Consuella Mackey had an epiphany nearly 30 years ago when she discovered first-hand the connection between good looks and social success. In fact, this link is so important in American society that it poses a career barrier for persons with disabilities—especially for those seeking work in the media, fashion, and beauty industries.
A New Orleans native living in Los Angeles and working as a hair stylist, Mackey knew that when her clients looked good, they felt confident. And confident people exuded a positive image that helped them succeed in their communities, relationships and jobs. But when a sports injury that left her temporarily unable to walk, she gained new insight into the lack of beauty and fashion resources available for persons with disabilities. Although her first frustrations centered on the basics of getting around a community and work place not made accessible, she eventually noticed the small things that kept her from feeling attractive. For example, she could find no company that designed clothes suitable for a person sitting in a wheelchair. She felt frumpy, not comfortable or confident, when her suit jacket—styled too long for wheelchair use—bunched up around her.
To fill the void, Mackey founded Operation Confidence, a nonprofit that encourages beauty and media companies to provide jobs, products and services for consumers with disabilities.
To show that people with disabilities could project positive and beautiful images, Operation Confidence (OC) began its work with fashion shows featuring “The Totally Confident Fashion Models.” OC went on to offer beauty make-overs through its Dress for Success program and organize job fairs and career preparation workshops. They pushed the fashion industry to design clothes for wheelchair users and pressured media companies and advertisers to hire persons with disabilities and show dignified role models and attractive images of persons with disabilities.
Today OC continues to branch out. It sponsors a number of wheelchair dance, sports and drill teams that have performed around the world. It also offers the inspirational and mentoring work of the Positive Redirection Team (PRT). PRT is a group of motivational speakers, dancers, actors, fashion models, and fitness instructions who all use wheelchairs, promote access to their fields for persons with disabilities, and mentor others with disabilities interested in these careers. Taking advantage of its location at the center of American film and TV production, OC has sponsored dances, fashion shows, comedy shows, jazz concerts, and been itself the recipient of a beauty make-over when the TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition remodeled Mackey’s home and helped her move the OC offices from her home to a new building.
Info about OC and its activities can be found on the web at www.operationconfidence.org or by calling 818-368-4407.