NEW PODCAST ALERT!
I did my FIRST podcast and it’s out today! I was so excited to join the Words of Love Podcast with Dr. Dwayne exploring the power of self-acceptance!
Dr. Dwayne watched my recent TEDx talk about my journey with scoliosis leading to my major spinal fusion surgery and invited me to be a guest! To say I’m humbled is an understatement. We talked about my mission to bring awareness to the need for fashionable adaptive clothing and shoes for people with disabilities.
Dr. Dwayne was particularly interested in what led me to say “the family bonding shopping trips ended. My body image was destroyed. And I was forced to break up with a fundamental part…of ME” and then we did the “deep dig” that he’s known for unpacking.
Dr. Dwayne was so easy to speak with that it allowed me to be vulnerable and took all my nerves away. Imagine how nervous I was to do my FIRST podcast… and he made it easy by being fun, kind and compassionate!
I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as we loved creating it. I hope you can hear the “Words of Love!” Thank you for this opportunity Dr. Dwayne. It was such a rewarding experience and you continue to be an inspiration!
You can find and listen to the episode here:
Apple Podcast (link)
It's My 5 Year Anniversary!
Today is the 5 Year Anniversary of my Spinal Fusion Surgery on May 15, 2018. Usually, when I look at a milestone date, I think to myself “boy, that time flew fast!”. I cannot say that this time. This has been the longest 5 years of my life!
For decades my orthopedic and neurosurgeon doctors said “you don’t want that surgery” and I believe them whole-heartedly. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. The first time I opened my eyes in the ICU I just knew I was in hell. It was a 10-hour surgery to rebuild and straighten my spine. Although you could not see any emotion from me at the time, you could see the motion of my thumb pushing the morphine button due to excruciating pain. However, on the inside I was so excited to learn that the surgery was a success and I was 3 inches taller!
I was on track with my healing and then Easter April 2021, I fell down the stairs, severely traumatized my body, got a concussion and landed myself back in the hospital. It was remarkable that my hardware was not damaged, but my progress in physical therapy was set back about two years by this fall.
At this point, I know I’ve had over 1000s of doctors appointments, multiple therapies, all kinds of tests, x-rays, scans, MRIs and hospital stays. Before and after my surgery, my scoliosis and other related health challenges took on a life of it’s own. No doubt, there have been times when I didn’t think I would make it. I am so thankful that I had supportive friends there who wouldn’t let me give up. I reached in deep and thought about my parent’s sacrifice, love and foundation they set for me and one of the most amazing things happened because of this experience. It led me to my passion and purpose. I embarked on a new and exciting journey and started seeing my new disability as an opportunity to rebuild my life. I started turning my dreams into action and showing up in a different fashion!
My journey led me to do my own TEDx talk at TEDxGreensboro on November 3, 2022. It's called “Adapt to Life's Curveballs with Fashion!” and it was truly a labor of love. It was such a privilege to share my journey with scoliosis and major spinal fusion surgery and help bring awareness to the need for fashionable adaptive clothing and shoes for people with disabilities. On the fifth anniversary of my life-changing surgery, I invite you to spend 15 minutes of your time and watch my TEDx Talk and see how far my journey has brought me. Thank you!
The British Vogue’s May 2023 issue hit stands on April 25th and celebrates a new vanguard of disabled talent and advocates. It’s a celebratory moment in history and sure to reframe conversations around disability awareness, inclusion, and accessibility in fashion.
I’ve seen some of the featured fashionable adaptive clothing but am waiting with bated breath for my copy to see if there are any fashionable adaptive footwear showcased. There are many designer shoe brands listed on British Vogue’s Youtube film in the Special Thanks section like Gucci, Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik, but I can’t see the details of the shoes. I must know, are there any designer adaptive shoes in the issue?
I emphasize this because shoes have always been my nemesis. I have scoliosis and throughout the years shoe comfort and support were my friend because back pain was my enemy. It made for difficult and frustrating shoe shopping. Leaving no store, I mean stone, unturned, I’ve searched high and low for shoes that offered all of the design features I need and were stylish too. Flat shoes were too flat and anything over 2 inches had me looking like a…well let’s just say, not a supermodel strutting on a runway. I passed by the high heel and designer shoes sections and headed straight for the low heels. And begrudgingly, I typically settled for frumpy.
My days in NYC brought this issue to a breaking point. Between all the walking and watching Carrie in her Sex in the City shoes, I felt frustrated, demoralized and my back and feet hurt constantly. I never felt chic, pretty, sexy or sophisticated in my shoes. I wore sneakers, sensible shoes and carried my “2 hour” shoes to slip on when I arrived at the swanky martini bars. And then I met an image consultant who said my clothes were fabulous, but my shoes were the culprit! Her suggestion to cut off some of the heel opened a whole new world of cute shoe options for me. Believe me, I kept the shoe cobbler busy!
Since having spinal fusion surgery, I have a closet full of shoes in clear boxes that I can admire but can’t wear. With no flexibility in my back, trying to figure out how to tie, buckle and even put on pull-on shoes has taken me to task. The 18” shoehorn is useless! As I said in my TEDx Talk, finding fashionable adaptive shoes are my wicked witch of the West. (TEDx Talk titled "Adapt to Life’s Curveballs with Fashion!"; Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaDRAd4D_GI)
According to Euromonitor International, the market for designer shoes is $31 billion today and set to grow to $40 billion by 2027. The Business of Fashion stated that designer footwear shoppers are looking for both comfort and statement styles that push the boundaries of traditional features due to the impact of the pandemic on lifestyles and the elevation of streetwear and sneakers as a status symbol. Brands are competing for market share in this category of footwear, and I am hoping that they will also consider designing fashionable adaptive shoes for people with disabilities who, like me, love BEAUTIFUL shoes.
There are companies embracing inclusion and focused on making life easier for people with disabilities. For example, Zappos, Nike and Billy Footwear - thank you for this! But where are the designer shoe brands in this conversation?
I’ve learned a couple of things in this adventure of finding fashionable adaptive shoes. My sweet spot for fashionable shoes is ankle boots with a zipper. Also, I wish I kept all my original shoeboxes. It makes life easier for re-sale of the countless designer shoes that I simply can’t wear because I can’t put them on…or take them off!
TEDxGreensboro - What If?
November 3, 2022
Posted to TED.com and Youtube on March 8, 2023
Adapt to Life's Curveballs with Fashion!
Fashionable Adaptive Clothing Fulfills Dreams of People with Disabilities and Changes Lives. What if: fashion companies change their thinking about disabilities, create a culture of diversity and inclusion; make a collective effort to design one piece of fashionable adaptive clothing/shoes and those who aren’t in the industry, invest in the companies. Some people with disabilities dream about fashion and are forgotten. There is a unique opportunity for the fashion industry to create more ways for people with disabilities to really live in every facet of their life. Dona Edwards worked in corporate America for almost 25 years as a Mechanical Engineer working on space shuttle and satellite technology and most recently as an Executive practicing Intellectual Property law. She was responsible for driving the global intellectual property strategy, managing litigations and providing general legal advice. Dona is thought-leader and speaker sharing stories on the subjects of DEI, empathy, fashion and scoliosis. She has a Mechanical Engineering degree from Stanford, a JD from George Washington University Law School and a MBA from UVA Darden School of Business. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
Solace On This Journey
As I work to get my swerve back (i.e., rehab) and to find solace on this journey, I want to have some fun too, in sharing my personal stories, thoughts and fashion creations through my blog and curated layouts.
You’ll notice that here, I am not putting any specific label on my stories so that I can have the freedom to go in any direction I want to go with them, and so that I can simply share my authentic voice. I am not just a mechanical engineer turned Intellectual Property Attorney with a MBA, instead, I like to think I’m multi-dimensional with a touch of exuberance!
I am a fashionista over 50 and I am fabulous! I am a speaker, writer, thought-leader, traveler, storyteller, dreamer, partaker of the arts and now blogger…and I am so many more things to come. I am just getting started, and I could not be more excited!
There are so many options and opinions out there - blogs, podcasts, newsletters, clubhouse – and new ones popping up even as I write this, and am honored you are giving me a moment of your time…so hopefully my little curve will resonate with you, or at the very least, make you smile, laugh, cry or just say, “wow, what a fabulous outfit”! Thank you for allowing me to be a small part of your life…