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.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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