Melissa Blake: Shutting down the Twitter trolls with #MyBestSelfie
Writer and disabilities activist
Blake’s portrait in the Fearless Portrait project consists of an ink drawing of her, based on one of the selfies she defiantly posted, “to commemorate the occasion.” I’ve drawn her on a map of her hometown, DeKalb, Illinois.
After writing an op-ed on CNN.com in August 2019, Melissa Blake discovered 100s of comments mocking her appearance. While hurtful, Blake was accustomed to the abuse and usually took it in stride. But something was different this time.
Reflecting on the episode, she writes, “As a woman writer with a genetic bone and muscular disorder, I’m used to being called names like ‘blobfish’ and ‘whale,’ but there was one comment I just couldn’t shake. Someone said that I should be banned from posting photos of myself because I’m too ugly.
The more I thought about it, the more I knew I wanted to respond in some way. Not directly to the person, but as a general statement.”
Blake settled on a set of selfies on Twitter as a suitable response, posting:
“People said I should be banned from posting photos of myself because I’m too ugly. So, I’d just like to commemorate the occasion with these 3 selfies.”
The defiant tweet quickly went viral and her Twitter follower count rocketed up from under 8,000 to over 100k.
Buoyed by the army of supporters, Blake began posting a selfie everyday under the hashtag #MyBestSelfie. Weeks went by. Then months. More than a year later, Blake continues to post her “best selfie” every day, saying “I post selfies to unapologetically take up space and demand to be seen as a disabled woman.”
People around the world have joined the movement, posting their own photos. Her daily discipline has inspired other disabled people and educated legions of enabled people. More importantly, Blake found a new level of personal confidence: “With each selfie, I felt more comfortable in my own body and discovered a freedom I’d never really felt before as a disabled woman,” she says.
Background on Blake:
Born on August 4, 1981 in DeKalb, Illinois, Blake has Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome, a rare bone and muscle disorder that primarily affects the face, hands, and feet. The disorder gives people a distinctive facial appearance. She’s had nearly 30 operations, including surgeries on her knees, hands, hips, and spine.
While she uses a wheelchair to maneuver the physical world, she’s under no such limitations online and she’s become a force for positivity on the internet. Blake is a writer and her work has appeared in publications as diverse as Glamour and The New York Times, and her personal blog, So About What I Said.
This episode contains music by Geovane Bruno and Zakhar Valaha.
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