Mama Cax: What losing a leg taught me about beauty

The lifestyle blogger and model, who lost her leg when she was 14, is committed to smashing our established beauty standards.
Image: Mama Cax walks the runway during Teen Vogue's Body Party in New York on Sept. 11, 2018.
Mama Cax walks the runway during Teen Vogue's Body Party in New York on Sept. 11, 2018.Cindy Ord / Getty Images for Teen Vogue file

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By Halley Bondy

Mama Cax, born Cacsmy Brutus, used to hide her prosthetic leg. Now, it’s a fashion asset and a bold message to the rest of the world that beauty is not one-size-fits-all.

Cax, a Haitian-American blogger and model, has established runway and Instagram fame by wearing bold, colorful fashions and speaking openly about her disability. Sometimes she displays her prosthetic leg, which gleams in the sun in purples, yellows and pinks. Or, she ditches the prosthesis altogether and goes natural.

“My favorite motto is: the shorter the dress, the closer you are to heaven,” Cax told MSNBC’s Yasmin Vossoughian. “So I never miss an opportunity to wear the shortest dress that I can.”

Cax is devoted to her lifestyle brand and to disability advocacy. As a model, Cax has worked with fashion and beauty powerhouses, including Olay, ASOS and Tommy Hilfiger.

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“I did modeling for about two years,” she said. “For me, the hardest part is having to be in a room with 100-plus girls, and they are the embodiment of what our society sees as perfect. I had to try to remind myself that if I’m in this room, it’s because I deserve to be here and I worked to be here.”

Cax, now in her late 20s, was only 14 years old when she was diagnosed with an aggressive bone cancer. After an unsuccessful hip replacement treatment, her leg was amputated.

“I can still remember the very first time I woke up from surgery,” Cax said. “I literally just broke down. And I think at that point I refused to look at my body for a good couple of weeks.”

Cax spent years covering her amputated leg in long pants, dresses or anything to avoid the stares and the questions.

“I was ashamed of how I looked,” said Cax. “I didn’t want anyone to know I had a prosthetic leg because eventually the question of ‘what happened?’ would come out. Imagine if every encounter would be recounting my story, every single day, multiple times a day.”

The New Yorker said she battled depression for years. “I knew if I didn’t change that I probably wouldn't be here today,” she said.

She started going by “Mama Cax” in college, where everyone called her Mama (Cax is the short version of her first name Cacsmy). Slowly, her dresses got shorter and her prosthetic legs got brighter. A brand was blooming.

“I realized that once I decided to show my prosthetic and started making it part of who I am, and making sure that however I dress it up, that it reflects my personality, then my interactions with other people also changed,” Cax said.

Through her Mama Cax lifestyle media brand, Cax is committed to smashing our established beauty standards and giving a voice to people with disabilities.

“We're just like everyone else, we can do what everyone else can do and we contribute to society the same as everybody does,” she said.