SCI Superstar: Wendy Crawford

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When you look at Wendy Crawford, what do you see? A woman in a wheelchair, or something more? A former fashion model turned founder and editor of MOBILEwomen.org, Wendy has been hugely determined to change the way the media sees women with disabilities since her injury.

Above all, Wendy has refused to accept the status quo and her story is something everyone with a spinal cord injury should know. Read on to see how Wendy Crawford has fashioned herself an incredible journey in spite of a spinal cord injury.

Why she’s fearless

When she was 19 years old, Wendy’s life was one many would have coveted. She was young and healthy and her exceptionally pretty face had opened the modeling world and within six months of beginning her career, she landed an international gig in Tokyo.

Wendy was thrilled, having entered modeling in order to see the world, but on her way to the airport her entire life changed. She and a friend were hit by a drunk driver while taking a turn and Wendy’s neck broke. She instantly became a C5-6 quadriplegic.

After her injury, Wendy tried to get back into modeling doing headshots. “Good lord knows I needed the money,” she says in her TEDx speech; but after trying to reinvent her modeling career, she realized the fashion industry wasn’t interested in taking her seriously. Wendy instead decided to turn to another opportunity – speaking to people about the dangers of drunk driving.

This exciting opportunity was offered by the Office of the Attorney General of Ontario, and she was quite good at it, so good in fact she was given the “Crime Prevention Award” twice by the Solicitor General of Ontario and honored as “Citizen of the Year” in her hometown.

Despite these speaking opportunities however, Wendy, who was also a former athlete, was still depressed about her injury.  It wasn’t until she was invited to participate in a research study at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis when her entire outlook changed. “I met so many inspiring women with spinal cord injury, and many of them were going through exactly what I was.”

Because of her experience here, Wendy went on to found MOBILEwomen.org in 2002, a website dedicated to giving important information to woman with disabilities. A popular online magazine for women with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities, MOBILEwomen.org gives information on pregnancy, parenting, sexuality, fashion and other issues women with disabilities care about and can’t find anywhere else.

A few years later, Wendy helped organize another exciting event for women with disabilities in 2006 – Uncensored Life: Raw Beauty. This photo exhibit featured 20 women with disabilities, with each photo aiming to change the way the world perceives women with disabilities. Another SCI Superstar we’ve profiled, Sabrina Cohen, was also part of this photo exhibit. Check out the first incarnation of this exhibit

What’s next?

In 2011, Wendy, now living in Pennsylvania, added two more titles to her name – wife and his step-mother – with her new stepdaughter also a wheelchair-user. And in 2014, Raw Beauty partnered with the Christopher Reeve and Dana Foundation to create The Raw Beauty Project NYC, featuring 20 brand new women with disabilities. The photos were recently released and they’re drop-jaw stunning. Check them out

What we love most about Wendy is her forward-drive arc. Giving her debut speech for TEDx this year, The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis named her one of their “Women of Style and Substance” in 2012 and she was named one of the “XIX Most Fashionable Women of Philadelphia” in 2013 by fashion designer Nicole Miller. She is like a fine wine that keeps getting better.

“Beauty is confidence, strength and enthusiasm for life,” Wendy likes to say, and we couldn’t agree more.

How have you improved your self-esteem since your injury?    

– Visit her site: MOBILEwomen.org

Watch the videos!

Solving the Beauty Equation: Wendy Crawford at TEDxTraverseCity 2014

Introduction to Accessible Organic Gardening by Wendy Crawford – Reeve Health Minute

Vintage Wendy Crawford: Wendy visits a high school in 1987

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