Entertainment

How Grace Mandeville and Linda Blacker are Changing Perceptions of Disability in the Media

Featured image on Grace Mandeville Featured image courtesy of Grace Mandeville

Grace Mandeville is a YouTuber, blogger, model, and actress who starred in CBBC’s The Sparticle Mystery as a teenager. I have been watching her Youtube videos for a year now and I enjoy the variety of lifestyle, fashion and disability based content she creates with her younger sister Amelia. Their lifestyle videos and vlogs are a great way to share life experiences. However, her disabled content resonated with me the most as a disabled person because it challenges ableist ideas and stigmas. In a few of her videos, she has used her platform to answer various questions about living with a foreshortened right arm in the hopes of raising social awareness about disabilities.

Linda Blacker also uses her photoshoots to convey important messages about society and be creative; her recent collaboration on the “more than a disability” campaign is a perfect example. The imagery in her wide range of photographs is memorable and poignant as shown in the mock perfume advertisement poster below.

Grace and Linda first met when Linda photographed Grace and her sister Amelia, who created the Youtube channel Mandeville Sisters together as teenagers. Linda first met them when shooting two charity campaigns for both Stand Up To Cancer UK and Alzheimer’s Research UK within the short space of time in late 2016 so they got to know each other quite well.

A few months ago Grace took to Instagram to express her frustrations regarding the little diverse representation of disability and casting of disabled actors in the media industry.

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I Am More Than A Disability – A few months ago I spoke to Instagram in a post about being frustrated "with the little diversity I'm seeing on TV and in mainstream media. I want to see more disabled models in campaigns, I want to see disabled actors used in films rather than using non-disabled actors and then editing limbs out or throwing them in a wheelchair, I want to see the real world represented in the media. But I'm not sure how to do this? " Well, I teamed up with @Lindablacker to show the world how disabled people should be represented, why they should be the main model in a campaign, playing an incredible role in a tv series, a romcom or in an action movie. Here's a photo of me, one photo of the campaign, modeling in a perfume advert because why can't someone disabled pose whilst holding a bottle of perfume?! Please make sure you head over to @lindablacker 's instagram to see the whole campaign and share your thoughts with the hashtag #MoreThanADisability – THANKYOU! Photographer & Campaign parnter @lindablacker Makeup Artist @stephaniestokkvik Location @Studioshutterhouse #disabled #disability #representationmatters

A post shared by Grace Mandeville (@gracemandeville) on

After reading Grace’s passionate post, Linda decided to reach out and collaborate with her on a promotional photographic campaign called “More Than a Disability” that was first revealed on social media last week. The message of the campaign is that talented disabled actors should be cast in roles that are not centered around their disabilities. Hopefully it will increase diversity in all parts of the media industry by demonstrating how talented the models and actors featured in the “More Than a Disability” campaign are.

Santiago Ospina Lozada for a mock children’s clothing promotional poster. Photo courtesy of Linda Blacker.

In a statement to Affinity, Grace asked, “Why can’t disabled actors be cast to play a prominent role in a romance film, a lawyer in a new TV show, or to be the star of a fashion campaign without the focus being their disability?”

Grace’s poignant words epitomise the feelings of many in the disabled community who feel misrepresented or underrepresented in the media, including myself. When I was in primary school, I started crying during storytime because none of the characters in children’s books or television programmes were disabled and that made me feel very alone.

Mr England 2017 and GB paracanoe athlete Jack Eyers starring as a 007 style film campaign. Photo courtesy of Linda Blacker.

A representative from VisABLE talent agency who helped find models and actors to star in the campaign told Affinity that “Change will only happen when we see some of our lead actors cast as characters in positions of power, where their disability is not the story.”

Hannah Fisher as Molly Tucker in mock teen drama It’s All about Molly Tucker. Photo courtesy of Linda Blacker. Makeup by Gina Parr.

In a statement provided to Affinity, Hannah Fisher, who worked on the campaign, said, “As a model with a disability, I believe the fashion and media industry could do more work to provide an equal playing ground for the currently underrepresented. By doing this, it will enable our diverse society to overcome stigma and marginalisation.”

Photographer Linda echoes Hannah’s words about the current unequal opportunities in the industry: “From my perspective, this would be fine if disabled actors had the same opportunities that abled actors do” – something she hopes the “More than a Disability” campaign will begin to change by raising awareness and making a positive impact, so that the millions of disabled people worldwide are finally heard and represented by the media and society as a whole.

This mock-up romantic comedy poster stars actor Ashley Archer and Grace’s sister Amelia Mandeville as a potential love interest for him. Photo courtesy of Linda Blacker and makeup by Stephanie Stokkvik.

As a disabled person with aspirations to build an off-screen career in the entertainment industry, I hope the variety of disabled talent shown in the pioneering “More than a Disability” campaign improves general inclusion in the media. Subsequently, I also hope it will lead to casting directions and writers creating a wider spectrum of opportunities for disabled creatives so they can finally work on the same level playing field as abled-bodied creatives.

Featured article images courtesy of  Linda Blacker

Featured cover photo via @gracemandeville.com

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