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#IAMABLE: Whitney Blackmon

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Whitney Blackmon is a model and entrepreneur. In honing what she wanted to contribute to the world in addition to enjoying the creativity and challenge of being in front of a camera, she considered her deepest values: dignity in humanity, family and friends, and sharing.
What resulted was Whitney’s vision for The Blue List: a community that supports period equity by providing menstrual hygiene products to people in need throughout New York City.
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I moved to New York on my 18th birthday. My cousin and I rented a basement apartment in Jamaica, Queens for $350 a month with no kitchen. I moved here to study fashion, retail planning and strategy - I wanted to be the black Linda Fargo. Within a month of starting school at LIM I landed an internship with Christian Louboutin and it was just as fabulous as I thought it would be. I met the most interesting people, I partied at places I wasn’t yet sophisticated enough for, and I couldn’t believe that this wild ride was my life.
About 6 months into big city living, on a beautiful day during college spring break, I was hit by a truck near Central Park. Life as I knew it changed on impact. My injuries took nearly 3 years to recover from and during that time I had dropped out of school and couldn’t work. My weeks were filled with visits to physical therapists, and at one point I was walking with a cane. While all of my friends were in school, landing amazing internships and jobs, travelling, navigating the world physically free - here I was, stuck in my apartment with my cat and my cane. It was the loneliest experience I have ever had.
For the first time in my life, I was unable - to move easily, to take care of myself fully. I had never experienced feeling limited before. I was given agency over my life at a very young age. My thoughts, ideas and choices for myself were treated with respect and encouragement - even the unwise choices. I remember once being so angry as a kid that I told my Dad I was going to run away, and he responded “Okay, don’t forget your toothbrush!”
My gratitude for my mobility is endless but what I realized when I couldn’t move my body is that ‘being able’ is a belief within yourself that begins with the mind and the heart - not just the body or the voice. Once I fully recovered from my injuries, I was able to ditch the physical therapy and the cane.  I moved to London for University at Central Saint Martins and studied patternmaking and draping womenswear. After University I moved back to New York and started a fashion line called Blackmon. It was exhilarating but I ran through my savings on samples and out of desperation for cash I took a friends suggestion to start modelling. Surprisingly, I fell in love with the work and I felt a sense of belonging.
If I had not lost and regained my physical abilities as a result of that accident, I don’t know if I would have recognized a couple of things. First, I was literally using my ability to move and mold my body in front of the camera in a way that made me a living. Second, when I wasn’t able to use my body freely, that I learned that my mind had no limits. And that remainder as a powerful reminder. As I continued to use my physicality through modeling, I began exploring additional ways to fuel my passion and set my sights on something that was entirely outside the world of fashion and photoshoots.
Two years ago I founded a nonprofit organization to empower people in need. Even though tampons and pads are effectively a medical need, not everyone can afford them -  a period is not a choice but menstrual hygiene products are priced like a luxury item. My organization, The Blue List, is working to resolve this issue in NYC by providing essential period products to underserved people in spaces they can easily access. In the process, we’re working to shift the paradigm and create period equity across the board. We’ve created a strong and simple way of giving back, and I’m using my voice - something I never lost - and my background to be compelling and make an impact.
I am ABLE to advocate for people in need.

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