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.
Monica Thomas is a writer and strong advocate for the #BetterBeauty movement. Monica was diagnosed with Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT) at a young age but her passion for spreading awareness for the disease started later in life. Today, Monica spreads awareness for CMT, #BetterBeauty, and inclusive representation through her writing and social media influence. Below Monica gives us further insight into her passions, determination, and what empowers her daily:
Briefly introduce yourself in one to two sentences.
My name is Monica Engle Thomas. I am a 31 year-old writer living with a hereditary degenerative neuromuscular disease called Charcot Marie Tooth.
How do you spiritually prepare yourself for each day? Do you have a mantra or meditation you do if things ever become overwhelming?
I find that sticking to a ritual in the morning helps me feel centered and prepared. I always make myself a cup of coffee and sit on the couch with my dog to start the day. I also try to remind myself to choose gratitude, as living in gratitude can actually change our brain chemistry for the better. However, like most people, I am not always successful. When things become overwhelming, I find the 4-7-8 breathing method to be very helpful in recentering my mind. Breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven, out for eight. This method slows down my heart rate and really calms my nerves.
How do you empower yourself?
I empower myself in lots of different ways, and it’s always changing. I find the most empowerment through writing and storytelling. Growing up with a disability, I felt anything but empowered. Now, when I write about that time in my life, it’s like I am reaching back into the past and fixing little broken pieces of myself.
How do you process and deal with any critics you may have?
There was an adage I read a while back: If you wouldn’t take advice from someone, don’t accept their criticism. Criticism that isn’t constructive is often just projection, and I try my damnedest to ignore it. Again, because I have been disabled my entire life, I have been bullied and humiliated more than most. I have a pretty thick skin and can ascertain when someone is offering legitimate criticism or just being a troll. I don’t base my worth on what people who don’t love me think about me. The older I get, the easier that becomes.
Where does your overall determination come from?
I think disabled people are some of the most determined in the world. We’re constantly told, directly or societally, that we are incapable. We prove people wrong again and again. The unfortunate part about that relationship with an able-bodied society is that disabled people often have to prove ourselves to be extraordinary to just be accepted. We have to “overcome” our disabilities. I’m determined to reclaim the disability narrative. We’re not just inspirational or tragic. The disability community is the one marginalized group that anyone could join at any time. Disability does not discriminate, which means that there are all kinds of disabled people in the world. To lump us all into the same inspirational/tragic narrative is ridiculous and illogical.
What is your relationship with social media?
Social media, and Instagram specifically, has helped me connect to so many disabled women. Living with a disability can be such an isolating experience. For many of us, we’re the only disabled person in our schools or our towns. Social media has played a huge role in allowing us to connect and advocate for disability rights. My confidence in myself and my body has skyrocketed since I first started exploring the disability hashtags on Instagram. For my entire life, I could never turn on a TV show or a movie and see a disabled woman like me portrayed in a real way. Instagram was the first place where I really started seeing representation, and I do my best to pay that forward by being the representation I so desperately needed as a kid.
How has your experience with CMT influenced your decision to begin sharing your journey on social media?
Although there are eight people in my family living with CMT, I still found growing up with the disease to be a very isolating experience. My older sister, who also has CMT, is eight and a half years older than me, so we were never in school at the same time. She was away at college while I was still in elementary school. My dad never really talked about his experiences with it, and the other family members I only really saw at Christmas. My day-to-day life with CMT felt like it was really only happening to me. When I got older and started spending more time with my sister, we talked openly about the disease. It was the first time for the both of us that we felt like someone else in the world understood what we’d been through. It was life-affirming for us both. When I share my experiences with CMT, I am always trying to spread that feeling out into the world. I want other disabled people to see my posts and feel like someone out there gets it, that they are not alone.
Why does representation matter for you?
If I had seen representation of disabled women growing up, I would have gotten to a place of acceptance so much sooner. It would have meant less constant searching and turmoil. I often think about the viral image of the little girl with leg braces looking at the ad poster in Target of a little girl with leg braces. I was that little girl once, but all of the ads I saw were of able-bodied little girls. I always felt like an outcast, an “other”. If I had seen myself reflected in the media I consumed as a kid, I would’ve realized that I belonged. It would’ve saved me from so much sadness. I am so glad that it’s getting better, that the little girl in that Target saw herself on that poster. We need so much more of that. Next stop: disabled superheroes instead of disabled villains. Seriously, start clocking how many villains have origin stories of disability. You won’t be able to unsee it.
As an advocate for #BetterBeauty, in what ways do you believe the beauty industry needs to change?
The beauty industry is a multibillion dollar industry that is regulated by a one page bill that hasn’t been amended since it passed in 1938. We often have no clue what is in the products we slather on the largest organ of our bodies. For example, I have a neuromuscular disorder, and if a product is neurotoxic and could potentially make my disability worse, I would likely have no idea. Not to mention, forced labor, child labor, and climate destruction are often a part of creating the products we use. Better beauty means clean products free from harmful, hormone-disrupting chemicals, and a transparent supply chain. The roots of the beauty industry need to change. I would love to see disabled people represented in beauty marketing, but I want the products being marketed to be safe and ethical.
What do you love about Slick Chicks?
Slick Chicks is one of those rare companies that unabashedly markets to and represents disabled people in a real way. So often, disabled people are not thought of when products are created. We spend so much time figuring out how to make things work for us, so when something is made for us specifically, it’s such a sigh of relief. It saves us the time and effort of creating workarounds. I don’t think many able-bodied people realize that it’s not living with a disability that’s so hard; it’s the inaccessibility of living in a world that never takes us into consideration that makes being disabled hard. Slick Chicks is more than just accessible underwear to me. They’re a harbinger of real change and a potential easier world that could exist for disabled people.