When you read a piece from Keah Brown, you realize a few things. The first is that she is a tremendously talented writer. The second is that she has a unique perspective that brings to life stories and experiences that need to be shared. We were privileged enough to interview her to discuss her thoughts surrounding media, negative body-images, and disability.
The 26 year-old Lockport, New York native has cerebral palsy and has used her platform as a journalist and writer to share her personal ups and downs, as well as her views and opinions, with audiences around the globe. She’s been published in places like Harper’s Bazaar, ESPNW, Glamour, and Essence Magazine, and her work is colored with her trademark charm and accessibility that draws you in to her words.
Writing to Writer
“One of my essays is called, ‘The Freedom of a Ponytail,’ and it’s about how I learned to put my hair up in a ponytail unassisted and how long that took me to learn,” she explains.
“The Freedom of a Ponytail” is a personal, intimate, and raw look at Brown’s struggle with a small task, and how overcoming it had such a profound impact on her as a person. The essay was so powerful that it was published on both Lenny Letter and Yahoo!’s Lifestyle page.
But Brown wasn’t always the internationally recognized writer she is today.
“I wrote in secret for a long time – Bad songwriting, columns, things like that. It wasn’t until high school that I thought, ‘Maybe this could be a career,’” she says.
“I’m a naturally nosy person, I like talking and asking people questions, so I decided I wanted to go to college for journalism. And somewhere around my junior or senior year, my English professor at the time said to me, ‘You should think about writing professionally, you’re really good at it.’ She sparked that light in me to pursue both being a journalist and a writer.”
And pursue it she did. After graduating from The State University of New York at Fredonia, she dove head first into her career as a writer and journalist, just like she planned. But what she didn’t plan on was a surprise social media hit that would launch her into the spotlight.
“I had spent so much of my life feeling down on myself and not liking my body, and getting past that took effort,” she explains.
“So every morning I had to say four things I liked about myself until I believed them. When my work started to take off in 2016, it was great to see my career do so well and it felt awesome, but I also had learned to see that I had worth outside of just my work.”
#DisabledAndCute – Changing Body-Images
It was this exercise in self-improvement that gave her the idea to create the Twitter hashtag #DisabledAndCute – As a celebration of self-confidence and self-love.
“I started the hashtag and posted four pictures saying, ‘Hey I’m disabled and cute, and you are too. And if you want to join in, you can.’ I went away from my Twitter and came back an hour later and the hashtag was trending, and by the end of the week it went viral,” she says.
“I ended up in places like Cosmo, Shape, Yahoo Beauty, Buzzfeed even did a piece on it, so it was really cool to do something for myself and have it become a community where disabled people could feel good about themselves and learn to love themselves and each other.”
In only a few short years, Brown has truly made a splash, and she’s nowhere near ready to slow down anytime soon. She is currently wrapping up work on what will be her first full-length book entitled The Pretty One – due out in 2019 – which will be a collection of personal essays.
And as she continues to make an impact in both literature and journalism, and the disability advocacy community, she wants to share a message with individuals who may identify with her.
“When you don’t see positive representations of yourself in mainstream media, because that’s what our culture is influenced by, you have a tough time trying to navigate the world,” she says.
“I know it’s hard to get through the day a lot of times, and I know that you’re different from everybody else. But you know what? Those differences make you beautiful. And some days that can be tough to remember, but every day try to find something that you like about yourself. Then find another thing, and another, and another. Go after the thing you want, and don’t think of yourself as a burden, or something to be taken care of, or an obstacle to be moved past. Who you are and all that you are, is enough.”
You can learn more about Keah and her upcoming book The Pretty One at her website keahnbrown.weebly.com