Monique Dior Jarrett is a model, a national and international wheelchair dance champion and co-director of an arts-based company called TripleC. She has graced the cover of Grazia, worked with disabled children, fought for the rights of disabled people and recently bared all in an inclusive photo shoot with Zebedee Management to mark International Women’s Day and celebrate womanhood in all its forms.
Speaking to Monique about her accomplishments she is very self-effacing. Her achievements are numerous and the work she is doing to increase representation of disabled people in the media is nothing to be smirked at.
While photo shoots are nothing new to Monique, her latest foray in front of the lens was a little more daring than usual.
She is signed to the specialist talent agency Zebedee Management and in March this year, to celebrate International Women’s Day, they planned a stunning photo shoot to showcase and celebrate women of all ages, shapes, sizes, colours and abilities. The results were stunning.
Monique commented: “I am always nervous doing any kind of shoot, but especially because it was just full on in your birthday suit! I mean I felt comfortable in front of the models I already knew, but there was a couple of new ones and we were literally just thrown in together. It was amazingly empowering though and I felt so comfortable so quickly.
“In any other situation, especially when you see [images] in magazines and on TV – anyone that is in their birthday suit doesn’t seem to have a difference, there is nobody like myself or any of the other models at the shoot.”
As women we have a terrible habit of criticising our own bodies, we are wracked with feelings of inadequacy because all we are exposed to is the media’s perception of perfection; tall, slim, white, blonde and non-disabled. These images monopolise the covers of our magazines, adverts, television programmes and films. Zebedee’s photo shoots aim to tackle this mis-representation by showcasing the beauty of all women, celebrating differences and representing society as a whole.
This is the main reason that Monique agreed to bare all for International Women’s Day. Growing up she never saw herself represented in any campaign, on any programme or in magazines. The driving force behind her work as a model is to ensure that young disabled people see themselves represented in the media, to give them confidence to be proud of who they are and to celebrate the differences and beauty of their body.
Monique described the experience of this particular shoot as “empowering” because the women involved were all different and all had their insecurities about their bodies, but as a group they spent their time complimenting each other and building their fellow women up to be proud of who they are and how they look.
“Even things like just going swimming and wearing a swimming costume, I hated doing that because I looked completely different and because of that I didn’t feel very comfortable. Doing something like this, I just felt comfortable and happy with myself, which doesn’t happen very often and I think the other models felt the same way, it was just an amazing day really to be able to do that and to give that message to others that don’t see any representation of different bodies, so they can feel comfortable as well.
“For myself I mainly wanted to do it because I have worked with kids with disabilities for years and I also worked in a school, and even something as simple as being on reception and working shocked kids with differences and disabilities because they have never been taught that you could just get a regular job. So, to even just show that extra level and say ‘yes you should be proud of yourself’ and ‘yes you are different but you should never be ashamed’.
“It was just empowering in a way that you knew other people would be empowered from it.”
From her images you would not guess that Monique had anything other than an unbreakable confidence, however this successful woman admits that she has not been the most confident in the past, but says that modelling has helped her battle this, along with a year of saying yes to everything.
“I decided that year that I was going to have a ‘yes’ year, because a lot of things that people ask me to do – well, I have this thing where I don’t feel I can do it or I don’t think I have the skills to do it, even when people around me are saying “well you wouldn’t have been asked if they thought that”. So, I started saying yes! And saying yes to things especially that I would think I would definitely not do.”
One of those things was modelling with Zebedee Management. Saying yes to a shoot in Manchester, which was incidentally a swimsuit shoot (nothing like being thrown in the deep end for your first photo shoot), has opened doors that Monique had not anticipated, like sharing the cover of Grazia magazine with four other strong disabled women as part of a feature exploring the discrimination of the fashion industry.
“I am still not 100% comfortable doing it [shoots] for myself, but again I just have that message in my head – especially for my stature and how my body looks, from what I can see, there are not many people like me, my size or anything, so I am thinking if I don’t do it then people like myself are not going to see a representation. If I don’t do it then it’s not going to happen at all, so I am at the point of pushing myself so if I can do it for me then to definitely do it for others and that is what it’s all about for me at the minute.”
TripleC is an inclusive collective focused on improving access to the arts for children, young people and adults with disabilities, and improving the representation of disabled artists and performers within the industry.
Monique is one of five directors at TripleC and their incredible work is actioning real change in the arts and media world. They run drama and theatre-based workshops and host regular networking events that connect artists with industry guests from different areas.
“TripleC stands for Creative Confidence Collective. We are a group of inclusive artists, we are using aspects of theatre and many other things now to bring confidence to other people with disabilities of all ages. We do workshops in schools, we have done training, and we have an event called DANC – Disabled Artists Network Community – where we are literally trying to create that bridge between organisations like BBC, ITV, Channel 4, all the production companies, with disabled artists.
“It was mainly actors and progressively it has incorporated artists, dancers, to try and get industry guests to come in from those respective arts as well. It started off to create that bridge for companies like ITV and BBC to stop saying “we don’t know where to find disabled actors that’s why we don’t use them in shows even though they are about disability”.
“We wanted to forge that bridge and so many things have happened on TV because of DANC, it has been pushed to happen. It has been brilliant, it is really making a change, so many companies are now wanting to come and learn and find out where to find people. We have a writers workshop now, so disabled writers are now able to physically write pieces – not necessarily about disability – but to be able to just get their foot in the door to write pieces and to advise anyone who doesn’t have a disability that is writing disabled characters, to say this is what you do and this is what you should put in etc.
“For me it’s coming from both ends, working with people in the arts and then sort of making a change through modelling at the same time as well. It has been really good. Just trying to change the world!”
TripleC has already worked with some of the top production companies in the UK and the future looks positive in affecting change for the representation of disabled people. Monique’s excitement was palpable when talking about TripleC, her passion for the arts and for increasing representation is clear. She is a woman on a mission and the waves can already be felt.
Find out more at tripleczone.org.
Written by Rosalind Tulloch
A Zebedee Management Shoot
Photographer: Shelley Richmond
Art Direction: Zoe Proctor – Director of Zebedee
HMUA: Jen Edwards & Kelly Richardson @jennedwardsmua
All models represented by @Zebedee_management
Article originally appeared in the Apr/May 20 issue of PosAbility Magazine
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