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Ulta Beauty ad with woman in wheelchair captivates girl with rare disease

While the majority of cosmetic ads promote unobtainable beauty standards and feature a limited variety of models photoshopped to "perfection," some companies are making it their mission to be more inclusive. Ulta Beauty is one example, whose ad featuring a woman in a wheelchair made a big impact on a little girl seeking acceptance.

According to Carolyn Anderson, her four-year-old daughter, Maren, is a "dance-loving, baby doll-toting, bike-ridinglittle girl with the most infectious giggle and smile." She also has a rare disease caused by a gene mutation, so Maren uses a wheelchair and doesn't talk very much. "Since day one, she's shown great motivation and tenacity and worked hard to overcome the challenges of her rare disease,"Anderson told Scary Mommy. "All she wants is to be accepted for who she is, and represented like everyone else," her mother said.

Maren had been learning how to use her new wheelchair and was finally to the point where she was more comfortable going out with it in public. On one outing, Maren was completely taken aback by the Ulta ad. "On this particular evening, Maren was cruising on the sidewalk in her wheelchair with a confidence we had not seen before," Anderson told Good Morning America. "She was so eager, we could barely get her to stop at crosswalks. Then, she suddenly stopped and focused all her attention on this image of a woman in a wheelchair like hers. It was amazing."


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The moment was meaningful for Maren. She finally was able to see herself represented, fostering a sense of belonging in the young girl. "She got to see herself in this picture, and that planted a seed for her to see that there is a place for kids like her in this world. She was included," Anderson said.

Anderson posted a photo of Maren and her reaction to the ad on Facebook, and it's totally adorable. "Well Ulta, you absolutely stopped my girl in her tracks this evening," Anderson wrote. "It was mesmerizing to watch her stop, turn, and gaze at this poster. So thank you." The photo went viral. Over 79,000 people were mesmerized by the photo of Maren mesmerized by the ad.

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Anderson shared the photo to raise awareness of the importance of representation. "It is our hope that families who see images like the one at Ulta Beauty will have open and continued dialogue with their children about inclusion," Anderson said. "Our wish is that one day it won't be newsworthy to see our daughter and other people with disabilities represented, it will be commonplace."

Ulta Beauty reached out to Maren's family, and Maren will get to meet the model in the photo, Steph Aiello. It's a touching end to a touching story.

Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

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