Magda Coman is a young woman in a wheelchair. She is also the president of the “Open Your Heart” Association. She does not take life as it is. Her favorite slogan is a quotation from George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, which says something like “Take care to get what you like or you will be forced to like what you get”. Also, she took affirmative action to improve the image of disabled people, beyond preconceived ideas and the hardships of day-to-day life. We invited Magda Coman to speak about the association she set up and about a beauty contest, themed Atypical Beauty, which has now reached its 9th edition.
Magda Coman: “We set up the association in 2013, as we wanted to help people with disabilities, and create another image for them. What I mean by that is that the disabled are seriously discriminated against in Romania. I have been fighting so that the disabled can be viewed as normal people and those around them should not associate such people with the predicament of the life they had been going through, ending up in a wheel chair. “
The beauty contest is organized for people with disabilities and is about beauty beyond norm, beyond the standards imposed by flashy magazines, about the beauty of human nature in its very essence. With details on that, here is Magda Coman once again.
Magda Coman: “It is precisely for this reason that we thought out the Atypical Beauty concept, which at first sight is a fashion event, with 12 models in a wheel chair stepping onto the podium, accompanied by 12 public figures. We’re at the 9th edition, held in Casino Park, Cluj. It is for the first time when Atypical Beauty is no longer held in a restricted circle, but it is an outdoor event instead. It appears that, little by little, we managed to somehow change the perception of people with disabilities. Participating girls changed their way of life and their outlook. All of them are students or university graduates. Which means it was a success, considering the fact that, although we live a country, which is totally inaccessible for wheelchair users, such people are an example for us. We show up and bring over those models, because we want Romanian society to get accustomed to the fact that having a disability does not hamper you from leading a normal life, or from having a family, or children.”
The “Atypical Beauty” project has been initially thought out as an event to be held once a year, but so successful was the event that in three years’ time the Open Your Heart association staged the ninth edition of Atypical Beauty. With details on that, here is Magda Coman once again.
Magda Coman: “It is not a contest proper, it is a concept we thought out differently as compared to the one held internationally, precisely because society was not that much used to the idea that we could stage a beauty contest, just as it happens in other countries. It is nothing but a fashion presentation, where Romanian designers dress up the girls seated in a wheelchair and their companions. Every one of them, when they had their moment on the podium, having done their catwalk, sends out a message to society, saying how they would like to be viewed and how they think the message they convey can contribute to the girls’ being perceived for their real value, so that they are no longer associated with disabilities.”
As for the wheelchair models, they come from all over the country and even from aboard, from such countries as Italy, Republic of Moldova, Russia, Madga Coman also told us.
Magda Coman: “This time around, one of the designers has come from Barcelona, he is the official designer of Miss World 2015, Tina Olari, we also have Anca Manea and Luminita Blazer. We’ve only got three designers from Cluj, we usually come up with more, but we try to change things with every edition.”
The “Atypical Beauty” project also seeks to create a loophole in fashion industry, a trend, which has been gaining ground in Europe, where fashion for the disabled has grown in popularity. In Romania however, the concept was something new. Besides, people with disabilities are presented from a different perspective. On the podium, during the fashion presentation proper, it appears that elegance does not have boundaries. The Open Your Heart Association has set out to represent the interests of people with disabilities, to constantly promote their image, and thus remove preconceived ideas regarding disability. Reason enough for Magda Coman to speak about other related events.
Magda Coman: “As a rule, the Open Your Heart Association staged special events tailored for the disabled, and during those events, those who come upfront are people with disabilities. We staged ‘Celebrating December 3rd differently’, ‘Good means Better”, and each time we bring over people with disabilities who are successful in their lives. I believe that every one of us, whether we are in a wheelchair or in perfect health, we experience moments when we need a boost and I believe such examples make society stronger and simply teach us how to be better people.”
The Open Your Heart Association proves that inner beauty is capable of overcoming any condition, that elegance in women’s wear is without borders and can be adopted with no inhibitions at all.