection of their peers to get them to the next step. Maybe they just want to be in the know about the myriad of options and resources out there that they can leverage to be successful. It’s the way that I can help the most people without burning myself out.
You also started monthly Chat & Chew meetups. Where did the idea to host Chat & Chew meetups come from? How have you seen these monthly meetups impact the attendees both on a personal and professional level?
Selfishly, the Chat & Chew meetups began because I was drowning in “coffee date” requests. Though I wish I could help everyone, I am an introvert who needs a fair amount of downtime. There came a point, I believe it was after about a year of leading workshops for various entrepreneurship programs and conferences and writing for Forbes, where there was a request for a coffee date and pick your brain session every day. I just couldn’t keep up. I was meeting so many new great women, needing to catch up with others, and often wanting to connect women who I thought could benefit from each other. So Chat & Chew was born. It’s invite-only conversation between peers who help each other celebrate wins, get through tricky work-related tasks, and air out the things we don’t feel comfortable doing with just anyone. I could not have imagined the sisterhood and enterprising I’ve seen since it started. It’s warm, validating, and actionable support. It feels like the most significant thing I’ve ever done.
On top of being an active brand strategist and running Jamila Studio, you are also a regular contributor for Forbes. Have you always been interested in writing? How does being a Forbes contributor tie in with your other projects?
Contributing to Forbes came from my passion to be an advocate for women of color. It’s all connected for me. I get to expose the world to dope, innovative women of color who may have been overlooked because they don’t know anyone “in the know”. I get to open that door for them and that makes a difference for them professionally and personally. I get to vouch for these women under the Forbes banner. The writing is just the vehicle.
What is one piece of advice you would give to women of color in any career field?
Clarity comes from engagement and not just thought. You won’t figure out who you are meant to be until you get out there and try to be it.
By: Alla Issa
Meet Gaby Wall Street – The Hispanic Woman Sparking A Movement in the Stock Market
Gabriela Berrospi is actively spreading empowerment to the Hispanic community with her business venture, Gaby Wall Street. She works to motivate Latinos and give them the tools they need to take control of their own lives and achieve economic freedom by investing in the stock market.
Originally from Peru, Berrospi had a dream of having success in the business world. She began making that dream a reality when she earned a scholarship to NYU while living near Wall Street. Living so close to the lifestyle of a person in finance, she realized what was possible if you put effort into it. With this, she was referring to investing in the stock market.
“If you learn how to trade, if you master it and learn how to apply it, you can do it,” said Berrospi.
Berrospi’s venture took a turn when she attended a conference and met a well-known Hispanic influencer and started a conversation about Berrospi’s future. She realized that although she had been teaching others what she had learned about trading, Berrospi had never taught it in Spanish to the Hispanic community. This group of people lacking support was a massive opportunity for Berrospi to become the voice for members of an untouched market and primarily the advocate for women in the Hispanic community.
“Go against the status quo. You can be your own Wall Street.”
The ‘How-To’ business is currently very successful, and Berrospi received advice to enter that market with her venture. The influencer kindly insisted on promoting Berrospi’s start-up on his Instagram story. Overnight, Berrospi was contacted by over five hundred women interested in her coaching and empowerment in becoming successful traders. A thousand followers within the first hour were posting about and sharing Berrospi’s venture. This immediate acceptance served as proof that there was a business opportunity in entering the Hispanic market.
So far, Berrospi has coached eighty clients within the last couple of months and is thrilled at the rate these women are seeking support. It can, at times, be overwhelming for Berrospi to expose herself in her posts, but it has also been a great learning experience. Though her increased work in addressing the audience has been new for Berrospi, she has loved the opportunity to serve and personally contribute to the community.
“Patience and discipline are the most important things to succeed in this industry.”
Sometimes people are more focused on just short-term strategies and lack the attention needed for long-term planning. Staying on top of this routine requires discipline.
Berrospi is constantly facing challenges of proving herself as a young woman and a minority. Her identity has worked in her favor when connecting with her clients because it has established a connection within the community. A goal of Berrospi’s venture is to show Hispanic women that they have the ability to make money to support themselves.
“You don’t need a lot of money to start out. Start small and go from there. Continue to contribute to your portfolio, and in the end, it will empower you.”
Berrospi’s just released an advanced online course known as VIP Traders in partnership with her partner Alan Burak, a hedge fund owner and trader with more than 20 years of experience. The purpose of this course is to make their combined knowledge globally accessible. More than a course, VIP traders is a community that aims to help people achieve economic freedom. Soon, Berrospi will not only inspire people in the Hispanic Community but also people from countries all over the world.
By: Sydney Murphy
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