This article originally appeared on VICE France.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended the third Dwarf Fashion Show to ever take place in Paris. The event was organized exactly like any other fashion show—except that the models were exclusively girls who have dwarfism. The original idea was the result behind a partnership between Creative Business House—an American company that specializes in fashion services—and charity organization Don't Be Cheap.
I walked into the French Ministry of Culture, where the event was taking place and was initially shown to a huge, empty, golden room adorned with massive crystal chandeliers. That was where the catwalk had been set. Two floors below, in a more corporate-looking space, the models were getting ready amidst chaos: Makeup tools were everywhere, stylists were running around waving pieces of clothing, and journalists shouted questions at the models or orders on their phones. Most of the attention was focused on the 11 models taking part in the show—all between 16 and 30 years old.
To participate, a model had to be less than 4'2" feet tall but—in the words of Don't Be Cheap president Dônya—"What really matters is the participant's professionalism, just like with any other job." In fact, what I gathered from speaking to some of the girls is that a lot of them work a more "normal" day job and modeled on the side. Ismahan, for instance, works at a bank, Jordana is a P.E. teacher, and Melissa is a club promoter.
Ten minutes before the show was meant to start, it transpired that some of the models could not climb the small staircase between the catwalk and the floor easily. That did little to ease their stress, which was already at a high level due mostly to journalists asking particularly embarrassing questions such as "What is the most difficult thing about being a dwarf?"
The show finally started, to the soundtrack of Britney Spears' Pretty Girls and I felt uncomfortable when I noticed a couple of idiots, elbowing each other and snickering when they saw the models arriving; I had already come to the event feeling rather skeptical about its merits, but I slightly changed my mind when I saw members of the audience talking to the models at the cocktail reception afterwards. Events like this one might often feel tacky and patronizing but they are still a powerful weapon against our own prejudices.
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