The modeling industry isn’t easy for anyone to break into, but Shaholly Ayers was determined to make it. The Hawaii-based stunner, who was born without her right arm below her elbow, is now experiencing major success in her career, walking in New York Fashion Week and posing for catalogs and magazines. But it was a long road to get to her breakthrough.
In a new interview with People, Shaholly explains that she was bullied throughout her childhood. “People would say to me, ‘Oh you would be so pretty if you had two arms,'” she tells People. “They were always focused on the fact that I was missing my arm.”
Shaholly wanted to go into modeling as a way to change people’s perceptions of her, so she made that her mission 10 years ago. However, local agencies weren’t into it. “They said, ‘No way, you’re never going to be able to do this. You don’t have two arms,’” she says. “After that came the realization, ‘Okay I’m going to have try really hard.’”
After years of trying to make it work, her dream came true when Nordstrom booked her for their Anniversary Sale catalog, something she has done three times since 2014.
“I like that I’m wearing the prosthesis because you can tell they are being inclusive. It’s a little more obvious,” she says of the campaign, adding she hopes more companies use amputee models in their campaigns. She says that she loves that part of her job is “educating people.”
Other disabled models, like Jillian Mercado who uses a wheelchair, have experienced similar challenges to Shaholly’s. Jillian told the Washington Post in 2016 that when she set out to be a model, she couldn’t find anyone who she identified with. The now-IMG model who has appeared in campaigns for Diesel and Target says, “Ultimately, we’re trying to normalize diversity,” she says. “Campaigns should have real people. People should see themselves in an editorial, in a magazine or a commercial.”