Here at Slick Chicks we believe our ambassadors are the forefront of our success. Our ambassadors are chosen based on their impactful missions to help better society and better themselves in the process. Our ambassadors are dedicated to their communities and for that (and more), we are proud to have them as the main representatives of our brand.
Madison Russell is one of our many beloved ambassadors. Dance has always been a pillar of Madison’s life. Since starting to dance at age two, Madison developed a passion for the art. When Madison became a wheelchair user, she had to learn to dance in a different way. Below is just a snippet of Madison’s story, in her own words:
Briefly introduce yourself in one to two sentences.
My name is Madison, I am 20 years old, and I’m a dancer in a wheelchair. I have syringomyelia, a rare spinal cord disease caused by a cyst formed inside the spinal cord.
How do you spiritually prepare yourself for each day? Do you have a mantra or meditation you do if things ever become overwhelming?
When things get overwhelming, I make sticky notes. I write everything in my head, whether that’s things to do, songs I’m thinking about, food to cook, whatever I am overwhelmed by, and then I go through them one by one. I also have a playlist with all of my favorite music (primarily pop from the 2000s) and I play them as loud as I can while dancing to myself.
How do you empower yourself?
I have learned that to empower myself, I have to own my body. Own the wheelchair, own the weight changes that have happened, own the fact that everyone will be looking at me. I dye my hair and wear brightly colored clothes because if people are going to stare anyway, I might as well give them something to look at. I recently started buying clothes that make me feel sexy, even if I have no one to wear them for. Just owning those clothes makes me feel more empowered.
Has dance always been a creative pursuit of yours?
I danced from age 2 to 11, doing ballet, tap, jazz, and hip hop. I developed juvenile arthritis as a kid and had to stop dancing at 11 to protect my knees and ankles. When I became a wheelchair user, I went through a process of learning my “new body” and I decided to try dance again as a part of that. I immediately fell head over wheels with it again and I haven’t been able to stop since. Dancing makes me feel alive in a way I hadn’t felt in so long. Being in a wheelchair I felt stuck for a long time, but dancing has given me that freedom to break out of those feelings.
How do you process and deal with any critics you may have?
When my first dance video went viral, I got a lot of hate. People told me that wasn’t real dance, or they called me Gypsy Rose (because The Act had just come out at the time), or they just straight up made fun of me for being in a wheelchair. I just block and move on for the most part, sometimes responding to educate someone. Just yesterday some people online were saying you can’t only dance with your arms, and I was able to educate them on the different types of disabled dancers and how they dance. Sometimes it gets me down, but then I remember how many people I have been able to help through my videos.
Where does your overall determination come from?
I feel like if I don’t have determination, what kind of life would I have? As a wheelchair user, I have to be determined and advocate for myself or else I would be sitting in my house all day every day with no job and no degree. I have always been a strong-willed person, and that hasn’t changed just because of my disability.
What is your relationship with social media?
I started my twitter account when I was 13 and I’ve been in love with it ever since. Most of my disabled friends I have met through social media, and they are the ones who taught me to learn to empower myself. I have learned so much about the disabled community and about myself through social media. And I get to share my love of dance and educate others on disabled dancing.
As a college student, what do you believe is the key to lifting up other students on social media?
Exposure. When students in wheelchairs don’t know that there are others like them out there, so much self-doubt can creep in. My second year of college, a new wheelchair user came into the school and I remember seeing a tweet of hers asking which fitness classes she could take, since they weren’t accessible. She had no idea that the classes had to accommodate her and that she was entitled to take whatever classes she chose. That moment, when I realized there were others out there who felt just as alone, was the moment I realized that my social media could actually have an impact.
Why does representation matter for you?
Representation matters to me for a lot of reasons. For one, it’s just practical. When I am buying clothes, if the model is standing up then I have no idea what that outfit would look like on me. But it’s also for a social reason. Stores who have disabled models are typically friendlier towards disabled customers. And I feel like I fit in when I can see others like me.
What do you love about Slick Chicks?
Slick Chicks is the epitome of representation. Every time a new ambassador shows up on Instagram, I get to learn about a different disability or a different lifestyle. It is so interesting and makes me feel so welcome.