April Lockhart took the big leap to open up about her experiences with amniotic band syndrome through her "Normalizing Disabled Fashun Girlies in your Feed" series.
Unlike magazines and high street runways, real people are able to influence culture and style through what is now known as "fashion TikTok." From popularizing 90s aesthetics to challenging beauty norms, fashion TikTok has become a space for users to express themselves and find inspiration. April Lockhart, the senior manager of partnerships at a cosmetic company, is taking things up a notch. A self-proclaimed "disabled fashion girlie," she posts videos of herself in on-trend styles to change her disability narrative and bring disability representation to the forefront of fashion. Since she first began posting online, she has gained thousands of dedicated followers, building a community of people who believe in her work.
Lockhart was born with amniotic band syndrome. This means she was not born with a fully-formed left hand. "My little one-handed resilient soul never let it stop me," she writes for Byrdie. "I did gymnastics, played guitar and piano, learned how to type (pretty insanely fast, might I add), paint my nails, everything." Her disability never really bothered her until she witnessed how it bothered other people. As someone who does not want to wear prosthetics, it was difficult to overcome how other people looked at her with "double-takes and concerned stares."
Nevertheless, she never wanted her disability to define her. Lockhart reaffirms, "I never wanted my disability to be me. My personality, my career, my content, my friends, my work ethic, my style—I wanted my life to speak for me, not my disability." This year, however, she made a New Year's resolution to post 30 days of outfits on TikTok and Instagram Reels. "Once I started, as I thought about the content I’d been [previously] creating, it just felt... Dull," she explains. "I decided I needed to let go of the fear of being judged and be the influencer I wanted to follow. It feels silly to say, but it was a big internal leap. That’s when I decided to film a reel getting dressed, with my quirks and all—no more hiding. I included clips I’d normally leave out, like buttoning my pants one-handed, the hilarious struggle to tie my shoes, or roll up my extremely long, dangling sleeve. Spotlighting that yes, I have one hand, but mostly that I can also put a cool outfit together. The two can coexist without it being weird. In fact, it can feel light and joyful and fun."
She posted the first video with the title "Normalizing Disabled Fashun Girlies in your Feed." As someone who would formerly wear long sleeves to hide her disability, it was indeed a big leap. But as soon as she saw the love come in, Lockhart knew she was doing important work. She states, "Beyond normalizing my disability, I want to emphasize that clothes have power. Putting on a good outfit can give you the confidence you need for the day. Taking the time to do your makeup can be a moment of rest. Curling your hair gives you time to think without being glued to your phone. And a good pair of jeans can make you feel like a 10 on a first date."
At the moment, she does not know what the future holds for her. No matter where she goes though, she is taking lots of love and learning with her. "Through this experiment, I’ve learned the power of the good on the Internet. It exists," she concludes. "This foray into a new space has given me hope, refreshed my stagnant creative energy, and reminded me to have fun with fashion. Also, the TikTok community is...really nice? I’ve learned is that confidence is a journey. You don’t arrive, and you likely won’t always be fully there, and that’s completely okay. At 26, I still haven’t grown out of my insecurity. That’s when I put on my favorite Levi’s, remind myself of my goals, and try to not take myself too seriously. There’s a lot of beauty in purpose."